Three Poems from Thresholds

Three Poems from Thresholds

Tres poemas de Umbrales

Luis Paniagua

Translated by Tanya Huntington


I feel you behind my back
as I write.

In a way,
I carry you on my back
as I write.

you are these lines.

From a distance, about your business,
you carry on behind me.

that each of these letters
bears something of yours,
the better to reconstruct you with;
far away,
sometime later on,
if there’s any luck at all.

Brief passage through the streets of Babel

..Into this neutral air
.Where blind skyscrapers use
their full height […] Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse
W. H. Auden


Night does not replenish my sense of sleep.
A murky mechanism that sounds in the distance
becomes a crane lowering tons of debris
from certain skyscrapers at the feet of beds.

Sections of an ascent remain before us
that for reasons unknown, they never finished forging,
stairs that fate, with its hand of grace, would have knocked down;
landings where no era may repose.

This terrible night and its beasts of burden
that stack piles of mistaken materials,
leave the remains of the day next to the bed
(you are asleep, and your dream extends

from your body to my arm with a light tingling sensation).
The construction has been forever severed
from this moment. The one that continues to rise is not
nor shall it ever be what might have been.

Like Babel, the tower no longer ascends,
destroying itself. The debris abandoned by
the crane (ascent to a heaven already banned)
is corroborated in the confusion of these words.


..Into this neutral air
.Where blind skyscrapers use
their full height […] Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse
W. H. Auden

Not the great bird in flight
but the brush of a wing.
Andrés Neuman

The poem, surrounded by white
margins, like a plane in mid-air, is
subject to the same pressure as those
giants of the heavens: if one small
screw should fail, everything may
Fabián Casas


Falling and flying are nearly identical sensations,
in all but one final detail.
Don Paterson

As I try to make it happen,
a small bird
descends from its orb
and poses lightly
on the highest parapet
of the house next door.

I see him standing there,
mildly balancing
legs and feathers,
on the imprecise boundary
where gravity, on the other hand,
does not seem dangerous to him:
the fine line of vertigo.

I lower my eyes
to write it all down on this page.

Upon raising them again,
the bird has already flown.

I am left thinking
of those two moments:
arrival and departure.
Thus, does poetry
descend to the page,
without our ever noticing its emergence
or its flight?

I am left with the impression
that these letters,
like the bird,
are found on that imprecise edge:
on the verge of flying
or falling.

*Image by Rafael Navarro

@Literal Publishing

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