The High Window is grateful to Terence Dooley for curating this supplement and, unless otherwise stated all poems have been translated by him.
His translation of Mariano Peyrou’s The Year of the Crab was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Spring last year. His translation of Eduardo Moga’s anthology Streets where to walk is to embark: Spanish Poets in London and of (Sur)rendering by Mario Martín Gijón which came out earlier this year, also with Shearsman Books, as will shortly his 10 Spanish Contemporary Women Poets (5 of whom are featured here).
His own poems, The Why of it, are published by The Argent Press.
THW 17: March 18, 2020
Antonio Gamoneda: Six Poems
A woman is coming upstairs
with a saucepan full of tears.
A woman is coming upstairs
with a kettleful of tears.
I met the woman on the stairs
and she cast down her eyes
the woman with the kettleful.
I can’t bear the stairs now..
My girl was born with a bloody face,
they wouldn’t let me dote on her.
my girl was born with a bloody face,
they took her from my arms.
And now my girl is nearly three,
she talks to me and sees my face.
And now my girl is nearly three,
she sings and thinks but sees my face.
And now I never wonder why
we love a bloody face.
In my house there’s nothing on the walls.
It’s hard to stare at cold white walls.
My house has windows, it has doors
and I can’t bear so many holes.
My mother lives here with her spectacles.
My wife lives here with her hair.
My daughters live here with their eyes.
Why’s it so hard to stare at the walls?
The world is wide. Inside a house
it just won’t fit. The world is wide.
Inside a house – the world is wide –
why is it hard to live our lives?
There is a town I won’t forget
whose graveyard is too long and wide.
Where I come from, there is a town
cursed with a graveyard long and wide.
Just forty souls inhabit it:
Why is the graveyard long and wide?
One year the people packed their bags.
In many houses none were left.
The year the people packed their bags,
in many houses none were left.
They took their children, took their beds,
and as they killed their beasts they wept.
The graveyard is bereft of gates,
wildfowl come and go in it.
The graveyard is bereft of gates
and in the road tall nettles grow.
The graveyard seems to wander through
the empty gardens and the streets.
There is a town I won’t forget
in that cursed place where I come from,
that village with no chick nor child.
What a bad thing it was to build
a graveyard far too long and wide.
Tell me what you see in the horrible cupboard
and in the tear-jar: what is this?
When you see the sadnesses
in pharmacies, and the guilt
is written on the walls,
who are you not to speak?
The beasts await, the silence too awaits,
immerse your bramble-tortured hands
in water. Hold back your tears. Tell me
the names surviving in your heart.
In the stillness of mothers gazing down at the abyss.
In flowers that fold their petals before misfortune
incinerates them, before the horses learnt to weep.
In the warm moisture of the old.
In the yellow substance of the heart.
I saw the shadow chased by yellow whips,
acid to the edge of memory,
the cloth-hung gates of indignation.
I saw the stigmatas of lightning over frozen seas, in landscapes
haunted by prophecy;
I saw fertile and barren matter living in your eyes;
I saw steel residue and high windows for witnessing
injustice (those ovals where phosphorescence hides) :
it was geometry, it was pain.
I saw heads sunk in industrial debris;
I saw weariness and drunken blues
and your goodness like a great hand drawing near to my heart.
I saw mirrors held to faces that refused to live:
it was time, sea, daylight, ire.
It was a birdless time. There was no light
but that of a great sheet whose warp was strange to us. Lime
boiled menaced by the dark and corridors led to halls
of fear. Mothers bent to listen to the weeping children
clinging to their bloody clothes.
Gall was on my tongue.
Antonio Gamoneda (b. 1931 )won the Cervantes Prize, the most important prize for literature from Spanish-speaking countries, awarded for a lifetime’s achievement, in 2006. The poems here are taken from his early book Blues Castellano/Castilian Blues and from his celebrated Lápidas/Gravestones.
Daniel Samoilovich: Six Poems
THERE’S SOMETHING OFF-KEY, PHONY HERE
corroding everything we say:
the glasses are noncommittal, still
on the stained tablecloth.
A wing, a swerve, a plummeting
down onto the prey:
maybe no, maybe not to be.
But the scene blurs
and darkens, its meaning
too blindingly clear.
The maitre d’ like a thoughtful spider
gazes at the garden from the doorway.
Who glued the glasses to the table?
Each little while it seems there might explode
a jovial bloodbath:
you stab me with your steak-knife,
I bludgeon you with the wine-bottle,
between us we terminate the waiter.
But the crime evaporates, the ash
of the corpses we didn’t create
turns everything grey and sinister:
that stained tablecloth, the waiting,
hmm… those silences, we had
to harm one another, we had
to do each other harm, it must have been
a reckless god who gave us for sole toys
our bodies so simple, so strange.
When the plot thickens
(and it always thickens)
we forget what to do with them.
We can’t keep track of them
as our eyes track
the birds that fly between the houses.
There goes one: I can always predict
exactly where they’ll land
and that intuition which the bird
confirms with a benign elan
seems to bestow a vaster favour, to be fate.
Each year in mid-May
we celebrate the day we came out from Egypt.
The table is decked with strange items
that after the holiday will disappear
until next year. They are
the bitter fruit of slavery,
dates from the promised land,
bread the refugees were too impatient
to wait for to be bread. Grandpa translates
from a book in French the story of the flight,
the two elder sons each have books of their own,
in Spanish, in Hebrew, and they add
here and there a detail, a clarification.
But, passing through the chandelier’s
glass teardrops, the light loses its apparent calm,
a rainbow line transforms the sallow faces
and suddenly there are three opposing versions
of the plagues sent to punish proud Egypt:
was it locusts, crows or mice
that invaded the cities,
was it lime or sheep’s blood
Jehovah anointed the Jews’ houses with
to halt Death at their doors.
They fetch more books, bring dictionaries,
the holiday sheds its family clothes
to turn into a rigorous cabalists’ meeting.
The daughters protest,
we children reach for the dessert.
a compromise emerges from the chaos.
All three reject it and the reading
ends in rancour. Each year
they promise they’ll turn up the next
with a perfect text, luckily they don’t,
the holiday would have seemed heretical
without its ritual
DAYSCAPE WITH MOON
The moon, high up in a landscape
of snow-covered mountains.
It’s five in the afternoon, and, just risen,
the moon, shy still, vague, a sketch,
is lovelier than the lake,
lovelier than its waves.
There’s something menacing
in the dead calm of the mountains
supine in the light.
The bulrush leans
and our eyes is caught
by its flexible rods.
Let them right
themselves, now they have
etched a track
on the illegible page.
The moon is otherwise: to the mordant
edge of things
the heart at times prefers
a cold, far dream,
Can’t you work the joystick, asked the girl.
No, I said, the thing is I
still believe in classic mechanics,
I still think of a direct relationship
between applied force and resultant force;
and I can’t skate with abstract grace
on the paths of this maze
bedecked with dream cherries.
She smiled and a blue ghost
ate my Pacman.
