From El canto y la piedra

Photo: Brigitte Tohm, Unsplash.

ASPHODELS (DAY LILIES)

The light, though now tenuous,
is enough to see the faces of some of the regulars.
All are retirees from the great now-dissolved unions,
some others were mercenaries
or illustrious combatants of forgotten guerrilla forces. 

The beer is warm and the jukebox
doesn't have much variety.

When I come through the door
bearing the unmistakeable mark of the lonesome man,
the barman already knows what I'm going to order.

Nobody dares to sit down beside me.

 

V

We argued for almost an hour on the phone and you hung up on me when I was in the middle of a sentence. The words have remained on tenterhooks, just like me, I who can't dare to dial your number again. I've gone out in search of somewhere to unleash this rage, somewhere to clear the mist that darkens my face. I enter the second floor of some dark dive, mixing in among the bodies which eddy to the rhythm of a drum that sets the cadence of this battle. The band's playing a song I can't manage to recognize, three hard chords that repeat again and again, again and again. At last I understand it: the song's chorus is the same sentence you didn't let me finish speaking. At last I join this dance of satyrs and Bacchantes, all of us beginning to move to the beat of that song.

 

VI

I've touched your body to know that I exist.
That was no minor thing.
And now that you're not here
it's harder for me to know where I'm going,
where this body stained with thick loneliness
will come to rest.

There is no calamity,
just a wandering among ruins,
not recognizing oneself in others,
being lost.

 

VIII

Today I've taken the day off,
nobody noticed.
There's always someone else who does my job.
So I play cards with the old Boatman
and the two lawyers who are the sons of Europa.
The wine we drink tastes a bit vinegary.

I tell Charon, as I do every year,
that I must not get used to your leaving.
Minos and Rhadamanthus,
who ages ago were already named
magistrates of the supreme court,
are beating us this round.
Charon and I think
that they're in cahoots and are cheating.
We don't bet much:
a few coins,
life,
death...
 

X

What you keep of me
are those words that make you come back.

They germinate in every thought
and in every simple act
by which you inhabit the world. 

So that when you make
something spring forth
with that gift you also give it death.

 

XI

You cultivate the flowers of forgetting and remembering
in the house's garden. 

You slide your hand over the day's face
to calm its fever.

You brought new words
and you weave a song that my mouth repeats.

You learned to read my face in shadow
and to decipher the shadows of my body.

You have never left,
you find yourself trapped in my memory.

 

XV

INVOCATION OF VENUS

All the gifts of Love are flame.
A legacy that can establish a solid home,
or consume it from the very foundations.

 

XVI

Three months have passed since you've left
and I continue preparing
two cups of coffee every morning.

The one you won't drink I always finish myself.

Three months have passed and for two weeks now
my clothes are all dirty,
rubbish is piling up everywhere,
and old Cerberus, who is almost blind,
has started barking at me when I come home.

Three months and two cups of coffee
is the only reasonable accounting
            I can give you today.

 

XVIII

This hound who protects our home is not a good guard.
He slobbers on all the living room furniture
and marks territories that don't belong to him.
I hear his deep howls from far away
and they make me trace my steps back toward the street.
This beast doesn't sleep,
at dawn he's whimpering a dark threnody.
At night he searches for warmth and scratches at my chest,
but only founds there an iceberg about to collapse.
This animal waits for you.
In the afternoons, he barks for you until night falls. 

 

XIX

The entire room has become luminously dark,
I've dreamed of you,
very slowly you tell me: at last I'm back.

 

SECOND INVOCATION TO APOLLO

In a poem everything is ordered like the bullets of a revolver.
First a word that fosters another,
another that sharpens its meaning,
one more like an axe cleaving
and the last:
a shot fired into the exact order of the lines.

 

ORPHEUS

Now I possess the thickest silence.
A lightning bolt drowses between my lips.

Translated by Lawrence Schimel

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LALT No. 6
Number 6

LALT No. 6 goes from the gripping true stories of literary journalism to the strange worlds of fantastic short stories and graphic literature. We highlight chronicles by Colombian journalist Alberto Salcedo Ramos, speculative fiction in a dossier curated by Mexican writer Alberto Chimal, and Yucatec Maya poetry and prose in our ongoing Indigenous Literature series. 

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