You choose the site of the wound
where we speak our silence.
You make of my life
this ceremony that’s much too pure.
You made the silence of the lilacs fluttering
in the tragedy of wind that is in my heart.
You turned my life into a children’s tale
where shipwrecks and death
are an excuse for beloved ceremonies.
RINGS OF ASH
For Cristina Campo
It’s my voices that are singing
so the others can’t sing—
those figures gagged gray in the dawn,
those dressed in the rain like desolate birds.
There is, in this waiting,
a rumor of breaking lilac.
And there is, when the day arrives,
a division of the sun into smaller black suns.
And at night, always,
a tribe of mutilated words
looks for refuge in my throat,
so that they won’t sing—
the ill-fated, the owners of silence.
A tiny lady, so tiny,
who lives in the heart of a bird
goes out at dawn to utter her only syllable:
IN A PLACE FOR ESCAPING THE SELF
Space. A long wait.
No one comes. This shadow.
Give it what everyone gives:
meanings that are somber,
not full of wonder.
Space. Blazing silence.
What is it that shadows give each other?
I do not know whether bird or cage
or young woman found dead among candles
or an Amazon panting in her deep great throat
but maybe vocal like a fountain
or princess in the topmost tower
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
Years and minutes are making love.
Green masks in the rain.
Church windows with obscene stained-glass.
Blue fingerprint on the wall.
I don’t know it.
I don’t acknowledge it.
SHAPES AND SILENCES
Tensed hands confine me to exile.
Help me not to ask for help.
They want to dusk me, they plan to death me.
Help me not to ask for help.
Not naming things by their names. Things have barbed edges, lush vegetation. But who is speaking in this room full of eyes? Who gnaws with a mouth made of paper? Names that come up, shadows with masks. Cure me of this void, I said. (The light loved itself in this darkness of mine. I knew that there was absence when I found myself saying, It is I.) Cure me, I said.
Everything is making love to the silence.
They had promised me a silence like fire—a house of silence.
Suddenly, the temple is a circus and the light is a drum.
THE WORD THAT HEALS
While waiting for a world to be unearthed by language, someone
is singing about the place where silence is formed. Later it’ll be
shown that just because it displays its fury doesn’t mean the sea—or
the world—exists. In the same way, each word says what it says—and
beyond that, something more and something else.
FRAGMENTS FOR SUBDUING THE SILENCE
The powers of language are the solitary ladies who sing, desolate, with this voice of mine that I hear from a distance. And far away, in the black sand, lies a girl heavy with ancestral music. Where is actual death? I have wanted clarity in light of my lack of light. Bouquets die in the memory. The girl lying in the sand nestles into me with her wolf mask. The one who couldn’t stand it anymore and begged for flames and whom we set on fire.
When the roof tiles blow away from the house of language, and words no longer keep—that is when I speak.
The ladies in red have lost themselves in their masks. Though they will return to sob among the flowers.
Death is no mute. I hear the song of the mourners sealing the clefts of silence. I listen and the sweetness of your crying opens into my gray silence.
Death has restored to silence its own bewitching stature.
And I will not say my poem and I will say it. Even if (here, now) the poem has no meaning, no fate.
PATHS OF THE MIRROR
And, above all, to look on innocently. As if nothing were happening, which is true.
But you I want to look at until your face fades from my fear, like a bird stepping away from the sharp edges of night.
Like a girl drawn in pink chalk on a very old wall, suddenly wiped away by the rain.
As when a flower opens and you see the heart it does not have.
All these gestures by my body and my voice just to turn me into the offering. The flowers the wind has left behind in the door.
Cover the memory of your face with the mask of who you’ll become, and frighten the girl you used to be.
The night for them has thinned with the fog. It is the season of food gone cold.
And thirst. My memory is of the thirst—of me, below, in the depths, in the well—and that I drank from it, I remember.
To fall like a wounded animal into a place that was meant for revelations.
Like someone not wanting something. Not anything. Mouth sewn shut. Eyelids sewn shut. I forgot myself. The wind inside. Everything shut, and the wind inside.