PICTURES AND US
As a boy I thought surface tension
was an extravagance of liquids,
a gimmick to make needles float.
I never thought that kind of thing
was vital for spiders.
Pictures, it’s true, depicted them
with their blue legs on the water;
but today I saw them running under the wharf
and I understood what it’s for.
On the whim of certain things
other things depend: a few degrees either way
and the earth would be a waste of ice
or fire. Almost at random
we happened to lie down on the wharf
and see the wan flowers on the riverbank
and the spiders running over the river.
TOO MUCH SUN
OR THE TRUE COLOUR OF LOVE
Too much sun, she was badly burnt,
her skin was on fire. I went to the chemists
and came back with a white jar: love.
That night, I started to realise
love was really a bright red.
Something her skin had understood
before and more implicitly than me.
Daniel Samoilovich (b. 1949) is an Argentinean poet well-known throughout the Spanish speaking world. His Collected Poems Siete Colinas de Jade/Seven Jade Hills was published in 2016. Shoestring Press published a selection of his work Driven by the wind and drenched to the bone, translated by Andrew Graham-Yool, in 2009. His Las Encantadas/The Enchanted Isles, poems set in the Galapagos, is currently being translated.
Manuel Ulacia: Four Poems translated by Sarah Lawson
EXPRESS TO MARRAKESH
By the way
she clutched her belly,
the girl who entered
dressed in a full white chador
with her face covered by a veil
that showed only her nervous eyes
outlined in black–
we sensed that something was going to happen.
The loudspeakers announced
and the amber of dusk
gilded the crowded station.
The train departed leaving behind
the ochre walls of the city,
the tall minarets,
the Royal Palace,
the gardens of greenery
on the bank of the river.
Very soon the sky filled up with stars.
To travel to the south is to travel to another time.
Yesterday, strolling through the medina
we met some women
playing a tambourine and singing
who were escorting a boy.
Mounted on a horse
with silver trappings
and silk cloth embroidered in gold—
he was on his way to the mosque
where he was going to be circumcised.
‘We are so far from everything,’ you said,
while the woman again put
her hand to her belly, groaning.
She seemed so alone in her labour,
so alone on the train, so unworried.
And when we asked her if she wanted anything
she seemed miles away.
The train stopped in a station
forgotten in mid-sentence
and the woman kept sitting there
with her hand on her belly
looking at us fixedly,
as though looking for accomplices
or asking for silence, or both things.
Today I remember her eyes.
They were a silent scream between the veils.
The train pulled out again
leaving behind the empty platforms.
Each one of us
gave himself over
to his own memories
–the garden of Meknes in the late afternoon
the meeting of glances
while out strolling, the tall cypresses,
on the views from the place—
but reality brings us back
to the present.
Several times the woman clutched
her belly with her hand.
Several times we offered her help
without getting a reply
and when we wanted to look for someone
to attend to her
she shook her head no.
The moon illuminated
the desert: an unreal image
of complete solitude.
The express continued on the track,
inventing the poem
that I am writing now while the images
that recapture the memory come back.
The woman cried out.
Her waters broke.
There was an exchange of glances
followed by a long silence.
I don’t remember how long
This desperate interval lasted.
I don’t know if it was two hours,
three or five. Lying on her back
on the floor, with her legs apart
bathed in cold sweat and blood,
and without taking off her veil,
she was panting
rhythmically while the ring
of dark red flesh
was opening little by little,
showing the coral tunnel,
the conch shell of time,
and finally a black circle.
Straining with an animal strength
the woman forced out
the crown of the child’s head,
and expelled it quickly, face down
–warm and wet—on my hands.
The baby began to breathe
and twisted in a spiral
upward getting out
first the shoulders
and then the rest of his body.
Dawn broke. On the horizon
another sun dyed the backcloth of the sky
red, orange, yellow, pink.
Head down the child began to cry.
I don’t remember
who cut his umbilical cord.
Through the window we saw
a tiny oasis:
a stand of date palms.
And beyond: a camel pacing
slowly around a water wheel.
When we reached Marrakesh,
the woman hurriedly got off the train
and was lost in the crowd.
I wanted to catch up with her, but
all the women were wearing the same clothing,
they all had their faces covered
and many were carrying
a child on their backs.
The heat of the desert
can be bewildering.
More than sixteen years have passed.
Perhaps the mother has accompanied
the boy to the mosque,
singing through the streets
of the old medina,
and the child, now a man, frequents the garden
late in the afternoon.
Suddenly, in the middle of an avenue,
dismayed by the dense traffic
of the city in the rush hour,
an old song on the radio
takes you back, without knowing why,
to that age when you woke up to life.
In a cloud of smoke
your companions dance.
All have partners
except you who watch
the spectacle from the doorway:
long hair, hands, flowers in the air,
flared trousers on the hip,
dark glasses covering dilated eyes,
mini skirts, platform boots,
flashing on and off
to the rhythm of the music,
caresses and more kisses,
a collective shout,
the voice of Lennon in the new album…
You know yourself to be alone among all those people.
You would like to join in the party
but an interior reality
even stronger than your will prevents you.
The arrow of your compass points to another north.
The magnet of your desire
is for your own sex.
For some time you’ve known
that you like men.
Why, why, why?
you ask yourself a thousand times
without finding an answer.
There is a tilt to the foundations
that set you up as a man;
what you dreamed became dust in the blink of an eye.
Last night, in your desperation
the Christ hanging at your bedside.
Then you dreamed that they had crucified you.
Your voice is buried
in the panic that causes you
to know that you are different.
You search among the faces for
an accomplice but you don’t find him.
You search for the image that your desire demands
everywhere, but you don’t find it.
You search for a friend to whom to tell
your true truth,
but nobody’s interested.
You pretend to be someone else
to comply with the expectations
of the others. You invent mysterious
tales of love with a beautiful girl
with nipples like two strawberries.
Adolescence is very hard.
You’re in the centre of the labyrinth
that you’ve created for yourself
split in two.
You’re in love with love. Still
no one knows it. You keep your secret
as if it were a time bomb
that you would vainly like to deactivate.
FIESTA IN A GARDEN IN TANGIER
when the dome overhead
was filled with stars
and the comets,
one after another,
were falling on the sea,
you entered the secret garden
to find in it another sky:
a hundred tortoises bore
on their shells
a lighted candle;
when they moved they formed
flickering and luminous rhymes,
another system of writing,
created by chance.
IN THE RITZ IN MEKNES
Just one glance was enough,
the silence between two sentences,
the light touch in your hand
when you asked for the key
in the heat of the siesta,
for the young concierge
with the look of a gazelle
to follow you to the room.
Such delight to touch
his olive thighs,
smelling of orange blossoms,
and to kiss his full lips
tasting of cardamom
while the fan
the entwined bodies
in their delirium desiring each other
as the desert desires water.
So much enjoyment in an instant
when the bodies forget
reality letting themselves go,
but where? where?
The city woke up after an hour.
The cars, the motorbikes,
the music from a radio,
the mysterious babble
brought you back to the world.
