Translated from the Spanish by Donald Wellman
from Losses Burn
I KNOW the gallows bird. He sings and birds approach his white nails. Later, he crucifies them in the hawthorns. Shreds and sings because of love and feeds himself on the one whom he crucifies. He sleeps on bloodied petals. It’s not known if it’s a bird that cries. At another time, I saw the soul of the horse, its dentition in the dew. There’s a horse inside my eyes and he is the father of those who later learned to cry. Now someone steps on my dreams. I remember that the snakes passed softly over my heart. To hear the blood. Where? In the blue fistula or the blind arteries. In there the iron whistles, or burns, maybe: we are no more than pathetic hemoglobin. In there the bones weep and their music is placed between bodies. At last, purified by cold, we are real in disappearance. Shit and love beneath the terrestrial light. I abandon my veins to the fertility of black seeds and my heart to insects. My heart, this damp cavern without end or source that fakes systolic monotony.
I SAW golden flames descend over walls of shadow. This was before the appearance of symbols. The clay burns in silence and, behind the sweetness encircled by magnets, spaces were opened in which, much later, I would observe the impossibility of distinguishing cruelty from compassion. After the disappearance it was the only power of beloved faces. I entered at a time in which my body shared the light, which, in its turn, was in me and outside me: fever and revelation were on the point of ripping my childhood apart. It happened, between waking and not waking, beneath sharp invisible wheels. Eternity anticipated its own duplicity: it did not exist but it was luminous and terrible. I attended the crushing of the fire. I felt bands of thorns around me and the precision of knives lost in snow. I discovered an abyss in whose escarpments were spread unmoving poppies. I learned to howl while windows were broken inside my eyes. My youth was guided by artificial lightning bolts beyond the flowers in clothes of flames. I saw, in abandoned rooms, cracks through which weeping reptiles showed their head. I knew cold and, beyond the symbols, I saw the tracks of the judiciary. I also saw tortured bones. At that time, huge and useless questions were raised in me. I took fright in front of the stillness of maternal curtains. Afterwards I noticed the beauty of certain ulcers and, in the arterial fabric, the tubules that connect pleasure and death. I dreamed and the dream was another life within my body and its argument consisted in suffering and suffering was prior to thought and it was inferred from sick cells. I got lost in this incremental creation: I discovered that there was only madness in the relation between bodies. I thought more about the torturers, again I saw fruits turned to stone by silence and, in my hands, the dentures of my father (it was an extraction of earthly moisture), I had to calculate the value of black costume jewelry received from unknown lovers and, one day, the melancholy that cables the heart to the intestine showed itself. I saw poverty through forgetting and also, just once, I saw the face of my mother, smiling upon cotton and steel. Just once. This is my tale, it’s my work. There’s nothing more in the cold alcove. Abandoned outside of it are baskets of sadness, excrement covered with dew and the big advertisements for happiness.
Awarded the Cervantes Prize, as well as the Premio Reina Sophia, the poetry of Antonio Gamoneda (b. 1931) is not widely available in English. In 1975, Gamoneda emerged from a long period of censorship, silence and depression, with the publication of Descripción de la mentira (León 1977). His work is deeply marked by the dark years of the Franco dictatorship. His poetry poem conflates loss and terror, love and alienation, drawing narrative threads from the poet’s childhood and early adult years. Composed most often in chains of verse paragraphs, Gamoneda’s poetry is now collected in Esta Luz (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg, 2004).
Donald Wellman is a poet and translator. He has translated books of poetry by Antonio Gamoneda, Emilio Prados, Yvan Goll, and Roberto Echavarren. Albiach / Celan: Reading Across Languages is from Annex Press (Spring 2017). His Expressivity in Modern Poetry is forthcoming (early 2018) from Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. His poetry has been described as trans-cultural and baroque. His collections of poetry include Roman Exercises (Talisman House, 2015), The Cranberry Island Series (Dos Madres, 2013), A North Atlantic Wall (Dos Madres, 2010), Prolog Pages (Ahadada, 2009), and Fields (Light and Dust, 1995). As editor of O.ARS, he produced a series of annual anthologies including Coherence (1981) and Translations: Experiments in Reading (1984). He is the author of Essay Poems(Dos Madres, 2017).