Thursday, February 16, 2012

3 random poems by octavio paz

Letter of Testimony

There is an uncertain territory
between night and day.
It is neither light nor shadow:
                                               it is time.
An hour, a precarious pause,
a darkening page,
a page where I write,
slowly, these words.
                                 The afternoon
is an ember burning itself out.
The day turns, dropping its leaves.
A dark river files
at the edges of things.
                                   Tranquil, persistent
it drags them along, I don't know where.
Reality drifts off.
                             I write:
I talk to myself
                         -I talk to you.

I wanted to talk to you
as the air and this small tree
talk to each other,
nearly erased by the shadows;
like running water,
a sleepwalking soliloquy
like a still puddle,
that reflector of instantaneous shams;
like fire:
with tongues of flame, a dance of sparks,
tales of smoke.
                         To talk to you
with visible and palpable words,
words with weight, flavor and smell,
like things.
                  While I speak,
things imperceptibly
shake loose from themselves,
escaping toward other forms,
other names.
                     They leave me these words:
with them I talk to you.

Words are bridges.
And they are traps, jails, wells.
I talk to you: you do not hear me.
I don't talk with you:
                                  I talk with a word.
That word is you,
                             that word
carries you from yourself to yourself.
You, I, and fate created it.
The woman you are
is the woman to whom I speak:
these words are your mirror,
you are yourself and the echo of your name.
I too,
         talking to you,
turn into a whisper,
air and words, a puff,
a ghost that rises from these letters.

Words are bridges:
the shadow of the hills of Meknes,
over a field of static sunflowers
is a violet bay.
It is three in the afternoon,
you are nine years old and asleep
in the cool arms of a pale mimosa.
In love with geometry 
a hawk draws a circle.
The soft copper of the mountains
trembles on the horizon.
The white cubes of a village
in the dizzying cliffs.
A column of smoke rises from the plain
and slowly scatters, air into the air,
that drills through the silence,
ascends and flowers
in another silence.
                              Motionless sun,
the enormous space of spread wings;
over the flat stretches of reflections
thirst raises transparent minarets.
You are neither asleep nor awake:
you float in a time without hours.
A breeze barely stirs
the distant lands of mint and fountains.
Let yourself be carried by these words
toward yourself.

Words are uncertain
and speak of uncertain things.
But speaking this or that,
                                         they speak us.
Love is an equivocal word,
like all words.
                        It is not a word,
said the Founder:
                             it is a vision,
base and crown
of the ladder of contemplation
-and for the Florentine:
                                      it is an accident
-and for the other:
                              it is no virtue
but it is born of that which is perfection
-and for the others:
                                a fever, an aching,
a struggle, a fury, a stupor,
a fancy.
              Desire invents it,
mortifications and deprivations give it life,
jealousy spurs it on,
custom kills it.
                        A gift,
a sentence.
                   Rage, holiness.
It is a knot: life and death.
                                           A wound
that is the rose of resurrection.
It is a word:
                    speaking it, we speak ourselves.

Love begins in the body
-where does it end?
                                If it is a ghost,
it is made flesh in a body:
                                         if it is a body,
it vanishes at a touch.
                                   Fatal mirror:
the desired image disappears,
you drown in your own reflections.
A shades' banquet.

                   the moment has eyes and a body,
it watches me.
                        In the end life has a face and a name.
To love:
              to create a body from a soul,
to create a soul from a body,
to create a you from a presence.
                                                    To love:
to open the forbidden door,
                                             the passageway
that takes us to the other side of time.
The moment:
                      the opposite of death,
our fragile eternity.

To love is to lose oneself in time,
to be a mirror among mirrors.
                                                It is idolatry:
to deify a creature
and to call eternal that which is worldly.
All of the forms of flesh
are daughters of time,
Time is evil,
                    the moment
is the Fall;
                 to love is to hurl down:
interminably falling,
                                 the coupled we
is our abyss. 
                     The caress:
hieroglyph of destruction.
Lust: the mask of death.