The concierge hurried off,
said good-bye and left the room.
You went back to sleep.
You woke up in another dream
when the muezzin began
to pray into the microphone.
From the balcony, the Palace
glittered in the resonant night,
full of stars.
Manuel Ulacia (1953-2001) was still building his reputation as one of Mexico’s younger distinguished poets when he died in a drowning accident off the Pacific coast of Mexico. He was a Yale-educated academic, specialising in the poetry of Luis Cernuda. Both his parents were poets, and his maternal grandfather was Manuel Altolaguirre, one of the leading lights in the Spanish “Generation of ‘27”. Ulacia’s best poetry is of a very personal nature and often deals with his homosexuality, both his coming to terms with it as a youth and his frank enjoyment of same-sex relationships in later years.
Sarah Lawson translates from French, Spanish, and Dutch. Her translation of Jacques Prévert’s Selected Poems was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation in 2002.
Eduardo Moga: Poem
My father had white hair. I have white hair too. Hair goes white from oxidative stress.
My father let the nail on the little finger of his left hand grow long. He said mandarins would let their nails grow long to show they didn’t do manual work. He sold things.
My father recalled with pride that he’d been second in his class. In his time, pupils were seated in the classroom according to their efforts, so he had a desk in the front row. But he didn’t even complete primary school. War broke out.
Even after his death the sofa in the dining-room smelt of him. We kept finding his hairs in the cretonne.
My father took me out into the countryside to spot hares, rabbits and birds. I couldn’t tell one from the other, but he identified buzzards, eagles, hawks, kites, ospreys, sparrowhawks. Or so he said.
My father lived in bed. He came home, took off all his clothes and put himself to bed. His night-table drawer was stuffed with snot-stained handkerchieves from his frequent noisy nose-blowing. His slippers were always at the foot of the bed. He shook them off with practised accuracy.
They wrapped him in a shroud. I kissed him on his forehead. It was ice-cold.
My father was very good at making plasticine figurines. He modelled a crocodile or a donkey or a bird and left it on the dining-room table. In summertime he wrote me letters that were little stories, comic-strips whose characters were him and me. The speech-bubbles were riddled with spelling mistakes.
My father had a stomach ulcer. He took pills, but also swilled wine and stuffed salami. Once I saw him walking up and down the corridor like a caged bear, wracked with pain. The passage was narrow and he struck both walls with his fists. ‘Where am I going? Where am I going tomorrow?,’ he yelled and yelled. He wouldn’t go to the doctor, he was scared of them. My mother went on with her sewing in the dining-room.
In the hunger years my father used to go, alone or with other ragamuffins, to the Montjuic orchards scrumping. Once he fell from a pear-tree onto an asbestos roof and slashed his arm open, from the wrist to the elbow.
My father used to try and shield his mother from his stepfather, a policeman from Carmona, who beat her.
He once hit me so hard I banged my head on the wall.
My father told me I had to be proud of being a Catalan. Us Catalans were more intelligent and industrious than the rest of them.
My father was very good at Misère. It’s an upside-down card-game: the one with the least points wins. I tried to copy his clever discards and especially his elegance in victory and, particularly, in defeat. Now I have no-one to play with.
My father gave me a Rolex. The finest watch in the world, he said. I don’t know what’s become of it.
Past fifty, my father was unemployed for many years. Then he took early retirement. Then he died.
Once I saw my father wandering around the neighbourhood. He went into a pub and came out. Then he went into another one. He seemed aimless and distracted. I didn’t speak to him.
My father never had a car. He said a car cost more than a foolish son. But he loved it when I drove him places.
My father and I used to read poems aloud from The Thousand Best Poems in Spanish, in an edition which had lost its cover and my father had wrapped in oil-stained newsprint. We laughed till we cried at The Banquet by Baltasar de Alcázar and How Times Change by Vital Aza. We also liked Despair attributed to Espronceda.
My father told me ‘You have to be the best, always the best’ and ‘If you fall down, pick yourself up; if you fall down again, pick yourself up again.’ Then he rearranged his underpants and went back to his game of patience.
My father considered himself an intellectual. Sometimes he said so when chomping on a slice of chorizo or a rasher of bacon with his mouth open.
My father kept Swedish pornographic magazines and an illustrated Kama Sutra on the top of a wardrobe.
I never saw him cry.
His name was Abel.
Eduardo Moga was born in 1962. His Selected Poems is published in a bilingual edition by Shearsman Books, as is his anthology Streets where to walk is to embark: Spanish poets in London, out this year. This selection is taken from his new book-length prose poem Mi Padre/My father, his 21st collection.
Mariano Peyrou: extract from The Year of the Crab
One day we thought we’d draw crabs.
The Bible says, a young man packed all his troubles in a bag and
xxxxxwent off on his travels. Twenty years later he returned to his
xxxxxvillage. What’s in your bag? they asked him. Troubles, he said.
xxxxxThen what was the point of going away? You went off and now
xxxxxyou’re back with same bagful of troubles, they mocked him. And
xxxxxhe explained: These are different troubles.
I started drawing real things. That kind of drawing had never appealed
Inés didn’t want to think about the future.
The children didn’t know how to think of the future.
We didn’t want to think about the future. I wanted a new past and
xxxxxsought it by thinking about the future.
She couldn’t think about the future.
We decided to devote part of the crab to the future.
The house was full of nines and, as at the phoney millennium, we were
xxxxxeager for the zeros to arrive.
I thought I couldn’t stop pretending. If I stopped pretending, I’d lie
xxxxxdown in the sun on the saharan beach and I’d dehydrate and
xxxxxvanish. Then thechildren would come and sweep away my bones
xxxxxwith the crab shells.
I thought what I wanted was to be at the start of things.
I thought if I stopped pretending, the boys wouldn’t want to be my
xxxxxfriends anymore and the girls wouldn’t be happy because I gazed
xxxxxat them and didn’t say anything.
Now I was back at the start of things. I’d never moved on from there.
Now I looked at my palms and noticed something alien.
Now I looked at the telegraphone and noticed something alien.
I thought I didn’t have a new past but an endless future.
I wanted a new past so I could give it to Inés.
I thought the crab kept me at the start of things.
Now the dead were like children and we, the living, were the grown-ups
xxxxxwho had to look after them.
I only had one space to be in.
It was a space filled with silence. The travellers came and I shared my
xxxxxsilence with them and they could all spend some time communing
I thought the travellers were like the dead and I looked after them, but it
xxxxxwas just the opposite: they’d never been more alive. No harm
xxxxxcould come to them while they went on coming in search of
I wanted to share this silence with Inés.
Inés was filled with words, but she didn’t know.
Beneath every word is another word, but beneath some words there
xxxxxwas silence now or nothing.
The crab crawled beneath some words and cared for the nothing.
I wanted to care for the dead, but the other children wouldn’t let me.
I thought, it’s just the opposite: the dead are the grown-ups, the dead
xxxxxlook after the living.
Now it was easy for me to engage with names.
