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This is where the poets come to die:
like elephants in their legendary graveyard
they leave their bones, their teeth, but nothing
so rare as ivory.

You know all the stories…
Two of them shared one wife:
one tried to sell his gold tooth, being thirsty:
another drowned in marriage and normality:
a few fled in panic and never dared look back.

You think of it as human, this city.
You think of it as a woman –
decked with flowers, crannied with docks
whose waters have a female, secret smell.

At first she seems to beckon,
to offer you the freedom of her byways
to twine her streets around you
in a mistletoe embrace.
But her hosts are dependent on her;
they cannot escape, they forget to try,
they learn to love her as she drains them.

Her choice of iconography betrays her.
Here at the place where her heart beats hardest
two copper statues, corroded green –
one a bare-breasted amazon
threatening with a lethal trident;
the other sexless, nameless, hooded
and draped like death’s unbearable face.

You penetrate the vampire streets;
twilight coils you in its caress.
You think of giving it another year
since the city seems to fit you like a glove
and the docks possess your imagination
when sunset shows them brimming with blood.

 

 

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Flaco, lanudo y sucio. Con febriles
ansias roe y escarba la basura;
a pesar de sus años juveniles,
despide cierto olor a sepultura.

Cruza siguiendo interminables viajes
los paseos, las plazas y las ferias;
cruza como una sombra los parajes,
recitando un poema de miserias. (more…)

Y yo me moriré porque no me basto.
Pero tú vives, Machu Picchu,
Piedra que se está en su alto.

(more…)

I would like my last poem thus

That it be gentle saying the simplest and least intended things
That it be ardent like a tearless sob
That it have the beauty of almost scentless flowers
The purity of the flame in which the most limpid diamonds are consumed
The passion of suicides who kill themselves without explanation

Translation, Elizabeth Bishop

Just a medieval
sandal.

O what is left of the dances,
of the tournaments and songs,
of the hopes,
of the lady friends and enemies
from a vague feudal time.

So small for the weight
of any shod life,
through now it is nothing,
what was it: love? contempt?
it has become supernatural.

Under the hem of whose dresses?
On what hard floors?
—Oh, heavy castles! —
What wounded hearts?
Among whose thought,
sad? innocent? beautiful?
treading upon Good and Evil…

In the brief world time,
the slender foot of a slender woman
has left this sandal
as a little token.

It is only a half step
in space.

Does the other lie in some deep entrance?

One half of the measure
of what final music?

Just a medieval
sandal.

I sing because the moment exists
And my life is complete.
I am not happy, I am not sad:
I am a poet.

Brother of fleeting things,
I feel no delight or torment.
I cross nights and days
In the wind.

Whether I destroy or build,
Whether I persist or disperse,
— I don´t know, I don´t know.
I don´t know if I stay or go.

I know that I sing.
The song is everything.
The rhythmic wing has eternal blood,
And I know that one day I shall be dumb:
— Nothing more.

I did not have this face of today
So calm
So sad
So thin.

Nor these eyes so empty
Nor this bitter mouth.

I did not have these strenghtless hands
So still
And cold
And dead.

I did not realize this change
So simple
So certain

So easy.

In what mirror did I lose my face?

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