To love: a permutation,
                                      barely an instant
in the history of primigenial cells
and their innumerable divisions.
of the rotation of the generations.
Invention, transfiguration:
the girls turns into a fountain,
her hair becomes a constellation,
a woman asleep an island.
music in the branches of the veins, 
light in the night of the bodies.
of nature's fatality,
that links freedom and fate,
engraved on the forehead of desire:
accident or predestination?

Memory, a scar:
-from where were we ripped out?
                                                      a scar,
memory, the thirst for presence,
                                                    an attachment
to the lost half.
                         The One
is the prisoner of itself,
                                     it is,
it only is,
               it has no memory,
it has no scars:
                        to love is two,
always two,
                    embrace and struggle,
two is the longing to be one,
and to be the other, male or female,
                                                          two knows no rest,
it is never complete,
                                 it whirls
around its own shadow,
for what we lost at birth,
the scar opens:
                         fountain of visions,
two: arch over the void,
bridge of vertigoes,
mirror of mutations.

Love, timeless island,
island surrounded by time,
besieged by night.
                              To fall
is to return,
                   to fall is to rise.
To live is to have eyes in one's fingertips,
to touch the knot tied
by stillness and motion.
                                       The art of love
-is it the art of dying?
                                   To love
is to die and live again and die again:
it is liveliness.
                       I love you
because I am mortal
and you are.
                     Pleasure wounds,
the wound flowers.
In the garden of caresses
I clipped the flower of blood
to adorn your hair.
The flower became a word.
The word burns in my memory.
           reconciliation with the Great All
and with the others,
                                the small and endless
     To return to the day of origin.
The day that is today.

The afternoon founders.
Lamps and headlights
drill through the night.
                                     I write:
I talk to you:
                     I talk to me.
With words of water, fire, air, and earth
we invent the garden of glances.
Miranda and Ferdinand gaze forever
into each other's eyes
until they turn to stone.
                                       A way of dying
like others.
                   High above
the constellations always write
the same word;
here below, write
our mortal names.
                             The couple
is a couple because it has no Eden.
We are exiles from the Garden,
we are condemned to invent it,
to nurture our delirious flowers,
living jewels we clip
to adorn a throat.
                             We are condemned 
to leave the Garden behind:
                                             before us
is the world.

Perhaps to love is to learn
to walk through this world.
To learn to be silent
like the oak and the linden of the fable.
To learn to see.
Your glance scatters seeds.
It planted a tree.
                           I talk
because you shake its leaves.

                                        (trans. by Eliot Weinberger)


Solo for Two Voices

If saying No
to the world to the present
this day (the winter solstice)
is not saying
                    Yes if
saying is the winter solstice
today in the world
                              it is not 
           Yes if
saying the world the present
is not saying
                     what is
Winter Solstice World?
What is saying?

                           For hours now
I've heard falling, in the black patio,
a drop of water.
It falls and I write.

Winter solstice:
sun stopped,
                     world wandering.
Sun in exile,
                     fixity at white heat.
The black white earth,
flung on itself,
is a fallen stone.
Soul in purgatory
                            the world,
purgatorial stone
                             the soul,
stone with my stony heart.

The drop falls unseen
on the wet cement.
It falls too in my room.
Midway in thought
I stay, like the sun,
midway in myself,

                  Mundo mondo, clean world,
rattle of semantic seeds:
virgin mondigas
those that carry the mundum
the day the procession is held),
girls of the grain
offer to Ceres loaves and beeswax;
girls like tawny wheat,
between their breasts and their eyes
lift the offering,
at Eastertide:
Our Lady of the Meadow,
                                           on your head,
as if crowned with candor,
the basket of bread.
Incandescences of white bread,
girls, baskets of loaves,
rye bread and barley bread,
bread with a bee design, the fine white bread,
the breasts a living altar,
goblets of sun on the table of earth:
I eat and drink, am a man.

