O tempore

~ After Octavio Paz’s “Between going and staying” (Entre irse quedarse)

When I came I thought I could leave after so many years,
but as time passed there was always something new

to tie me down: Oh obligation, how elusive your promise
that someday all debts will be erased, the horizon cleared:

for choice, for true passage. The lawyer sends a letter
every year. In the drawer, a folder of accountables.

On the table, the gleanings of what we’ve come
to truly prize: careful miniatures set in oval frames,

a book of names, a box with just one handful
of yellowed photographs. Bloodlines are

most stubborn of all pulses running through
our veins. On first arriving here, I marveled

that most ceilings had no fixtures for flooding rooms
with light. Now I understand: we carry our own lamps.

There is no way to live in time without a history.
Who are you? They ask again and again.

How often must I read it, write it?
We are. I am. We are.


In response to Via Negativa: Messenger.

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