SANDS OF SILENCE
I carry deserts within, the warm sands of silence. Edmond Jabès
I hold the memory of a name
on the tip of my tongue,
which is why I explore skins
like one who seeks treasure.
That’s what I told you the morning of our encounter,
trying to explain my desert thirst.
I hold the memory of a name.
Murky sounds, syllables,
a certain warmth in the ear,
and the tales of that angel
-an old bedtime story in Yiddish-
who bears away in a kiss the memory
of the newly born.
Which is why I explore skins
like one who seeks treasure,
That’s what I told you on the morning of our encounter
when I awoke swimming across your ocean belly
salt of all salts
to quench my desert thirst.
I wrote the word desert, and night fell over the Pacific in Iquique.
Twelve women told me their stories. I have them still, wrapped in crêpe.
They bore children, or grandchildren. Fears and desires.
One held her infant lovingly. Her name was Mirta, and she was Paraguayan.
The eldest had been there for nearly twenty years.
We drank tea and spoke of books as if this were just like any other encounter.
Every so often, they would repeat: “you can’t see the ocean from here.”
The same nostalgia for a horizon my father held in his gaze.
Some were practically adolescent,
like us when we first heard the cantata of Santa María.
Near the prison I saw a sign that read “Danger: tsunamis”
Ladies and gentlemen, we came here to tell you
that which history chooses to forget
it happened in the great North, Iquique was the city
and 1907 sealed our fate.
The hillsides turned red at dusk
and I suddenly recalled a moment before this same ocean
that was ours alone
I walked then for hours along the coastline,
missing you and ashamed to be outdoors.
I wrote the word desert, and warm air covered my arms and legs.
Dark fire at the center of my chest.
A light that made me close my eyes, sand ground into my skin.
What do forty years of exodus have to do with me?
What story of mine brews in my mother’s smile,
or in my grandmother’s sweet hands?
Could it be that I see myself in the crossing,
in the foreign gaze that yearns for a Word to take root.
Without prayers or candles, every Friday
for centuries I have carried a book.
I spell it out, seeking your name,
fresh water of the Mediterranean to quench my thirst.
I am she who approaches the final frontier
Train in motion
I wrote the word desert
One thousand, two thousand, five thousand,
and so many more who fell by the wayside.
What does the cold that aches at night have to do with me?
Come, let me take your hand
Let my arms surround you
I will carry your pack
Kiss your sores
What does the desert have to do with me?
Salt of all salts
To quench my thirst
All the Thirst of the Land
July 18, 2020 – 26 years after the AMIA bomb
Between one tree and another lies all the thirst of the land. Edmond Jabès
From my thirst to your thirst
there is an absence of shadows
From my land to your land
an infinite thirst
From my tree to yours
only dear wanderings
arms always parted
departures that will never know your return
oceans sown with silence
And then, suddenly, the traces of a farewell
that blossom as if there were no tomorrow
Only today, an echo
sweet and warm
The shofar sounds
and I embrace the tree
and I wait for you here
river that flows
back to the first letter
that runs through my veins
“It treads on my heels, my memory. It nips at them,
tears them off, leaving my bone exposed and
I keep walking on pure bones…”
Alicia Kozameh, Sal de sangres en guerra (1)
If memory nips at your heels
until they bleed
……until they turn to polished bones in the desert
store the old tongue in the secret place
and invoke the silent god
who sowed words with splinters.
Foreign will the other always be
even though drop by drop you drink
bought by Mamá from Gato Negro
intuiting rusty samovars,
the glass cups perfumed hence by absences.
It makes no difference: we have always been
this compendium of ruins.
*Image by Stefano Brivio