Rattle of seeds, poem:
to bury the word in earth,
the kernel of fire,
in the body of Ceres
three times plowed;
to bury it in the patio,
drill through the cement
with the persistent drop,
with the drop of ink.
For the dark goddess,
stone asleep in the snow,
to sketch a horse of water,
to scrawl on the page
a horse of grass.

Today is the winter solstice:
the rooster crows
                             the sun awakens.
Voices and laughter, dancing and tambourines.
Over the numb earth 
rustle of skirts of girls
like the wind as it runs through the rushes,
like the water that bursts from the rock.
          jars, slender-throated,
the water runs over,
the wine runs over,
the fire runs over,
goes deep into the body,
the stone awakens:
bears a sun in its womb.
Like a loaf in the oven,
the child of the white-hot stone,
is the child of no one.

Alone with the dictionary
I shake the dry branch,
words, girls, seeds,
the rattle of pebbles
on the earth black and white,
without life.
In the cold air of the patio
the virgins scatter.
Wetness and cement.

The world 
is not all cakes and fancy bread.
The dictionary
is a world not spoken:
From the winter solstice
to the resurrection of Easter,
in the direction contrary
to that of the sundial marker,
occur: "spiral, sophism, similar, selachian,
rocky, reprobate, refuse, Quito, 
querulous, quartern, pulque, psalm,
pollywog, poison, periweg . . ."
Retracing the road,
going back to the first letter
in a direction contrary
to that of the sun,
                             toward the stone:

         drop of energy,
green jewel
between the dark breasts of the goddess.

I write against the current,
against the mesmerized marker
and the plausible lies of the sundial:
like the shadow, the marker
follows the sun,
                          a sun without body,
shade of a sun,
                         forever future;
like a dog, the marker
hard on the heels of the sun,
                                              a sun gone,
vanished, sun of shade.

Not the movement of the circle,
master of mirages:
                              the quietude
at the center of the movement.
Not to foretell: to tell.
World suspended in the shadow,
clean world, clean as bone,
saying is a paring away,
a pruning of the tree of the dead.
Saying is a penance of words,
the back-and-white zone,
the wet cement, the patio,
the not knowing what I say
between the absence and the presence
of this world, flung
on its own abandonment,
fallen like a drop of ink.

The letter does not lie still on the page:
memory arouses it,
monument of wind.
And who is the reminder of memory,
who raises it, where is it planted?
Brow of brightness, the lightning womb,
memory is a root in the dark.

Feed on the dark,
                             feed on forgetfulness:
not what you say, what you forget,
is what you say:
                           today is the winter solstice
in the world 
                    today you are separated
in the world
                    today is the world
purgatorial soul in the world.

                                       (trans. by John Frederick Nims)


As One Listens to the Rain

Listen to me as one listens to the rain,
not attentive, not distracted,
light footsteps, thin drizzle,
water that is air, air that is time,
the day is still leaving,
the night has yet to arrive,
figurations of mist
at the bend in this pause,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
without listening, here what I say
with eyes open inward, asleep
with all five senses awake,
it's raining, light footsteps, a murmur of syllables,
air and water, words with no weight:
what we were and are,
the days and years, this moment,
weightless time and heavy sorrow,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
wet asphalt is shining,
steam rises and walks away,
night unfolds and looks at me,
you are you and your body of steam,
you and your face of night,
you and your hair, unhurried lightning,
you cross the street and enter my forehead,
footsteps of water across my eyes,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the asphalt's shining, you cross the street,
it is the mist, wandering in the night,
it is the night, asleep in your bed,
it is the surge of waves in your breath,
your fingers of water dampen my forehead,
your fingers of flame burn my eyes,
your fingers of air open eyelids of time,
a spring of visions and resurrections,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the years go by, the moments return,
do you hear your footsteps in the next room?
not here, not there: you hear them
in another time that is now,
listen to the footsteps of time,
inventor of places with no weight, nowhere,
listen to the rain running over the terrace,
the night is now more night in the grove,
lightning has nestled among the leaves,
a restless garden adrift- go in,
your shadow covers this page.

                                         (trans. by Eliot Weinberger)