To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Saturday, January 28, 2012

José Antonio Mazzotti: from Sakra Boccata, five poems

Translation from Spanish by Clayton Eshleman

A los amantes de la lengua

To the lovers of the tongue


The slope of the wave pursues itself. This dilation
Stirs the depths and settles on a dune
Its sight fixed on the surface awaiting the longed for moment
When the Sun goes out in an interregnum with the Moon
In broad daylight and seaweed and caparisons sing
And the flesh of the ocean rests from its knives
It’s the hour in which fish swallow their own anxiety
Throbbing in Chaos
Moon of Scorpio on the lance point
The slope of the wave rises
Raises up its foaming hand intending to touch them
It’s the hour in which the beach creaks with sardines
Which nurture the tree
Which sooner or later will return to the waters
To settle on the most golden dune
Gushing light


I love you with the madness of a foot caught under the keel
I love you with the speed of one sensing footsteps at the door
Who risks the heights to avoid capture
I love you standing and in the bathtub and under every walnut tree
And in the heavy softness of the snow
And in the desk chair when the lights go out
And I proclaim the victory
Of the Almighty Deep
Praised be the Name of the Lord under his height
Perfect Circles like Moray’s Incan terraces
A drop eternally falling onto the surface
Extending its waves while the planets
Line up on the curve of its song
Fleshy rose of all the seigneuries
Little caramel mouth silken cutis *
In the culpable darkness of the infinite

I love you as if this night were
The first time


The solitude of the mirror does not recoup its expectations
Like the Tunnel of Time it’s a trunk that swallows whatever meat
It offers itself as a sacrifice it’s a trunk
Viscous and fragrant with sweat from the past
Painted with golden bodies it recovers its own life
It remembers labyrinthine cities
On the bank of a muddy river
It ventilates the end of summer and searches for clams
At the edge of a dry abyss
Its steps lead it through churches
Erect as nipples and at their doors it descends
Into the woods of the centenary bones
So much death and no power at all against life *
The mirror changes colors
It illuminates from the doorway the purple mantle
Of the Virgin of Candlemas
Oh Saint Mary Mother of God shelter your little lambs
Who seek to perpetuate themselves in the mirror
Oh Saint Maria Mother of God
You yourself
Who with the Holy Ghost
Gleamed one night before the copper


We regain our lost innocence
The wine’s flavor is converted on the palate
Spirits formerly of the divine body
Live joined and jumbled obverse and reverse
A perfect androgyne self-sufficient
Double joy double bristling
The past and the future concentrated and the present
Open like an infinite arc
If you don’t know what you’re after you’ll never get it
There’s a lunar eclipse on the back of Scorpio
The astrologers point out the harmony of the cycle
Look within yourself look deep
You’ll find the leather bag in which the male’s face
And the female’s nape float up front
Or inside out they touch each other stretching forth
their hands
They were pondering in unison
These rainy words out of which a blue smoke

Habemus Papam


The page shining blankly extinguishes the evening’s silence
Breathing suddenly a vertebral cartilage outlines
The back of a monster in the lake
Surfacing and descending
It has a spiny crest and a trickle of blood
Penetrates its two cheeks and its fiery eyes
Baste its transparent rhythm
It searches in the water for impossible nourishment
Thinking that the last time it had some it was 10 A.M.
The cars down there in the street were moving away
Church bells were encircling the meeting
Of sweet moans in penetrated scales
The fish glorified between the sailors’ sabers
Fond of fresh water and condemned
To the crest of the waves
Now crawls
Along this sand
Descending and surfacing
From the bottom of the lake

[TRANSLATOR’S NOTE. Concerning the title of this 28 poem cycle, the author writes: “Sakra Boccata is a title coined after the words for Sacred and Mouthful in Spanish/Italian. This title can also be read as ‘a mouthful from the Devil,’ which can refer to cunnilingus. Also present in the title: the divine breath that God breathed into matter, as well as a sense of poetry as an art that creates life.” In his Introduction to the book, Raúl Zurita writes: “These poems display a carnal, erotic version of the never-exhausted Neo-Platonic theme of perfect love achieved by two beings to erase all the physical and mental distance between them ... a merger not only of bodies searching for each other but of language itself ... as if the poems would like to devour themselves in a grand sexual act in which culture, eroticism and nature would once and for all erase their borders.”
In section 9: “Little caramel mouth silken cutis” is a translation of a line from a popular Peruvian song “La flor de la canela.”
In section 10: “So much death and no power at all against life” is a play of words on a line in César Vallejo's poem “XII / Masa” from España, aparte de mí este cáliz. The original Vallejo line reads: “Tanto amor, y no poder nada contra la muerte!” (“So much love, and no power at all against death!”).]
José Antonio Mazzotti is a Peruvian poet, scholar, & literary activist. He is Professor of Latin American Literature in the Department of Romance Languages at Tufts University, President of the International Association of Peruvianists since 1996, and Director of the Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana since 2010. A prominent member of the Peruvian 1980s literary generation, he is considered an expert as well in Latin American colonial literature, with a notable focus on its mestizo and creole aspects.

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