Blesok no. 46, January-February, 2006
Selected poems from “Música i escorbut”
("Music and Scurvy", Ed. 62, 2002) Translated from the Catalan into English by Anna Crowe
You have to understand that if words are so few
it’s because they are also too many.
If I say that for me your torso and chest with its thick hair
are a harp (curly strings I’ve broken with so much stroking),
that the fleshy part of your leg is like a saxophone
and I want to go on, I come to the grotesque idea
of the drummer and the flute of the member.
What poverty of language!
Because, in fact, what remains unuttered is a melody
that our bodies make, side by side:
Schubert, the shoulders, the back; Haydn if you touch
my feet, Bach if we look deep, sky and well, into each other’s eyes.
But it’s this, this terrible poverty of words
that we redeem as ours. For then we bring our bright ideas into play,
our puns: for Schubert, sherbet, for Bach
‘turn your back,’ for Wolfgang Amadeus, wolf-bites/love-bites,
for Haydn, ‘you hide.’ ‘I’ll seek.’
If words weren’t so many, or in so many different languages,
how could we leave unsaid all that cannot be said,
or how would we ever hear the music our fingers make?
This wavering is like Venetian glass.
A heart of a shade of green, as though your gut
were gripped by waves of pain.
It’s an insolent colour, in autumn,
like a chunk of May, that has been removed,
stolen goods; for the heart is something
we don’t want given back to us.
A green that has gone on growing
all round a white as hard as a milk-tooth,
hard as a child’s crying caught on an answering machine.
White on green, like daisies
stiff with pride because they’re sharing death
with red carnations. Glossy white.
The white stucco of brides dressed in silver-coated white hair,
silver reasons like those of the star that the screwdriver borrows
from Cassiopeia. White and red blood, like the happiness
of a Sigismundo and his mahogany wardrobe
in a place without windows. (Before thinking
about what ‘window’ meant.) For windows are
rosy-red, because they come from ‘to smile’. Because if you’re happy,
you can be contented sorting plastic bags.
Don’t miss the next point: Can the bent guy make happiness
into a habit, as he did with sadness?
Or it will overcome the fear of going back to the same place
simply by always moving forward in a straight line.
What about fear, is it blue in colour?
Blue and yellowish like the middle of a bruise,
yellow as the pages of an old book, yellow as a bird’s thirst.
Yellow as jaundice in a newborn child. Cirrhosis yellow, cystitis yellow,
bilirubin yellow. The yellow of blue eyes
keeping watch on the golden yellow of this fear of mine,
the only treasure I own, the only light in that dark room
where they shut me when I wouldn’t finish my soup.
Such childish misery, and so pink!
So gum-pink, so lip-pink, so mark-of-fingers-pink
across the cheek or a slap that catches the chin.
If I need to, from blue and yellow I can always
go back to making that green with murky and clayey waters.
Green in the end, the apple green, emerald green,
of your call.
My keys, when they fall on the ground, make the noise
of a gong or the bell of some religious
ceremony with a God I do not know.
Because the ground was wet, I saw the gleam
of the safety-pin that had been dropped
on the pavement, and a bit before that the mattress
soaking up last night’s rain. My hands
trembled when I wanted to open the door.
A God I don’t know and who sports a cap and,
why not, a moustache, and punches the tickets
on the vaporetto that was making Venice recede.
Your pass and mine, joined by a hole
of synchronicity that afterwards was going to make us
vanish. You were not supposed to fall
until you were outside the underworld. No looking,
as simple as that. And now you are four or maybe
forty, and your eyes are full of sand. You squeeze
your pain, your eyelids are hate, and a voice
from nowhere rebukes you, demands that you open them; now,
they tell you to weep. “Look,” they repeat, “look”:
Eurydice isn’t there, she cannot be lost again.
Yes, these damaged, bloodshot eyes are still
yours. And the narrow pass that leads to Hades.
(homage to Maurice Cornelius Escher)
Picking up green bottle-ends and golden shells
on the beach may be an innocent act, full of beauty
for the walker who uses his eyes. But it can also be
a treacherous episode, if your wandering thoughts frame
an alien face, unknown to the bodies that are yours
and which concern you.
But that does not make less beautiful or strange your objets trouvés,
stored in the tubular glass belly of your hope.
Now, the figures you see when you rub your eyes
are green snow-crystals, a negative looked at through the microscope
of a hurricane’s eye. Your life like a drawing
where you see two faces: an old woman and, afterwards, the woman when young;
a rabbit if you look at it with the left eye (and this is love
entirely); if with the right, a duckling’s beak aimed
directly at the open heart of a patient in theatre.
Even so, although we stayed on the edge, we were afraid
of the lorries back-firing.
Today, a calm mind sees how past and future rush by
haughty and utterly opposed. Let us not cease to thank the man
who painted it: spring, the present, the dividing line.
I’ve searched for you in all the places where you are not.
It seemed that part of you had escaped
into the library: maybe your head; your white
beard gone into pages.
It seemed that if I learned to see in the darkness
of ravines, in the chasms of history, I might see
Searching for your voice I climbed up to the red throat
of volcanoes, afraid you might be in the fire and demand
sacrifices from me.
And I have swum deep in the sea, thinking the oceans
were your tears, when you used to weep with laughter.
One day, when I’d already stopped looking for you, some hands, anointed
with questions like mine, stroked the back of my neck.
And on these hands there were finger-nails.
And thus, in the littlest places of all, I have seen your naked smallness.
Because if you made me in your own image and likeness, you are
a) a woman
b) fragile as a poem
c) the one they tell me to keep quiet about. That must be why
I hear you, God, in the silence.
You are vulnerable. A fir-tree living on a balcony.
Your crown unkindly forces you to remember the hostile
anonymity of green expanses.
And the fleeting glory of fatuous Christmas-lights,
lofty wildernesses so feebly jollified, with desire
and an aftertaste of sin.
And who knows whether rain is falling because you want to weep,
because climate and love might well be part of the same
thing. Part of the same puzzle of clouds that struggle
and whirl from one white-coloured mountain to another, undoing
the work they have made. Part of the faded watercolour landscape
painted by the child we imagine we once were.
And if you are weeping now it’s not because it’s teeming down,
big fat drops of summer rain that wash away all colours,
but because of the dream you’ve lost: you dreamed that it was raining.
And because, in spite of yourself, you give thanks for life.
Today, a children’s programme reminded me,
or taught me, rather, how it is that planes are able to fly.
Because of the shape of the wing, the air passing over it
moves faster and is, therefore, of lower pressure than
the air beneath it.
If I could make my arms have an upper surface and an underneath
and I could run a lot beside the sea and next to soft things,
I could fly to where you are.
But all the places on my body are round:
time is round, the sky is round, loneliness too; death
is round as an eye, as a cough. And even my name
ends the way it begins, arbutus-fruit from an autumn
that’s already old, a berry that ripens and withers, shrinks,
grows rounder and rounder, gripping fear’s branch.
Falling can also mean flying, and in losing myself I can find myself,
when I give up counting the days.