Translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel
for Fernando Menéndez
We knocked down the wall on the fourth day.
There, beside the stone and the ring of weeds,
redolent and dark,
the laurels grew. They were old,
as old perhaps as the stable,
but much firmer. Nothing
could be done against them. It was necessary
to dig very deep
and to extract the jagged rock from the foundations,
check to what extent the root
had grown or prospered,
descending between sheets of gravel
and black earth,
embracing the damp wall
beneath the surface. We lit the bonfire
soon after, in the gloaming,
and exhausted and entranced
we observed the fire’s work. The flames
made their way like great hooks,
but not even thus were the large stones
freed… In making them roll
across the grass, across
the white earth, the ash
put down roots
* * *
In the Garden
I sliced the green netting
and carefully extracted the roots:
a ball of nerves
and compact ochre earth,
an anonymous fist,
with an air of question
or of premonition.
Above the blackish hole
it seemed a buoy,
or an upside down puppet,
one handspan away from its burial.
I settled it in its new home
and it seemed to stretch its trunk,
the net of flesh of its branches,
as if it awoke.
In the mirror of the grass
the green of its leaves became greener.
I imagined the ball, underground,
opening itself to the earth,
blindly stretching its tentacles.
for the life it guards within.
1993 / 2003
* * *
Return to Sheffield
Beneath the levelled sky
of February, witness
with the eyes of then
this city of snow
and stubborn ruins, look
with ancient innocence
what has turned into habit,
cold light beneath the flattened
sky of winter.
Who returns, what do you search for
with tired restlessness
in these empty streets
if everything caught fire,
burned in the black bonfire
of the word. Flame
that was desire, nothing
remains for you from that time:
dead type, dryness,
that the eyes mimic
hoping for sense.
To return is no longer possible.
Your city no longer exists.
Did it ever exist?
You knew its streets
for they were born in you.
Your city was a mirror
where measured words
watched you watching it:
white mirror misted
with your breath. Stranger
among shadows, you’ve returned
to not see yourself, denying
your former voice. Erased
is silence in your lips,
flattened light, mute
* * *
Fragments from a Bestiary
for Julio Trujillo
The enigmatic smile of the dolphin, which some have read as a glimmer of intelligence and others have crafted with skill into countless emblems, is perhaps but the smile of one who has forgotten journey and journey’s end and gives himself up to the pure delight of progress, thereby ignoring itself with every leap in a continuous interwoven rebirth, each moment forgetting what was as the dolphin is unaware of its own tail and looks forward to the full delight of the beyond, the water that begets it.
Lone inhabitant of the cemeteries of ivory and grayed bones that stipple the boundaries of the jungle, this tiny scorpion the colour of milk fulfills with quiet efficiency its work as executioner of the old elephants who have come to die, no less serenely, at the temple of their ancestors. Its prick is painless but mortal, often aided by its victim’s weakness and exhaustion. It lives in fragile harmony with the vultures and crows that anxiously fly above the large skeletons, but it doesn’t fear them: it begins what they complete and lives on the remains they leave behind. Its venom is the distillation of the flesh it strips beneath the apparently-clean bones, its home the shadow of the few roots that spring to the surface, but its whiteness, according to native legends, has another origin: it is the whiteness of a bone that does not accept its end and revives taking a new shape, the secret paleness of what seeks to get back into the realm of time and is only, without knowing it, an envoy of death.
Named thus for the bubbles that spring forth from its mouth when it croaks, enveloping it completely in a transparent gauze that highlights the shines and reflections of the light. It then falls into a trance that is only broken by hunger and darkness, although on some nights the milky brilliance of the full moon awakes in it bubbles of singular patterns and colours, mirrors perhaps of the astral combinations that guide the courses of lives. Such is the belief of countless magicians, witches, and oracles that travel from town to town in search of a credulous purse and make use of them for their predictions and trickeries. Certain natives of the marshes have specialized in their capture and later preservation,
which they achieve by submerging the toad and bubble in boiling water.
Only when the toad has expired, drowned, wide-eyed and foolish, do
they extract from the pot the crystal ball where a small wrinkled monster
that never glimpsed its own fate is called upon to foretell that of others.
* * *
I open the door, and the scent of water
piercing the earth enters the room:
slow vapour that thickens the air and leaves
a seed of joy
on the skin:
the hours pass,
the rain doesn’t let up,
the seed has grown a stalk
which tangles round my body;
outside it rains, but a sun rises up
before my eyes, which already forget
the rain’s defeated gray:
tree that offers light, not shadow,
beneath its branches
I smile, without knowing why.
Blake wrote that death was no more
than the going out of one room into another:
you leave, you go back in, the house
is the same, this space
opened in the morning
by the scent of cut
grass, by this furtive
freshness that the air
brings to one’s eyes,
just as that boy on the train
held his breath
as if saying, look, look,
and then laughed,
I can stop time.
* * *
for Brenda and Charles Tomlinson
The flight of this wasp
in the blue air, against a backdrop
of cypress trees and fake
Medieval columns, while Paula
unravels the garden
with flustered steps
and fleetingly notices every trunk,
the indifferent network
of hedges and pathways,
from far away, from a time
before the times that I recall,
when the mere existence
imprinted on one’s eyes
cleanly, and the wasp’s
amazing direct flight
was just action and wonder,
a humble event
like this blue background
that affirms the suddenlygrown
just as Paula now
with a calmer gait
approaches their trunks
and raises her arms
happily answering their greeting.
* * *
Hamlet on the Beach
for Orlando González Esteva
The clear light of January, so low,
has found the bones of shapes.
This marina is already my skull:
foam and surf, unpeopled dunes,
the bald restlessness of the gulls
combing the quarries and the piers.
I speak face to face with the world
and its empty sockets question me:
they wait for words I don’t know,
the footprints I keep for future days.
I stand on what I see and it comes undone;
it is a dead body, death that sounds me out.
The clear light of January, so unmoving,
confirms the carcass of this moment.
* Poems originally published in the volume Nada se pierde. Nothing Is Lost. Selected Poems, the English version by Lawrence Schimel will soon be available as part of the Shearsman Books catalog (Bristol, UK).
*Image by Cristian
Jordi Doce ( 1967) is the author of five volumes of poetry and two books of essays. His most recent book, No estábamos allí, was picked as the Best Poetry, Book of 2016 by the literary weekly El Cultural. He has translated the work of W.H. Auden, Anne Carson, T.S. Eliot, Ted Hughes, Charles Simic, and Charles Tomlinson, among others. He worked as Language Assistant at the University of Oxford (1997-2000). Currently he lives in Madrid, where he works as freelance editor and translator.