Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas

Translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee
What will become of me without you
when I die?
Will there be a place in time
in the emptiness of eternity
in which I might recall
the sweetness, the painful
tension, the children
we didn’t have but
whom we loved
like one loves the light
that will one day be denied me
and that illuminated the clangor
of the riggings in Genoa
when we were just learning
to get to know each other, the streets of Rapallo
when we didn’t stop learning
to love one another? And the suffocating
summer in Masnou that comes to me now
like a breeze. Will everything
I have lived with you be lost
in death? Will you open the windows
facing the sea so I can
see you? Will your love
die when I die
and you love someone just as
much, as you walk
through the port in Genoa,
staying together in the hotel
where Rilke wrote for us
without knowing us the poetry
that I’ll forget in death
or might it become part of the bounty
of eternity? Will you go
to the cemetery to bring me
the flowers that others have left
on Machado’s grave?
Will I hear your tears?
Will I be able to sing Cohen, Conte,
Celentano? Will I be able to write you
verses like the ones I’ve written you?
Will my absence be
a new presence?
Will you overlook my death
so we may carry on together
in the sweet melancholy
of a bolero?
Don’t let me suffer
death without you. Boat
without end that gets lost in a sea
without horizon, blind gods
who ignore my pain.
What great loneliness
after such vast companionship
such pain on my skin without your skin. Such
longing for pollen and pubis.
For rainbow belly, for shooting
stars in your eyes. For love
like a vase of sunflowers.
And if I leave, with luck I won’t find
my way and I’ll have to return
to the bed where you’re dreaming of
my grand finale, my resurrection.

The Return

After forty years
of dreams and nightmares
on sunless islands,
on the hills of Sussex
soft as bellies or buttocks,
in the Irish landscape
burnt by rain
and on roads reddish
like rings on the Thames,
I awoke naked in a cage
like Don Quixote and Ezra Pound.

It was old age and poverty
that drove the Quijano
into adventure and love.
Two dreams
from which we will awaken
dazed by nightmares.
There’s no failure, then, in awakening
if Dulcinea or Sonia
watch over our sleeplessness
as death approaches.

You won’t find today’s birds
in the nests of yesteryear
nor the caliginous shadows of life
but rather a return to the sea in Barcelona
so capacious and long
where first light gives rise to the sun
with a face more beautiful than life,
a dead bird
resuming its flight to return
to the same sky.

Time doesn’t exist
but we are born
and we die in time.
Rosanna on the train from Masnou
to Barcelona. Her cheeks
as cheerful as her breasts
pushing against her blouse,
like her dusty blue
eyes lit up
by the sun and my gaze.
Fleeting touch in the darkness
of the tunnel in Montgat.
The weekends tedious
as if time were floating
in emptiness. Imagination
is bolder. Now
her cheeks, her nipples,
her belly, her knees
are a jaunty young girl’s.
We spoke about the summer sea,
her absent father, the Ligurian
coast, the color of time,
purple flowers at the Pegli
house, orange skies
at dusk. Diego Vega, Lafau,
Ventejo, so far away, Ángel and Isabel,
Luis Maristany, Giménez Frontín,
my parents, both my sisters,
and my other father, the smell
of decaying flowers
at the cemetery, their
obscene light in the silence
of what has ceased to exist.
Home fixed in time
that will never not belong to us,
even the dead live on
as they once were before returning
to the emptiness of not being forevermore.
Rosanna’s cheeks and her breasts
like a threat of eternity.
It’s in not-being that the longing
for happiness is erased, desires
left unfulfilled, the love
I’m living now as if it were
a soul, the manure we collect
to fertilize the plants in the
garden, the trains from Genoa
and Maresme, the words
we heard and the ones we now listen to
and the processionary moths with their crosses
on their backs on this never-ending Via Crucis,
labyrinth where the dead live
oblivious to our time, to their own,
to the sky that illuminates them, to their names
engraved in stone, to Pound’s
poem abandoned on the tomb
of Juan Ramón Masoliver in Reixac:
Be in me as the eternal moods
   Of the bleak wind and not
As transient things are –
   Gaiety of flowers.
But in the time without time
there is no eternity, no wind,
no words, all we have left are
broken images
of a body in an abyss,
frozen stiff by death.

Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas is a literary critic, novelist, and poet, whose works are collected in Poesía reunida (1999). He is also author of La memoria sin tregua (2002), Sònia (2008), Paraísos a ciegas (2012), and a book of poems in Catalan, El laberint del cos (2008). His memoir, Desde mi celda, was published by Acantilado in October 2019.

Samantha Schnee‘s translation of Carmen Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft was shortlisted for the PEN America Translation Prize. She won the 2015 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation for her excerpt of Carmen Boullosa’s The Conspiracy of the Romantics, and her translation of Boullosa’s latest novel, The Book of Anna, will be published by Coffee House Press in 2020.

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