I thought that perhaps Inés was only a name.
In my earliest memory they gave me something to eat which didn’t have
xxxxxthe name of a food.
The telegraphone was just the opposite of a name. Sometimes he was the
xxxxxonly real thing.
Inés owned a beach filled with names and I had to sweep it.
She was saying goodbye to her name.
Gardening also required patience and perseverance.
The dead too have time on their hands.
In my space it was just the opposite: there were only brief flashes,
xxxxxmaximum blink rate, the staccato rhythm of a struck match.
I thought I didn’t want an endless future but an open future.
Sometimes I stayed inside the house and listened to the balls bouncing
xxxxxin the yard. Everything could cease to exist at any
I had been one of those balls so siesta time was very emotional for me.
She couldn’t say goodbye to the telegraphone.
The children couldn’t say goodbye to the beach.
I couldn’t say goodbye to so many things and I tried to learn words in
xxxxxthe local dialect for the goodbyes not to be so emotional.
The Bible says, the tree that doesn’t bear good fruit must be cut down
xxxxxand thrown in the fire.
The telegraphone had made friends with the trees.
Every day we chanted spells, hand in hand, by a tree, a rite so it
xxxxx might transmit to us its millennial vigour, and so we might
xxxxxgrow strong and straight as the tree.
The Bible says, every winding road shall be straightened.
I liked winding roads and hills and feared my endless future might
xxxxxbe closed to me.
Inés sent photos of cities she’d never see again.
For us the good fruit was the fruit which allowed us to dream,
xxxxxthe fruit we drew in our imaginations, and when we sat down to
If a tree allowed us to consider it strong and straight and to extract
xxxxxits millennial energy, it seemed to us to bear good fruit enough.
We didn’t want to throw any trees in the fire.
The fire was the crab of the trees, as the drawings hanging on the walls
xxxxx were the crab of future drawings.
The surface of things was the crab of ideas.
The idea there was something beneath the surface of things was the crab
xxxxxof the surface of things.
Every crab blends hope and threat. I only wanted a new past. The crab
xxxxxcould have all the futures.
Inés owned many images but didn’t make them into dreams.
I drew all my dreams and hid the drawings in a box.
The telegraphone dreamt his drawings.
The Bible says, when pragmatism is at war with symbolism, it’s better to
She had given us what she didn’t have.
I wanted to give the telegraphone drawings, Inés words, the children
xxxxxgood luck, and her everything, but they already had drawings,
xxxxxwords, good luck, and everything
I wanted to give somebody something.
I thought she kept giving us what she didn’t have.
She had a new body and she couldn’t get used to it. And her new voice
xxxxxdidn’t sound like her.
In my earliest memory everyone was dancing and so was I.
One day the telegraphone came to me in a dream and brought me
The Bible says, any painful event comes in three phases: before, it seems
xxxxxit’ll be devastating, afterwards, you feel it wasn’t as bad as you
xxxxxthought, and only later, when you begin to take stock of its real
xxxxxconsequence, is it seen revealed in all its dimensions.
I thought nothing was said about the moment things happen.
I thought perhaps there were only ghosts and mourning.
I thought I didn’t want a new past or an endless or an open future, I
xxxxxonly wanted time to vanish and just to have the telegraphone, her,
xxxxxInés, an interminable rite, still, silent, filled with words, listening to
xxxxxthe balls bounce in the yard, a siesta liquid, underwater, undersea,
xxxxxapocalyptic fucking, an unyielding goodbye, drawing the
xxxxxvanishings and enjoying suffering and fragility.
Mariano Peyrou’s The Year of the Crab, published by Shearsman Books, was the Poetry Book Society’s recommended translation last spring. In his review in Poetry Review, Leo Boix writes ‘I was struck by how Peyrou’s use of simple, almost childlike language could unpick so much fear, love, nostalgia, terror and a growing sense of loss. The complex symbol of the crab, with all its nuances and associations, imbues the collection with symbolic weight, allowing for many enriching readings and interpretations.’ Peyrou’s new collection Posibilidades en la Sombra/ Possibilities in the Shadows was El Mundo’s poetry book of 2019.
Wasn’t it Christ who said we should rise again? Well, I
who am privileged to follow his recommendation,
am doing so in the city where St. Peter built his church.
xxxxxx(the keys hung from his cloak
Then this is how it is: someone has allowed me
a whole day’s resurrection, a miniscule
conditional liberty that makes me feel good.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxGo for a stroll then wander back to prison, to your cot
xxxxxxxxxxxxxwith its rock-hard bleach-washed sheets.
Feeling good is a clear indication one is risen again. How many days
was I in the ground? The mobile phones are the same model
as the day I died. My flesh, however,
seems impalpable. It’s more my soul I’m taking for an airing.
What great happiness! It’s almost too much; I could
drown in it if I don’t take care.
So I’m back in Rome, on top of the world,
walking in the very footsteps, but not exactly
the same ones because the street-plan
has completely altered since those days.
Such is our arrogance, we believe
we know what drink quenches a bygone thirst.
Perhaps the thirst was different? Is there a plural for thirst? Thirsts?*
You can have an embassy to Italy and to the Holy Seat, and
Spain has both, that’s how diplomacy functions in Rome,
each country with its double embassy.
xxxxxx(It would be wrong to think of it as like the two-for-one
xxxxxxoffers in supermarkets: it has a prestige attached.)
Look, without noticing I’ve passed into another State,
there’s a sign Vatican City, it’s a manageable country
is all male. Its principal economic activity
is called celibacy.
The nun who irons the striped uniforms
of the lads in the Swiss guard
is also responsible for mending the pope’s chasubles
and she serves him his yerba maté herself.
xxxxxx(after the next conclave, this poem will be
obsolete. This poem and your washing-machines
have death programmed into them
*pun :‘sedes’ = thirsts/(Holy) Seats
Why drag your children round
the Sistine Chapel? Cheer them up,
take them to supersize screen
showings of CGI films.
Let the eyes of the doll on the screen
be the size of watermelons.
Cheer them up with a violence
that haunts them later on. Lock them up in a happy childhood
with two watermelons. Some of those kids escaped: it’s us
back in Rome and risen again.
We aren’t zombies, we don’t decay. We are the pristine
risen again, fresh from the chapel of rest.
My resurrection is unlike the one devised by
Christianity. Mine is another kind, it has no
organ-music playing in the background: that’s mediaeval.
Christianity without organ-music, what sort of Christianity is that?
On resurrection day let’s wear our Sunday best. Now that’s
Christian: put on nice clean ironed clothes
to receive His Holiness’s blessing.
It’s lunchtime and I find my paccheri alla sorrentina
so al dente they have the texture of cartilage
or of a very wide elastic rubber, the kind they
used on me once to take a blood
sample. The nurse tied it round my arm
and even then she couldn’t find a vein,
she tried and tried with a face like thunder
(It occurs to me again that not everyone
can choose the work they do.)
