The Ass’s Hexagram
What to say of an ass?
I never said a thing.
An ass stood next to Leticia’s mouth:
His ardor sprang from the moon
And he scratched
Against me furiously.
There was an ass in Juan Luis’s house
And they charged us five pesos to ride him.
I never rode him.
There was one swollen and black floating in a stream,
Another very yellow in an Arctic dream
And the ass of the comic strips,
And an ass a little crosseyed in Gabriela’s gaze
Looking over its shoulder from a country of scent.
So beastly this word
That it disgusts me still. How to find
The angels’ flight in a back kick.
How to be the fur and chew
Upon the blinking
Of a sonorous breath among the sunflowers.
Without carriage drivers or feats, hardly honeycombed
Or a girl’s insolence.
Without laws or allegory, just submerged
In the copperish afternoon
Like a train by Turner.
The sameness—I never told you—
This same ass
detained in his rat-colored skin
in front of a vulgar backdrop of green stalks.
The pleasure of living like an animal and striving
Like the sage or the laurel.
Translated by Indran Amirthanayagam
Never fall in love with a pound
of ground beef.
Never fall in love with a table laid,
or with food, the cups
she kissed with a mouth of insistent,
icy, powdered mandarin:
Never fall in love with this
enamored dust, the dead
cough of a name (Ana,
Claudia, Tania: doesn’t matter,
all names die), a flame
that drowns. Never fall in love
with someone else’s sonnet.
Never fall in love with blue stockings,
the blue veins beneath those stockings,
the flesh of thighs, that
so superficial flesh.
Never fall in love with the cook.
But never fall in love, also,
with Sundays: soccer, fast food,
nothing on your mind but cribs like nooses.
Never fall in love with death,
its damsel lust,
its canine unusual cruelty,
its midwife tact.
Never fall in love in hotel rooms,
in simple past, in
letterhead, in porno flicks,
in eyes devastating as celestial tombs,
in clandestine talk, in boleros, in books
by Denis de Rougemont,
On speed, on alcohol,
never fall in love with a pound of ground beef.
Translated by Tanya Huntington
for Javier Sicilia
I spent the whole night with my arm in a crack.
It was not a hall of saints.
It was a hotel on the outskirts of Querétaro.
Two single beds provisionally pulled together
to hold the three of us (always three) together.
Ascesis: a light sleep: Hannibal Barca, my son, falling
every 15 minutes into the gap.
It’s trite, but it’s true: I spent the whole night with
my arm in a crack.
The devil instilled in me a black acoustic fury:
why do you write poems
if everything that wounds has an empty touch, a tomb’s
Dazzled, very smug and without light (without another light and guide
without etc., etc.),
I wrote these verses from memory:
“At least touch what you kill.
Feel it slug fuel black snail with which you mark
Remember, when you go to the cinema to watch films about Nazis,
that you are not a Jew.
But if you are a Jew, don’t remember anything: at least touch what
Don’t try to act god. Don’t blow up cars. Don’t quote
the scriptures. Don’t argue with me.
Don’t sell me the stumps of limbs. Don’t bring me heads. Don’t ask me
to learn respect.
At least touch what you kill.”
They are appalling. I knew it at once.
For a couple of years I haven’t been able to make a poem.
I miss it, but don’t regret it.
We all know that poetry is nothing more (or less) than
a temporary skill.
A skill which, once lost, becomes you and shines dark.
The same as a father will spend the whole night with his arm in
making sure his son’s head never touches the floor.
Translated by Richard Gwyn