READING OCTAVIO PAZ
An extract translated by Ana Jelnikar. Reading Octavio Paz was first published in Visions, 70, USA, December 2003.
Tonight I am sailing down all my rivers, borne by the stream of words, I sail as I speak, I speak as I sail…
…rivers, glittering like a child’s laughter, the staccato of rapids, the fast chutes over cascades, rapturous drops down waterfalls, beads of water, in each the sun, and finally the foam, bubbles of air engulfing me like a great Jacuzzi…
…the river, the big brown god, carries me like a slumberous bough through the height of summer, the buzzing of insects, I sail as I speak, I speak as I sail, I can see: the blue sky, clouds and fish swimming across, crabs hiding in treetops, in the green explosion of joie de vivre, a school of fry takes wing like startled quails…
…I can see: Narcissus’ perfect countenance, heavy ashlars of Florentine masonry, arcs of bridges traversed by poetry on transcience – Apollinaire – and by the lines of an epic, I am reading…
…I can see myself in the turning of the seasons, and my love, sad as a willow, bowing over me, who am a river sailing through winter, through the city de la Tour Unique du grand Gibet et de la Roue…
Father, it’s time for us to meet in wakefulness.
You, entirely of memories and ashes. I…
You will recognize me easily.
I bear your eyes, your chin, your destiny,
marked on my skin.
Father, it’s time we admitted the existence of a hatchet, driven into a knot.
I am not asking you for a miracle.
I am not asking you to tug at the blade.
I assent to the fact
that our hearth will forever be cold.
I am asking you for a simple admission:
we did not obey the laws of growth.
And I accept the excuse:
it was cold,
which is why the handle shivered in our grip.
Father, that is all I am asking for.
I know, you have always said
that birds are merely trees’ visitors.
That the wind sifts the leaves only for itself.
But this is the way I am.
How can I throw my slender youth
onto the pyre of memory,
if there is mute steel lurking in it?
Let us admit to its existence, father.
So death will be easier for you
and life less of a burden for me.
HOMELESS POET WRITING TO HIS LOVE
I will build us a house made of words.
Nouns will be bricks
and verbs the shutters.
With adjectives we will adorn
the window sills
as with flowers.
In perfect silence we will lie
beneath the baldachin of our love.
In perfect silence.
Our house will be too beautiful
and too fragile for us to endanger it
with an inflation of words.
And if we do speak,
we will name objects
visible only to our eyes.
Because every verb
could shake the foundations
and demolish them.
Therefore, hush, mon amour,
hush, pour le beau demain
à notre maison.
At Štanjel & Dane, Slovenia.