As night falls, I observe the events
behind those windows overlooking the Lungotevere
and as I watch I feel an abiding nostalgia:
I could stand in front of them for hours
like a stopped swing with no little girl on it.
My hobby is observing other people’s interiors – who
lives in these houses with their view of the river,
who amassed the fortune
that allows the whole family
to sit indoors peacefully listening
to the rain? It’s a responsibility living here:
they must bring to it the diligence
of a senior official in the administration.
Despite this melancholy too big
to fit in my (capacious) handbag,
today I’m so happy that I had sautéed
cauliflower for tea, the same thing I pushed to the side of my plate
in disgust as a girl. I brought it from home in my case, I brought it
from being nine years old to this resurrection, even though
I forgot to bring a map.
xxxxxxAren’t we who are risen again tourists too?
There are no guided tours for the disembodied.
Eight in the evening and no-one about
in this district of the well-heeled. They don’t even
walk their dogs. What goes on
in those drawing-rooms to make it not worth
the trouble of leaving them? It’s the sofa, I realise.
If there’s a sofa you don’t have to go out. Inside the sofa
there are various swings, a dry-cleaners
and even a hermitage in the Pre-Romanesque style.
I used to be a great one for going out: in my country it was
practically obligatory. So while there’s breath in my body
I didn’t come here to look at shuttered ministries.
How many steps do I still have to take
before my resurrection is over.
Each of my steps has to be fuelled
by curiosity. Heaven forbid anyone should notice
my lack of interest in Roman ruins: I left that
at home in my former life.
It’s a quarter to ten in the evening:
some carabinieri and a group of Spanish tourists
are the only people in the Piazza Farnese. If they leave
western art history is erased at a stroke. Who then
will curate the heritage
of Mother Europe?
I climb into one of the two tanks
brought here from the Baths of Caracalla: no-one looks at me,
no-one is interested in me immersing my whole body
in the past, as Juan José Saer has it in a poem in
The Narrative Art. Look at the trompe l’oeil marble
rings carved into the stone. Adolf Loos would be
horrified. Ornament is criminal, marble aping metal,
aberrant in its superfluity.
The Christmas lights already
shine in Rome. I can see them from here,
in the tank, and they leave me cold.
I’m the person who
loses weight over Christmas, the one who shuns turrón and langoustines
over the festive period and just now I recall
the menorah on the Arch of Titus. The rabbis
prohibit Jews from walking under it. I,
although baptised, stand several metres off
for fear of passing through.
What we had leads us forward with its steady light. Tradition
devours the present: as woodworm, termites,
piranhas, three greedy little creatures
I can number. Traditions
are invented, says Eric Hobsbawn.
xxxxxx(How few vowels his surname has!
xxxxxxSuch details estrange us from Northerners.)
Do we want more underground lines or to go on rescuing
the buried remnants of the past?
Do we want Sunday lunch every week
with a troop of cousins and aunts?
These questions hang in the Roman air
and while we’re not looking an archangelic presence forms.
Suddenly, it takes over a slice of the atmosphere and doesn’t so much arrive
is when you see someone coming nearer from a distance;
but the apparition isn’t gradual: it’s the same with the kind
of love we like. The other kind comes over time,
it photosynthesises and in the end decays.
Then, here you are. I can see you very clearly –
you must have risen like me for a day?
In resurrection we don’t talk of the gradual, nor is there an official drink
for coming back to life, but look at that beautiful pair of
Soon we’ll be violently ejected from these
historic cafés. Ten minutes and bye-bye, your place
comes at a price. In the meantime let’s people the remains
of the salons once held round these tables.
Soon we’ll be tested on our joie de vivre.
If we don’t pass, our resurrection
will end abruptly.
Now you mention it, I too feel a strange damp
in the air: it’s the steam of what we weren’t even given
time to finish, ascending from the floor. Or are we
in the Baths of Marcus Aurelius Augustus, aka Caracalla.
(I’m from Castile, I have problems explaining damp. I grew up
where black is black and white didn’t ask for your opinion or I’ll slap
you so hard your face will be red-raw.
All I know is stone, sky and corn. Brick,
maybe some pine-trees, but not much more.)
There’s nothing but pizzerias here, yet
you can’t imagine Romulus, Caesar or Agrippina
xxxxxxAgrippina never tasted a tomato. Or a potato,
Don’t you know we brought the tomato here from America?
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(Notice I use the first person plural.)
but we never associate the potato with the Empire
or the Republic.
xxxxxxThey ate gruel, venison,
asparagus, olives and eggs. They even ate donkey,
hee-haw, they ate donkey too.
In neo-realism they did have potatoes.
(Rome is thought of as a succession of artistic movements: think of me as that too,
and not as cellulitis and flab.)
But if I’m in Rome I can’t allow myself
to think of me. Rising again in Rome requires my full
attention. It’ll give us a slap if it sees our mind wandering
(that’s two slaps in one poem) and punish us
with a new death.
To be fully happy
we need all our attention. It’s from this attention
that memories are made.
If happiness came to us after we’d died
we’d recognise her by her embonpoint;
how cool death would be in that case.
With my new retinas I behold you anew as apparition
and I feel happy. The apparition, as it is one, smiles
and addresses us boldly
with a sound like the tinkling of bells.
The damp is still here; today I’m breathing what seem waves
but good waves not the drowning or shipwrecking kind.
Today things expand, today there’s ample room
for them to take up all they want. When you rise again
you’re not hemmed in.
Great mozzarella ball: that’s exactly what
I’ll order for my final meal minutes before
my execution. Observe attentively
my white ball, it oozes milky liquid
when you cut into it. It’s whey, it’s rennet, it’s the creation
of mankind from the primordial food.
Great mozzarella ball, may the chain
that binds us protect me evermore
from the calamities awaiting me
around each corner of my death.
What the Our Lady of Mount Carmel medal
couldn’t do, you do for me, great white ball
of pleasure encapsulating Italy on this my one and only
Mercedes Cebrián was born in 1971. Her fourth collection Muchacha de Castilla/Girl from Castile has just come out, and this sequence, Roma Redux, is taken from it. Her poetry has been published widely in the UK, for example in mpt, Poetry London and Long Poem Magazine. Mercedes also writes novels and stories, and is a journalist, translator, essayist and cultural commentator.
Pilar Adón: Four Poems
Write my name and keep going.
Cut out my shape in the earth. And the dizziness
of each detour: Alice Springs.
So not to float. The swoon
that sets up home in my trachea like a python
twisted into knots that won’t loosen,
won’t set me loose.
Love paired with fear. Life-fear,
day-fear. And dizziness. Time and its tragedy.
The distant loam smell,
and the beast
asking me Why do you do it? Day by day.
Crumble. Allow the bush
to be impenetrable.
Not become a fortress. Turn to stone.
How to recognise myself, us
after the white shift.
Skin becoming hide and slipping down the face
into folds of pure old age.
Deep green fissures
a crow could nest in.
And dryness. Lakelessness, real light.
Each day dawning arid. The terror
in a fountain from which only duty flows.
Carried down the Darling river.
