Two Poems/Dos Poemas
Por/By Carlota Caulfield
Inner chamber of the seashell (divine whisper)
And they will say: “A bit of smoke writhed in each drop of his blood.” -- Gilberto Owen
It would seem that I possess a religious bent;
a proof: a tongue sufficient
It would seem that I possess a religious bent;
to contain, direct, refined, and solid
has led me to the five points
of the universe: Quincunx.
Four rooms courtyard
that inclines its multiple forms
that resides in matter
that has vital layers
of other architectures.
Just as the divine spark engenders in the earth Guillermo Marín, Mitla, City of the Dead
life in all its richness, thus the Quincunx, seed
of a revealed cosmology, flowers in a dazzling
system of images and architectural designs that,
by being part of the universe of forms, suffers
frequently from a deceptively elemental logic.
What completes this text
are monumental stones
there where a hand learned how
to move, sculpt and assemble.
Eduardo's voice traces a map of Mexico on the earth
while he tells of how “the colonial chroniclers never
referred to the architecture of Mitla without combined aversion
and admiration… Thus to speak of Mictlán (place of the dead)
we must detach ourselves from the Western concept of death…”
My absurd dizziness no longer rocks in the branches of the tule tree;
now, in the land of the spirits, it is content with a puff of wind
and a bold guffaw that perforates my eardrums. Yes, the church bells
have begun to set loose a timely splendor and murmurs:
Think of it this way, that amid the rubble of my energy suddenly looms
a presence, like that of a hallowed place, door of musical allusions.
I detach myself from the group.
I am content to see.
It matters. Several bolts of air
swerve around my
and city of voices
there where the wind
does not sound unfamiliar to the ear
nor is seeing spirits
an act of inner shadows.
What could be loved is erased
and eyes and lips, light and humidity
are stripped bare.
The enigma of flavors
is also resolved.
The night before kisses
Crossed two linguistic points.
Now there is no dialogue.
From the four cardinal points
will soon rise a cold and
ungenerous gust of wind. You will dissolve.
My death is associated with the earth,
but the other dead man in question
will have to cross a long and mighty river.
Techichi the little dog will guide him:
naked he will cross spiky peaks
and drink terrible storms.
The wind will slice his skin
like an orange.
More than any heartbreak, worse than death Albius Tibullus, Book I, Poem VIII
itself, “What hurts is touching the body,
long kisses, and pressing thigh to thigh.”
With transfigured vision,
Friar Bernardo of Alburquerque
ordered built between 1535 and 1580
the façade of the north side
of the Oaxaca cathedral in the image…
From the four room courtyard flow moving friezes of water.
I read: the gods' anger with those who are ungenerous in spirit
was not placated by sacrifices of armadillos, rabbits, birds
and deer. Misers were condemned
to a subterranean palace to hoist dark shadows.
Once again Eduardo's voice blends with my mental torrent
that encircles the marvelous mountains, copulates with the stone
And drinks milk droplets from the tree that used to nourish dead children.
Inhabitants of the clouds. Branches from which I hang.
Schumann lieder that fuse with my own visions.
Copious tongues of rock: to listen, to recognize,
to descend to the interior of a jacaranda:
to design the interior patio
“was to get back onto the trail of my poem Propertius, Book I, Poem IV
after biting my hands unreasonably
and stamping my feet in doubt and anger.”
Some elegiac distiches pound me with excessive skill.
What am I doing in the center of the city of the dead
humming a thousand popular tunes and with all those
poems breaking over me?
What is my skin doing turned into a spongy substance
enjoying each voicemark and stroke,
each perforation, each drop of blood that seeps from my pores?
there where a scornful grimace
offers me landscapes.
Blessed misery of broken borders
that turns the heart into a semi prophet.
that “das harts iz a halber novi”
that is completed and heard
by a system of images:
it hits and turns with skill
for I was born in a city by the sea
with excessively white sands
and I never made a pact
with its hot winds
or its salts projected in my shadows.
If the sea breeze took my breath away,
I drowned and was resuscitated. And my mother
who couldn't hear the voices that filled
the whole house and went with me,
spoke alone with nanny Blasa.
Later they put an amulet on my chest,
There where no one could see presences or memories.
I think only of all the courage I've lacked
to go back to hearing the voices,
raised now, loud, without any semblance of
restraint, flowery battle of my own soul.
POEMA BILINGÜE/BILINGUAL POEM
From Quincunce / Quincunx. Translated by Mary G. Berg and Carlota Caulfield.
Te gustaría lentamente tatuarte con las notas del trombón.
Decir, no tengo más que esto, lo que abre la epidermis
y hace brotar sangre,
lo que queda cuando la muerte lo arrasa todo,
menos los sonidos del cuerpo.
Y así las uñas guardarán su color rosáceo,
los senos su firmeza,
el cuello su tersidad.
Reconocerás el privilegio enorme que se aloja
en las venas y podrás descender a un centro de quietud
sin aferrarte a nada.
Entonces la respiración empezará una vez más,
y con ella una salivación anfibia repugnante
hasta que tu mano se mueva con rapidez
y el sudor pierda su pestilencia.
Pero no sufrirás vértigo.
La avalancha caerá sobre ti como bendición.
Tu boca vibrará y escupirá hilos imperceptibles.
Después llegará el viento loco y comenzará el concierto.
You'd like to tattoo yourself slowly with the trombone's notes.
Saying: I only have this, this that rips my skin open
and makes blood gush out,
this that remains when death wipes out everything,
except the sounds of the body.
And thus fingernails will keep their rosy hue,
breasts stay firm,
You will recognize the enormous privilege lodged
in your veins and be able to descend to a center of quietude,
breaking all ties.
Then breathing will begin yet again,
and with it, a repugnant amphibious salivation
until your hand moves rapidly
and sweat loses its pestilence.
But you will not suffer from vertigo.
The avalanche will sweep over you in benediction.
Your mouth will vibrate and spit out imperceptible threads.
Later the mad wind will blow and the concert will begin.
Carlota Caulfield, a poet, writer, translator and literary critic, has published extensively in English and Spanish in the United States, Latin America and Europe. Her most recent poetry books are JJ/CC and Cuaderno Neumeister / The Neumeister Notebook. The recipient of several awards, Caulfield is the W. M. Keck Professor in Creative Writing and head of the Spanish and Latin American Studies Program at Mills College, Oakland, California. Her webpage is www.carlotacaulfield.org.
Mary G. Berg, a Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, Boston, Massachusetts, has translated poetry by Juan Ramón Jiménez, Clara Roderos, Marjorie Agosín and Carlota Caulfield and novels by Martha Rivera (I’ve Forgotten Your Name), Laura Riesco (Ximena at the Crossroads), Libertad Demitropulos (River of Sorrows). Her most recent translations are of collections of stories by Olga Orozco and Laidi Fernández de Juan.