Three Poems from Invisible Border
You came back in the warm night’s epicenter,
paled by the violence
of your desire. With stealth you were creeping
toward the borders of the bed,
a place where blood performs its miracles.
You saw the dunes, the deserts,
the angels’ terrible fall,
the immanent torpor
of hypertrophied bodies.
Better it was for you to retreat.
Aomame and Tengo
—after Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84
Your hand boarded mine
toward that riverbank on the night’s other side,
where thunder with its radiant
lightning streak announced the tragedy to come.
I roamed the streets with my father,
mapping cartographies of urban want.
Doors were a gray echo
of other walls. Our childhood was fading
before my eyes, the way your image
fades in a chrysalis of air.
Through those windows on the horizon
your gaze drifts toward the thunder.
The skull splits open suddenly, a crimson flower,
memory’s tragic eruption.
From a distance, your touch blackens
our ice-like embrace. In the park below,
a boy has been waiting thirty years for you.
You forgot to speak to me tonight.
In your mind, a faint cloud crossed
almost like a boat traversing the abyss.
I offer you these postcards of the stories we wove
so you can pin them up in your dreams, so you can let them go
without the burden of care.
How many times do we go in and out
of the world in which we live?
On how many highways do we let the road
escape to an unknown city?
I know that girl exists no more:
you paralyzed me in the thunderstorm
until I choked myself with your childhood.
You can take all the bodies,
but I’ll always recognize you at the end,
at the culmination, in the way they vanish
without punctuation, without intonation.
All those who die around us
conspire to diminish the air,
to condense it in our hands.
They know you wrote our story
into many bodies, that with your fingers you sculpt
the shadows of this world.
This is why you must come closer to me: I
have furrowed this page with our tongues,
made it bloom in the hope
that our bodies come together in stained space.
Maybe the night’s pitch tar
covers your embrace and my skin will crack
from such bitter arousals.
Maybe my tongue is just another remnant
this story chars.
Hence the black letter smearing these poems,
hence everything tending towards the abyss.
In this green vertex words
meet like words that turn
upon themselves, at
the start of a long and obscure verse, like an adjectival simile.
We find each other there, holding hands
never to let go again.
Floating towards the shining city,
we clasp hands
under the protection of the transfigured tiger
on an invisible border.
[How can one release such emptiness from a finite body]
How can one release such emptiness from a finite body?
There’s no mouth, no voice possible
to name your figure in the mirror.
The untouchable remnant of you creeps
under the bed,
where tarantulas rehearse
the terrible sacrifice of being in love.
Translated by Steve Bellin-Oka
Rodrigo Figueroa is the author of three books of poems in Spanish, Una frontera transparente (2013), Poemas para orquestra y quatro colibríes (2003), and Paganas procesiones (2001). He is also the author of one play, La breve jornada, which was staged at Mexico City’s National University in 2008 and received multiple awards. Born in 1980, he is part of a younger generation of Mexican poets living in the U.S. but writing in Spanish. He lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is an assistant professor of Hispanic literature at New Mexico State University.
Steve Bellin-Oka’s first book of poems, Instructions for Seeing a Ghost, won the 2019 Vassar Miller Prize and was published by the University of North Texas Press in February 2020. He is also the author of three chapbooks, most recently Out of the Frame (Walls Divide Press, 2019). He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he is a Tulsa Artist Fellow in poetry. His other honors include fellowships from the National Parks Arts Foundation, Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. His translation work has also been supported by the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference.
In our sixteenth issue, we celebrate Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf, who in 2020 became the first indigenous writer to receive Chile's National Prize for Literature. We also feature dossiers dedicated to the work of Andrés Neuman, Latin American literary criticism, and the Latin American essay, plus a bilingual selection of texts from Dispatches from the Republic of Letters: 50 Years of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature commemorating Gabriel García Márquez, the first Latin American author to win the prestigious Neustadt Prize.