Paying no attention to the warning
of something coming, someone coming
and leaving with its Cassandra farewell scorned.
Without the daily weight of the saddlebag
that turns us into mules.
Donkey skin. That girl. One little eye.
Two little eyes.
xxxxxxThree little eyes.
Turn my back and turn away
down the path with tulip-trees and zebras
whistling a made-up tune.
My fingers intertwined. Sick of being defined
My action, inaction.
Believing what is memorised is incarnate
and what is incarnate feeds us. Me from Myself-to banish-
Had I art- (642)
I go on and my head goes on
with its unheeded noise.
As if it had happened also to me
they had spat in my mouth.
Hugging animals, adopting animals.
Twelve puppies at the creek, the race,
while you tell the children the wolf is coming,
the wolf that devours, disembowels and skins
the sheep. Husbandry.
Consuming animals. In a continuum of deliciousness
and worms. The mystery and glory
of chunks of meat.
Lights in the night, tree lanterns,
and the promise of fried lark at suppertime.
Letters kept in the walnut secretaire.
pressed flowers falling from a crinoline
on the walk to and from the dam
with dragging boot, already tired out
from this mania for spotting planks and trunks
transformed by the weight of water,
Pure light over the dog sanctuary.
The proper man puffs smoke and never speaks.
He prefers hunting and butchering
to the celebration of the first step, the first tooth
in an interior of women, toddlers, perfume.
The man kicks his snowed-in car.
The man pisses on the concrete.
The man washes and anoints himself on the stone-pile
under the rusty tap,
with chapped lips and cracked skin,
dry throat after the day’s vomit. Cigar man.
Blood man. Mud man.
Standing in fangs and cartridges.
Animal blessing? Toxins in the butter,
needles in the dog-bowl
because they are not men of peace and spit
the word dog like a curse.
More and more children. Immersed in their own liquid
with dirt-stained cheeks,
wan and lifeless.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxGirls who serve the water, pour out the wine
xxxxxxbetween the knives and forks. Ragged napkins
xxxxxxand metal plates laden with meat.
xxxxxxBoys who unfold their ironed handkerchiefs
xxxxxxand are born macho.
xxxxxxSprawling in their father’s armchair
xxxxxxwhile their father’s out at work.
Cooking animals. Reheating them, chomping on their bones.
These customs and routines
that bring life to the sacred hearth.
A man, a hero. A woman, a saint.
The one with the flowers in her lap.
The sacrament of fire.
The legend of the cave and the hermit countess
who lives on wild goat’s milk.
Locked in her tower,
with blonde hair cascading,
with no watch or transcendent life.
Admirer of ecstatic flight. Running away.
Ceasing to be.
There’s no woman in the Trinity
no apostle, no evangelist
and the only female divinity
derives from the maternal scar,
this service that well deserves
a place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Maidservant of the Lord.
Vessel and repose.
Receptacle of the miracle of Conception
for the unmarried man, patriarch and ruler,
who made the world his nursery
from a boat in a dry river.
Woman of atonement.
Woman mother of a final generation
of child-bearing ladies. Perpetual mourners who accept what must be and bear it with fortitude.
When their needs are so few:
a shawl, a cheese sandwich.
Rain on the window-pane.
A dilapidated copy of La Petite Fadette.
And here I am. Supine, standing. Over a bent tree
full of rooks. Climbing bodies,
head raised. Short sight and mouths
stressing the three. Perfect three. Times. Three. Blows.
Three. All well.
Towards the peaceful distance
(a door topped with an arch, a chimney)
of a self-perpetuating, waxing god
obsessed with a number. Blinking
with faith and devotion.
Borne up by the liturgy of imagining
what it would be like to spend half the day
with dogs and otters. Twenty-four animals
who wouldn’t make June
or sense the first warm days.
What to do then.
Search for the original of the beast. The angel.
Unique and cosmic being. Exceptional being demanding
flight ✓ tick,
abandonment ✓tick, a triangular symbol
anchored in the flesh of a sudden
A young woman grows,
an old woman wakes (in fright) and yearns to go on
as if she were living still. When she’s clay now.
for whom all is questions.
A hair won’t spoil the page in a book.
But anyway a hair in a book makes me think of myself
as a slattern.
Chaos all around,
existence neglects its hygiene
and goes limp and floppy.
Losing one’s voice to express things.
With those words that aren’t spoken
and aren’t even written down.
Woe to him who offends against one of my little ones.
Woe to him who will not love.
Now I realise: I was never a young poet. Or young and beautiful.
I only pusued guilt and mystical confusión,
apprenticed to the arts of bō.
With no interest in poems about cities.
But yes in the colour green and old animals.
White skirt, patent-leather shoes.
In character as the good daughter
of poor people, with chilblains
from the freezing house.
Windows shut to keep the heat in.
Bookish childhood, bookish ambition. Hunger.
When will I find my voice? When
will the day come
that I leap over the wall and vanish
(skin flayed by brambles)
and find a new one?
Pilar Adón was born in Madrid in 1971. She is a writer, publisher (of Impedimenta Books) and translator. Her most recent novel, Las Efímeras /The Mayflies was judged one of the best ten novels of 2015. In 2017 she published her 3rd story collection La vida sumergida/ Life Underwater. The poems here come from Da dolor/It hurts, her fifth poetry collection, out this spring.
