I just bethought myself to go look in An Ark for the Next Millennium, a bilingual book of poems by the Mexican poet José Emilio Pacheco (University of Texas Press, 1991), translated by Margaret Sayers Peden from Pacheco’s Album de Zoología. Nuts, Pacheco beat me to it! Not only that, his piece, “Fisiología de la babosa/Physiology of the Slug” is superior to my prose poem (below) in almost every way, and it even ends with a similar image: “It fears/(with reason)/someone will come/and over his shoulder throw salt on it”.
Unfortunately, the poem has multiple, deep indents, which would be very tiresome to reproduce in HTML. But I’d like to quote the first half of the poem anyway, as run-on text, because it seems highly relevant to a post of elck’s today, on the subject of earthly paradise. I’ll give the Spanish first, followed by Peden’s English.
“La babosa/animal sutil/se recrea/en jardines impávidos/Tiene humedad de musgo/acuosidad/de vida a medio hacerse/Es apenas/un frágil/caracol en proyecto/como anuncio/de algo que aún no existe//En su moroso edén de baba/proclama/que andar por esto mundo/significa/ir dejando/pedazos de uno mismo/en el viaje…”
“The slug/a subtle creature/amuses itself/in indifferent gardens/It is moist like moss/aqueous/like life half-lived/It is little more/than a fragile/shell-in-the-making/like a notice/of something that does not yet exist//In its sluggish, slimy Eden/it proclaims/that to pass through this world/means/to leave/bits of oneself/on the journey…”
“In its morose Eden of slime” (to be a bit more literal about it) – what a delightful line! I admit I still feel some affection for my own conceit of an artist’s or hitchhiker’s thumb. But it is emblematic, perhaps, of my more superficial approach. Pacheco’s slug is no more faithful to the biological “reality” of slugs than mine is, but somehow it manages to say something essential about the world we all inhabit, while my slug remains a narcissist on a quest for artificial highs and illusory utopias. ¡Pobrecito!