Over slow-simmered, vinegary dishes of tripe and pork we listen to tales—
of the watershed plowed through by a local politician’s earth-movers,
and the soil loosened around the base of trees. When they fall
it is not from the axe or the chainsaw but from this thing
they call development.
The dazed houses lean upon each other for support.
The cherubs that flank the cathedral’s main doors sport new
coats of golden paint, but the bowls they hold out are empty.
In the window frame, a spider-thread collects drops
of damp tribute: condensation from days of unending rain,
and inside, from the heat made by our own bodies
though we can hardly remember what the air
smelled like, untinted, before the wilderness ceased singing.
In response to Via Negativa: Peuple inhabite....
Some nights press
like a hand at the base of a throat.
We do not know when
precisely to enter the chorus,
but a kind of vibration
holds our sails open—
And we press back
at the darkness, wing by wing.
Not the trees, not the river that cut
through mud-bloated mountains—
Not the deer that once heralded the cold,
sweet waters with their grazing—
Not the gods that sat, soot-
blackened, in their stone circles—
None of these greeted us at our approach:
only the choked houses cloaked in rain.
In room after room we found bags of clothing
that she could not bear to part with.
They looked like giant cocoons
where wings of all colors lay trapped, unmoving.
Arranged on the baluster: a row of perfectly positioned
umbrellas, their silks twirled up and fastened.
The red-framed windows held hundreds of seeds
of rain— each one, precursor to the next.
In response to Via Negativa: Hourglass.
repetición de un único recuerdo.
repetition of a single souvenir.
~ Ricardo Mazó, trans. by Natalie d’Arbeloff
The rain was our constant companion
and souvenir, repeating words in an almost
prehistoric language, winding its long fingers
through damp strings of our hair as we slept.
All night and all day it filtered
memories of touch and taste and smell,
rendering alike the secret life
of sewers, and parlors where drapes
and carpets proliferated
their delirium of spores. Thus
it was impossible to avoid the damp
chimeras manufactured by air:
in their green ceramic bowls, salt
and sugar became indistinguishable;
and the tongues of envelopes closed in
upon themselves. But behind sheets
of glass, we heard the harp-makers
persist— how they hailed us, bearing
the impossible beauty they wrought
from street to street.
In response to Via Negativa: Repeating Myself....
After all flesh is flensed,
the shape of the fish
is leaf, or the hull of a boat—
Flattened and dried
to the hue of balsa, whole
schools swim in waterless air.
In the dried fish market,
it’s hard to disregard
the certainty of what
they know: smell and taste
of sun-dried putrefaction,
gifts of salt and leathered skin
the body wants to hold on to
for as long as it possibly can.
In response to Via Negativa: Diagnosis.
Lying in the dark, there is still so much she wants
to understand— The gecko’s repeating warble, the whimper
of the cat beside the neighbor’s fence. Brown-streaked kalachuchi
blossoms resting on the surface of the cistern after last night’s rain.
In response to Via Negativa: Sweet exiled words....
Who is that girl who did not want to wait
to choose or be chosen, who wanted instead
to take her time, desiring, taking it all in?
One can be at once very good, and unruly.
Yesterday I heard someone recite a poem
I’d written almost from another life. In it,
the sound of gongs carried, and also the wind,
in almost exactly the same way as before.
Into this little plastic vial that used to be
filled with pills, let me put some tokens
from today: frond of parsley, pea-sized pebble
raucous by itself, water from the pond.