María Eloy García
when you read my DNA you weren’t that interested
nor was I in yours
but I saw you there
with your A-T C-G rungs
your double helix ready to replicate
and what can I say
I felt a need to multiply you
to scatter chromosomes here and there
for us to mutate together
so I put my nucleotides to work
and well we had an xy to be exact
while you wept with emotion
for the newborn clone
I thought how beautiful it was
to carry in our cells
the same information as when
we swam in the primordial soup
and then I felt a primeval longing
a purely nucleal shame
a unique and unrepeatable pain
the abrupt loneliness of a tiny mitochondria
I moved in with him
the possessive one
the trafficker the reckless
he brought his whole family
I wanted to separate because his mother-in-law
widow of fright
slept between us
but with the my new bad habits and little hang-ups
I couldn’t I just couldn’t
two years went past and the children flourished
I had miscarriages meanwhile
in the end I told fear face to face
I’m leaving the family home
I can’t go on
I’ve met the most perfect creature
he has all the time in the world
his name is conformity
he’s the same age as me and has a flat in town
THE BIONIC LOVERS
mated by audio
when they whispered in each other’s ear
gazed at each other gazing at each other on plasma screens
they generated exact endorphins
calculated one another from peptide to peptide
neurotransmitted an embrace
imagined future bionic children
who would put one the eyes of birds
with their metallic hands
they didn’t need to touch one another
in the operating programme
they knew they were identical symmetrical
they were genderless since nothing need predominate
when the progress bar reached 90%
they could load the pleasure principle
it was necessary for both discs
to have sufficient memory
orgasm took up so much space
the blue screen freezes fatal system error
there is no memory on disc
perfect for any idyll is
the blue trigger of memory
I think of Muriel at her till
a cynosure of synchronicity
her laser avid for code
pleasantly listing the two-for-ones
conjuring the numbers as she slides
with sweet disinclination
my glorious pannetone
over the glass that tabulates
the exact cost of my afternoon
three euros she says
and never was number more magical
the marvellous cashier produces the cash-slip
of boredom and says three and meets my eye before
she works the daily wonder that my pannetone
is mine forever mine
then suddenly turns to another afternoon
not mine but someone else’s
murmuring the two-for-ones
slides her tetrabrik over the laser-eye
opening the mystic drawer of hyper
with the deft touch of a marketeer
the trim banknotes repeat her empty face
and I leave through these doors
that open at my aura
behind me the ping of her laser
greets another afternoon
only you can fill the void of a Day*
you are the pure demiurge of a tiny universe
carting through the sixth circle of dairy
a palletful of misery
you stack angst next to angst
time next to time
only you possess the irony
of the gods
you pride yourself in an order
made to be destroyed
and raising up your antique form
you observe the mislabelled aisles
desire shelved with reality
truth shelved with history
at your command the trays read flesh
the chillers reveal their ten degree id
the rows fall into line
a cornucopia of the heart’s desire
only you morning after morning
have three short hours to build a Day
*pun – Day/Día is the name of a Spanish chain of supermarkets
SONG OF US ALL
we all manage our abyss
recover from our ozone
calm down in our momentary wound
feed on time
we all lull our scars
and swing both arms when we walk
we all discuss our centimetre square
and are free to feel tied down
we all are pisces and quaternary
we traffic and research
we stroke the bird and fold our clothes
we all mull over theories
and discard the unhelpful ones
we all wash and spit
undress and dress
arrive at the threshold late and early at the place itself
we all have nails that grow
are held to be human and rational
we all are a multitude of tensed cords
are subatomic and decisive
we all dress and undress
while gravity does its work
rust does its work
cancer does its work
we all die in our nuclei
are buried and remembered
we all were once made up of habits
but the beauty of the story
the really interesting part
is that none of us ever found out
if we were better forgotten
María Eloy-García’s poems have been translated into German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian, Catalan, and now English. These poems are taken from Cuánto dura cuánto/How long does all this last, 2010, and Los cantos de cada cual/Songs of Everywoman, 2013. Her latest book of prose poems, Los habitantes del panorama/Inhabitants of the Panorama came out last year.
Erika Martínez: Seven Poems
Mountaineer of my façade,
the man I contemplate
is practising his high-wire act,
learning the city manually.
Every morning he perches
in his bird-trainers on my windowsill
He abseils, systematical, exact
as the leads on a cuckoo clock
and ruffles with his head
my peaceful curtains.
Sometimes I imagine his harness,
jealous of my kisses, shrugs him off.
My vertical lover gazes at me then,
hanging for an instant in the clouds,
leaving behind a whispering of ropes.
THE CERVIX DOT
If you folded it like an origami
crane or an embroidered handkerchief,
it would almost fit in a nut-shell.
That’s what the gynaecologist tells me.
And that mine is pretty.
Like a girl’s – that’s what he means.
Women with children have a dash
on the neck of their womb.
Childless women have a dot.
To talk about this dilemma
we use Morse code
attaching each letter to a word:
My legs are wide-open.
My smile glued-on
in this concrete hospital
in a world that is infinite
but still expanding.
Where is its navel?
When I get home, and humming a tune,
I won’t throw the dust we bit at you.
I won’t throw you a map of barrenness.
I’ll throw you a nut.
I’m convinced you always write from a place, even if the place is absolutely not what you’re writing about (a woman begins by gazing at the shadow cast by every missing person).
I also feel that a hole is the tourist destination of every eventuality (a woman leaps with her arms open wide) and I’d even say that a poem about a stone may be similar, in its protest, to a poem about abortion.
A woman is bridge-bungee-jumping inside the man I’m writing about.
One could say: I am my body.
Yet, if I lost my right leg in a battle or running away from a battle or more likely in a stupid accident in the home, I would still be me.
I’d still be me too if I lost both legs, or even all four limbs.
How much body would I have to lose to stop being me?
Maybe a small part of me could stand for the rest in a synecdoche, or perhaps what was left of me would turn me into someone else.
Cutting one’s nails alters one existentially.
THE POETESSES’ LOCKET
To keep their memory alive, women poets wear the empty lockets of poetesses round their neck.
What to do with their droopy chignon and their crochet, their stake-less card-games and their prudishness, their mania for writing and their all-concealing skirts?
I promised myself to un-delete their names, like someone slashing at a snare with a stick; not to judge them, or condemn those who embraced madness from misguided romanticism.
It’s an effort though.
Admitting I like –esses and –isms, and also thoroughly dislike them, I wonder what remains in us of their passion for baubles.
In Elizabethan English the word for what they had between their legs was nothing.
THE HOUSE FALLS DOWN
So many years digging this earth
where cattle roamed
and which fed the cattle and the men
who irrigated the earth
with their black spilt blood –
blood changes colour
on leaving the body –.
So many years brick-laying,
here stood a stable,
on top of that they built a church
on top of that they built a factory
on top of that they built
So many mothers scrubbing its flagstones,
giving birth on its flagstones,
hiding shit under the flagstones
that their drunken sons
and their sober husbands trod in
who worked and fucked
for a country they had no faith in.
So many years so that I,
of a generation surplus to requirements,
lose my belief in emancipation,
gaze at my bedroom ceiling
and the house
falls down around my ears.
PLACES MADE UP AS YOU GO
WE used to like pushing forward
and soiling our eros in politics.
Like in that rapid fervent photo
of us moshing in the throng.
Only later did we work out where:
each leap invented its own place.
What if we break this, we said to each,
and then we put it tenderly back together?
We were naked, we were furious
and we wanted to take home the leavings.
As time went by
our arrested bodies
turned the countryside transparent,
or we fell out of the photo
down a hole no-one knew would be there.
All that remains of what we did
is the place, a kind of euphoria,
and something shattered but still breathing.
History creaks. And we lash it onwards.
Love is a violence scale.
It was a bright and sunny morning.
The sun has never seen your skin.
A doctor once remarked
training his lens on you like a speleologist:
your back is virgin territory, as if
you hunted beavers in Alaska
or worked as a forest-ranger in Siberia.
The skin of a nun, that’s you.
It was a bright and sunny morning
and we looked happy.
A different us was beginning.
Before we left the bus
we took off our rings
to anoint each other with sun lotion, permanently,
and we had ridiculous baseball caps on
that read desert.
Our visors collided every time
we tried to kiss,
but we learnt
like two rhinoceroses
and our kisses were impossible,
and very old, and sharp.
Erika Martínez has published 3 books of poems and one of aphorisms. Her latest collection Chocar con algo/Clash (2017) was widely praised for combining a political and a lyrical sensibility. She teaches Latin American literature at the University of Granada.
