Upsilamba!

In Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi, the narrator discusses “upsilamba” with her students. After suggesting that the word was probably an invention of Nabokov, she invites her students to come up with new meanings for it. I wanted to join the defining game, of course. To me, upsilamba (in the poem below) describes an eruption of emotions screamed into the world by a young woman who has had enough. If you haven’t considered Reading Lolita in Tehran, I urge you to give it a go.

“Upsilamba!”

Winter laid frigid
fingers on July flesh—

while my limbs were naked
and her howling whip
(breeder of gasps
and shivers)
should’ve been already dead.

Betrayal puckered skin,
forced chatter into bones
and avalanched cold,
cold rage.

“Remove the gloves,”
she commanded.

I bared crimson fingernails
(and white teeth), and shouted,
“Upsilamba!” in her face.

.
a wee note…
– Linked to the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads and to Poets United (Poetry Pantry 331).

red-fingernails-and-antique-typewriter

55 thoughts on “Upsilamba!

  1. It like the layers you’ve written here. The seasons and the cold here represent so much more to me. It’s not just winter, but a cold, indifference the narrator is fighting. Making this a battle cry. A bit of a sensual one. thanks for posting.

  2. I bared crimson fingernails
    (and white teeth), and shouted,
    “Upsilamba!” in her face

    Got it Magaly! That should place him somewhere else, away from making a nuisance of himself.

    Hank

  3. What is a stronger focus for anger than betrayal? Here the narrator defies passive acceptance and yells her fighting word(I am think ‘up’ something else, myself) fiercely at the very nature of that concept, expressed as it is with the contempt of winter’s cold hand–xompact, intense and very effective, Magaly.

  4. I laughed! No it’s not funny, but I laughed at the unexpected expletive in the film “Green Tomato Pie” as well. Is the novel funny? Having a weapon in a frigid and exposed embrace is very good.

  5. I love that word, Magaly, ‘Upsilamba!’ It’s like a charm or a spell, a magic word – was it safe to share it? Your opening lines set the scene so well and the ‘howling whip’ is ominous. I really like thw use of parentheses and italics to show asides – cleverly done! But my favourite lines have to be:
    ‘Betrayal puckered skin,
    forced chatter into bones
    and avalanched cold,
    cold rage.’

  6. I had not heard the word before – i think you have given voice to this woman – empowered her.. and i love that typewriter.. the words that will come out and perhaps shake up the world little

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