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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ricardo Cázares: a fragment from a poem in progress,, with a note by the author

Translation from Spanish by Joshua Edwards

And likewise they contend that animals / Wander about head downwards and cannot fall / Off from the earth into the sky below / Any more than our bodies of themselves can fly / Upwards into the regions of the sky; / That when they see the sun, the stars of night / Are what we see, and that they share the hours / Of the wide heavens alternately with us, / And pass nights corresponding to our days.

(...)__That suddenly the ramparts of the world / Would burst asunder and like flying flames / Rush headlong scattered through the empty void, / And in like manner all the rest would follow, / The thundering realms of sky rush down from above, / Earth suddenly withdraw beneath our feet, / And the whole world, its atoms all dissolved, / Amid the confused ruin of heaven and earth / Would vanish through the void of the abyss, / And in a moment not one scrap be left / But desert space and atoms invisible, / For at whatever point you first allow / Matter to fail, there stands the gate of death
                                                           Lucretius, On The Nature of Things


and was good
         in its way
              that light

                        sliding from gray
to the pure blue of young moss

            the eye was ours
to see
and we bled it

            we mixed the liquid with warm grease
and scented herbs
that mask sulfur’s stench

the light was good
            and we touched the golden edge
that shone

                        a sheet of particles and waves

                  intact in all things


            they came for stones
            for eating from woman
            for killing animals

            but the earth was ours
and we sank our arrows into moss
stirring that poisoned dust
in the plant’s vulva

            we shot
                                    and the wound made their gums blue
and their fingernails

                              at the first spring’s end
the strangers went mad

            scratching at their own faces with their fingernails
            tearing skin
            and sinking fingers
            into sores

the earth was ours

            and again we’d touch stone and salt
                                 coppery skin of pears
      the downy hair of thighs

            we touched without fear

                                    without thinking

there were few things in existence that
surprised us

our face could feel
every gesture and
reflection of light
and open a black groove in silhouettes

they were ours the shape
            the stuff of abundance

although we have renounced

the little tenderness that remains for us
is now a matter of atoms
and charges and valences


                                    here came things
                        that changed our form

                        “deeper than thought
                                                            much deeper”
and vaster than the sky

         still the world was good
            and it was cruel

                                                it was better to be a bird a
                                    crane once there was
                        once a harsh wind
            like the wind it was bitter
to be a crane once

                                                within reach

                                    but the air bit me half to death
                        and I mooed
                                             I mooed like cows moo
                                    to see if it was the sound it was the light
                                    that changed

I spread the mix on my body
to see if madness would subside

but then things got worse

            then truly
air and sun took bites

                                    eating our corneas
like moss
so everything was blue and mild and bland
            and ordered our shadow to roll
into spheres

            (so that the conjurer may speak

                        will bite into the sun

                                          will bite skin and stone
in thatthirstrisingsedimenttherehere

             until it would clearly sing the plain that/ divide by birth prairies and barren wastelands/ whitewashed with quicklime on earthly eyelids dissolving so the light/ white face on its horizon of burnt silhouettes/ its boiling pot heat snatching the

distance between its feet and/
                                                the fantasy of sand that empties the living form
of its body/                  of its journey/
basilisk for he who goes forth with a staff/ pursuing without hunting the few remaining beasts

                        (and they
that branches and roots
would detach
                        and the trees begin to     f  l  o  a  t

            like boats toward the sky
            like hills dragging the shell
until it sinks into the universal tide)


                        which is to say

we filled our head with vapors
of elusive heat
that do not seep through skin
like moss
or fig sap

but you must not believe that things
change so
that I can’t touch you

            still the world is good
            in its way

                                 good when biting with its millstone
                                                            if alarmed
                                                if spitting a stalk
                                                      battered onto stone

                        good are stones that bite
                                                            and lime
                                    the entire surface of the earth
melting with waves
like the sun
      because the pulp wants sea
                        wants to bathe
            so that the mouthful
doesn’t choke you

                        the clouds biting

                                    the sky spreads its legs
            to piss
                                    so that burnt poplars may drink
                                    that their bark thunders

                                    the earth spreads its legs
                                    because its depths thunder

                        “there planted is the dead”, says the lightning
            and the earth like fire
or tar
                     eats carbon
                                                eats alone

            and bites the beast the herded wind
                                    the weaning calf
that was molting
                        and now’s a woman’s mooing
            as ants dance about on its tongue as on a saint’s

                        bit the world

                                    and so you wouldn’t lose your realm

                                                I opened all of myself
            and passed a day in labor

arms open wide
and legs planted on the earth

            there was already
no difference
between the two

                        but still I pushed

                                                I bit my hair like crazy
            in order to hang on and so the air
                                    and earth would calm

                                                            so the roof of your house
                                             would not be battered by stars

                        I pushed to touch you

                                                I bit branches and roots
                                                and my fingers
                                                and toes
                                                until my teeth were gone

                                                until birth came into view
                                                a little moss and clay between my legs

and so the lump wouldn’t dry out
I got at it purely with tongue

and with my mouth printed
your body’s form
onto mine


the world is still good

            although cruel
                        although wounded the world
remains good
is good
            is good
                        is very good RE: <>

I began writing the long poem I call <> in 2008. To this date the first two volumes (roughly 500 pages) of the work have been published in Mexico. The poem has slowly taken shape as it’s been written. That is, the different strata that emerge (personal, historical, mythological, scientific, etc) are a direct result of a push towards an uncertain archeological and mythological consciousness which has slowly revealed itself among the long prose passages, compressed word segments, graphics, etc that seem to negotiate a space for themselves among what a reader might otherwise recognise as “verse”. The later sections of the poem delve deeper into this area, digging into the still ambiguous meaning of the two primitive masculine and feminine symbols that make up the title, and which I initially placed in contrast to each other by mere intuition. My hope is that by revealing the process of its writing, the poem will lay bare a particular movement within the fragments, , in which there is both a sense of transformation, and of a struggle to reveal something which can only be exposed through the writing itself.

I have been translating poetry into Spanish for 17 years, and think of myself not only as a poet but as a translator. However, translating one’s own work is a different thing. I don’t think one can ever feel satisfied with the end result, simply because one is perhaps too attached to a certain syntax and rhythm which underscores the original mental and verbal impulse of the writing. There are very few passages which I’ve felt capable of working out in English.  For the present fragment I purposely avoided a literal translation, as I felt that some of the sounds and nuances that one finds in these "clusters" only develop at a very basic, syllable-oriented level. I consider it a sort of "writing over" the surface of the Spanish originals which obviously breathe differently.

                                                                                    RC, June 2017

Ricardo Cázares (Mexico City, 1978) is the author of several collections of poetry including Drivethru, Es un decir, and the long poem simply titled <>. His work as a translator includes the first complete Spanish translation of Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems, Maleza de luz, Selected Poems of Ronald Johnson, Robert Creeley’s Pieces, John Taggart’s Peace On Earth, Truong Tran’s dust and conscience, James Laughlin’s Remembering William Carlos Williams, and a comprehensive anthology of the British Poetry Revival. He is an editor and founding member of Mangos de Hacha Press, and the editor for the poetry and arts journal Mula Blanca.

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