Berta García Faet: Two Poems
I’D LIKE TO PUT ALL THE BOYS I’VE KISSED SINCE 1999 IN THE SAME ROOM
I’d like to put all the boys
in the same room
and kiss once more all the boys
I want to kiss once more
and kiss on the cheek (or maybe on the forehead)
the ones I’ve gone off a bit
and say to the boys whose names I don’t remember
hi, what’s your name?
and say to the boys whose names I haven’t forgotten
I haven’t forgotten your name, how about you?
I’d like to line them up
and gaze into their eyes one by one
and assign them, not a number, but a colour and a temperature
and assign them, not a number, but a pop song
as a mnemonic.
then I’d like to pair them up and get them to practice
in different languages
then I’d like to arrange them in a circle
in a very large tight circle
as if all the boys I’ve kissed since 1999
were one dress, a red dress with white polka dots
all one dress which I take off because it’s hot
all one dress which I take off because it’s hot and because I want
to be naked forever
with all of them in one
I’d like to lock this room and all the rooms
that are one room
and say nothing
and say nothing for 3 or 4 minutes
and for them to wonder a little
and then say very faintly, at the exact right moment,
let the party begin
I’d like them to have a great time
drinking cliché-punch and eating cliché-canapés and dancing
with each other
I want someone to film a video
and someone to take compromising photos
I want them to kill time having fun
because such is life
I want them to think very sincerely
I’m glad I came
and mutter through their teeth life is good, how sad
we have to die
I want them to become best friends
I want them to chatter about green politics
and about how it’s hard
not to think of oneself the whole time
and about how it’s hard
remembering some names and forgetting others
and about how it’s hard
to write the poem we want to write (which isn’t, ever, about boys or boys’ kisses or about boys transformed into red dresses with white polka dots
but about green politics, about the concept of truth and metaphor
in friedrich nietzche’s
philosophy of language, about light
and darkness as truth and metaphor for certain moral questions
that need a different vocabulary
that need a different vocabulary not based on titillations
or on the ghosts of titillations,
and their breaking in the love poetry of alfonsina storni, about the social poetry
of the Franco period, about green
politics and about how it’s hard
not to think about some names the whole time and about the ethico-aesthetic promise
of abstract expressionism
and about God)
…I lied, yes I would like
to assign them a number, a very high tight number
allowing me to review in chronological order
everything that took place
I’m proud to have kissed such beautiful boys
I’m not proud of all the poems I wrote that clearly are
but of the poems all the boys I’ve kissed since 1999
read to me
I’m proud of remembering certain names and forgetting others
and of being here
here in this room
here in this very locked but get-into-able room
with maybe music, music which suddenly
booms out, booms out and everyone dances, everyone thinks
I’m glad I came
I’d like it if no-one felt out of place
and no-one realised
that what I really want now is to be alone with that one boy
I’d like to take that boy by the arm
honestly I was dying to take you by the arm
the 2 books you gave me
I quite liked them, I read them in the train
honestly the wild sex was great
but honestly I think we should get married or something like that
no, really, we should…
I’d like not to categorise them
but I’m sure I would categorise them because I categorise everything
I wouldn’t do it by age or nationality or aptitudes or marital status
there’d be 2 lists
the list of boys I was myself with
and the list of boys I wasn’t myself with
in the list of boys I wasn’t myself with
of course there’d be one
who’d ask me insolently
if you weren’t yourself, who were you, friedrich nietzsche?, alfonsina stormi?
but I’m ready with a comeback
it’s a manner of speaking, boy, when you come down to it to be rigorous and according to
nietzsche, that’s what life is,
manners of speaking)
I’d like to line them up again
and confess to them one by one
in chronological order telepathically
such as when we camped on the beach
I felt so happy that I felt very sad
I’d have to die someday or such as
once we chatted for 8 hours on facebook
and dawn came and I felt that that’s what life was or such as
I don’t know if it happened or it didn’t happen
I really hope it did
I’d like to take that boy by the arm again
who declared with the utmost gravity I’d like to take you by the arm again
and fuck you, honestly
I meant what I whispered just now
I’d like to put all the boys
in the same room and do the math and figure out
how I like men and pick up a megaphone and declaim
warning: every so often I’ll put a lot of men I like
in a tiny room, metaphor or non lieu
warning: I forget everything but I love you all just the same
(well to be honest not all of you)
warning: if I could have a wish
I’d wish not to forget anything and to love you all the same and for that boy
to agree to reprise the wild sex and for that boy
to come with me
where I tell him to
which is basically to my place
warning: don’t talk to me about green politics
talk to me about continuity spontaneity and the immortality
of love, etc., it’s ok if you lie, but better if you don’t
well, put it this way, don’t lie
warning: when I’m 58 I’ll convert to Catholicism
or some other faith, but always a hard-line faith
because, I warn you: I’m constantly drawn to wild beliefs
I’m a fanatic I envy country priests
and deeply religious ladies
warning: I’m terrified
and the plays of eugene o’neill and edward albee
warning: I love lists
warning: my erotic preferences are fairly clearly defined by now
I doubt I’ll change
warning: I hope I’ll die very sad to be dying
and very old
and with a rich store of wisdom
I can see myself rocking in a rocking-chair
on a porch
and cackling at a ludicrous joke
I’d like to see all the boys
just as they were then, and just as they are now
2 or 3 more times
in 2 or 3 house parties where suddenly would
very good music
all naked, under a red and white sky like a clinging dress
I take off because it’s very hot
it’s very hot
I’d like to see that one boy
500 times more
WANTING TO WANT (II)
‘Nothing no-one ever stays with me’
Carlos Edmondo de Ory
What good the book what good the orgasm
if then you come with your face with no salt
with your face with no flame with no rum
if then you come with your steady, go steady, the metronome
What good the Pontifical Curia
(where we declared kissing sacred
and in a memorably lengthy definition
established the meaning of life in simple words
like bread like wine like mouth)
if then you come you with your head down you shaking
with your wanting to want
with your I’m not sure I can’t I have to go
with your Impossible I’m full now There’s no room here
for one more memory: Take your beautiful
image of La Rochelle and go back
to your bed and forget we were, forget we were
the luckiest flowers of the 21st century;
what good the immortal Canzonetta
of Piotr Ylich if then you come sobbing
with your I’m thirsty with your I’m cold
what good contentment or drink or cities
that kill you with one glance
if then you come with your complexes
with your borrowed not being perfect, hurts me
with your paranoid female writer’s fears
with your I’m sorry I don’t love anyone.
Berta García Faet (b. Valencia, Spain, 1988) is a poet and translator and the recipient of numerous literary prizes. She is the author of several books of poetry: Corazón tradicionalista. Poesía 2008 – 2011, (La Bella Varsovia, 2018), Los salmos fosforitos [Fluorescent Psalms] (La Bella Varsovia, 2017), La edad de merecer [The Eligible Age] (La Bella Varsovia, 2015), also translated into English by Kelsi Vanada as The Eligible Age (Song Bridge Press, 2018). Most recently she won the Premio Nacional de Poesía Joven Miguel Hernández, 2018.