Words burnished in the black sun of silence.
But the silence is certain. This is why I write. I am alone and I write. No, I am not alone. There is someone here who is trembling.
Even if I say sun or moon or star, this is still about things that happen to me. And what was it I wanted?
I wanted a perfect silence.
This is why I speak.
The night is shaped like a howling wolf.
The pleasure of losing yourself in the image foreseen. I rose from my body and went out in search of who I am. A pilgrim of my self, I have gone to the one who sleeps in the winds of her country.
My fall that is endless into my fall that is endless, where no one expected me, since when I looked to see who expected me, I saw no thing other than my self.
Something falling in the silence. My final word was I, but by this I meant the luminous dawn.
A constellation of yellow flowers draw a circle in the blue earth. The water is rippling, busy with the winds.
Dazzle of the new day, the yellow birds in the morning. A hand releases the dark; another drags the hair of a drowned woman who is crossing endlessly through the mirror. To return to the body’s memory is to return to my mourning bones, and to grasp what it is my voice says.
A NIGHT SHARED IN A MEMORY OF ESCAPE
Beating on the grave. On the border of language, they are beating on the grave. Who’s there? I asked. I said who’s there. And how much more of this intrusion of the external into the internal, or of the less internal into the internal, that weaves like a burlap cloak over my unspeakable poverty. It wasn’t the dream, it wasn’t the vigil, it wasn’t the crime or the birth: it was only the heavy blow like a knife blow on the grave of a friend. And the absurdity of my right side, the absurdity of a willow tree leaning on its right side over the river, my right arm, my right shoulder, my right ear, my right leg, my right possession and dispossession. To turn aside toward my left girl—blue stains, mysterious blue stains on my left palm—a space of virgin silence, a place of rest where I wait for myself. No, she’s still too unknown, I still can’t recognize these new sounds that begin as a song of protest that is different from my own, which is a song of burning, the song of a girl lost in a silent ruined city.
And how many centuries has it been since I’ve been dead and loved you?
I hear my voices, the chorus of the dead. Trapped between the boulders, recessed in the cleft of a rock. I am not the one who speaks. It is the wind, which makes me flail my arms, which makes me think that the chorus of chance, shaped by this flailing, are words that come from myself.
And this was when I began to die, when they struck the foundations and I remembered myself.
The trumpets of death are blaring. A procession of dolls with mirror hearts that all stare back with my blue-green eyes. You mimic the old hand-me-down gestures. The ladies of antiquity went to the wall of lepers and sang among them and listened to the trumpets, and watched—they, the imagined ones—an imaginary procession of dolls whose mirror hearts reflected my eyes, the eyes of a gold-paper bird assailed by the winds. This little imaginary bird thinks it is singing when it can barely warble. It is like a willow tree bending over a river.
The little paper doll: I cut her out of green and red and sky-blue paper, and she lay flat on the floor, extreme in her lack of volume or dimension. They set you in the middle of the road, little wanderer, and you are in the middle of a road where no one can identify you. Even when you scream, there is no distinction between yourself and the ground, since there are, after all, so many things on the road that could scream. Why would anyone stop to consider the meaning of such a green and red and sky-blue blemish?
If you press them, with blood or fire, my images leave imprints, without sound, without color (not even white). If the tracks of night animals etched into the inscriptions on my bones—If I rooted into the place of memory the way an animal padding along a mountain ledge could suddenly make the slightest misstep and fall—I speak of the irreparable, I ask for nothing less than the irreparable—the unbound body and the bones scattered into the silence of that treacherous snow. Looking ahead to my return, I want you to dress me in a lilac shroud. And then sing me a song of unprecedented tenderness. A song that doesn’t speak of life or death, but of the slightest gesture, of the most imperceptible sign of acquiescence, a song that isn’t quite a song, a song like the drawing of a little house beneath a sun that’s missing some of its rays. That’s where the girl made of green and red and sky-blue paper might live. Maybe she’ll stand on her own there, maybe even walk around in that little house of hers, which someone has drawn on a blank sheet of paper.
Translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert