The poets who taught us
to read New York in Spanish
The contemporary poet is a man between men
and his loneliness is the promiscuous loneliness
of the walker lost in the crowd
Hispanic poetry in New York is born within the city. The metropolis we know today was envisioned and designed in 1811, when commissioners Gouverneur Morris, John Rutherfurd, and Simeon De Witt presented the development plan consisting of rectangular street grids and equal lots, stretching from The Battery to Upper Manhattan. This not only marked the birth of a new city, but also the beginning of a way of life, of coexistence that, ultimately, would trace the geography of new poetic paths.
The first publication in Spanish appeared in New York City in 1823 with the newspaper El Habanero, founded by Father Félix Varela. In this same year, José María Heredia went into exile in New York. He is, considered by many to be the first romantic poet of America and the initiator of Romanticismo Hispanoamericano. His poems appear regularly in the newspaper and in 1825 the Gray and Buye printing press, located at 129 Broadway, published the book Poesías by Heredia, thus initiating a Hispanic poetic tradition that continues to date.
After a few years, the struggles for independence in Cuba and Puerto Rico would unite these two countries within and beyond their borders. In New York, Eugenio María de Hostos joineds the Cuban Revolutionary Committee and became the editor of La Revolución magazine. Hostos (better known as the Citizen of the Americas) was among the most faithful supporters of Ramón Emeterio Betances’ proposal to create an Antillean Confederation between Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. This initiative would also catch the attention of writer José Martí, an active advocate of insular sovereignty. In this way, the voices of these poets and thinkers began to sound in unison off New York in different Spanish-speaking countries.
José Martí lived and wrote most of his work in this American city, presenting his vision of New York, its inhabitants and its poets to the Hispanic word. Martí’s influence was extensive he wrote for children, free women and men, slaves, the rich, the poor. Martí wrote for all of Our America. The Hispanic world met Walt Whitman when Martí published about the American poet in the Argentine newspaper La Nación. This letter of introduction set the standard for “the cult of Whitman” in Hispanic letters.This recognition will get writers together, from modernists to postmodernists, including avant-garde and social poets from all over the Spanish America. New York has Whitman, but it also has Martí his pedestal within the Hispanic literary world is as big and robust as the one that supports his statue at the main entrance to Central Park.
Likewise, the city also opened its doors to Rubén Darío, who was received by Martí on his first trip to New York in 1893. During this period, Darío met Charles A. Dana, editor of The New York Sun. By this time, Darío already had a presence in Spain and throughout the Americas, but his stay in New York served as a platform for his literary creation, which would leave an indelible mark on the Hispanic poets of subsequent generations.
When the avant-garde decade of the twenties arose, other names joined the literary map of the city. Such is the case of José Juan Tablada, whose work led into a new poetry by this time, and it is considered by many to be the beginning of Spanish-American modernity. These are the times at which several of the poets of the Generation of ‘27 found comfort in New York. Some will only do so temporarily, as is the case of Federico García Lorca, who, despite his short stay in the city, would set a before and after within Hispanic literature in the metropolis and for the rest of the world, with his volumen of poems Poeta en Nueva York. Others, however, would remain in love with The Big Apple for a long time León Felipe, José Moreno Villa, Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillén, all of whom would influence our city and allow themselves to be influenced by it. Another of the indelible signatures of these years is Juan Ramón Jiménez, whose ephemeral presence is more than enough to leave an eternal mark on the New York imaginary, through his volumen of poems Diario de un poeta recién casado.
From the 1930s on, the conflicts and lack of freedom in Hispanic countries have caused a constant exodus of poets to the United States, and to a great extent, to New York City. The dictatorships of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, Fidel Castro in Cuba, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina, are just some of those wholead many writers into exile, and perhaps more importantly, their readers. While our countries were facing political, economic, and cultural chaos, New York continued to perpetuate itself, maintaining its shape and essence, offering its eternal refuge the newly arrived poet walked the same streets as previous poets did, and each one was welcomed individually by the permanent and unquestionable presence of the city that never sleeps.
The poets in this book arrived in New York by boat, train, plane, or car, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel, to become New Yorkers from day one. Some will return to their roots, staying New York -inevitably- in their work and life experiences. Others will understand that a return is impossible, like Lourdes Casal, who described herself as “Too much of a New Yorker to be, -even to be again- anything else.” Everyone, in some way, helped to describe with maternal sounds what was strange to us and populated the foreign landscape with accents: Broadway and the Hudson River, Upper and Lower Manhattan, opening the door of the corner coffee shop, where every morning we make an order in Spanish.
The city every day became increasingly more attractive to Hispanic writers. Authors from all over the continent found a shelter and an audience in New York. The cosmopolitan experience and a living language, includeng its different faces, enrich the poetic imagination of immigrants, who also count today on the academic support of various Hispanic American literature programs at renowned New York universities.
This validation platform has made it possible for several anthologies of Hispanic poets in New York to come to light. These compilations, in general, have taken as their leitmotif the authors’ countries of origin, or specific time periods, such as Los Poetas Puertorriqueños, by Alfred Matilla and Iván Silén; Poetas Cubanos en Nueva York, by Felipe Lázaro; Papiros de Babel: antología de la poesía puertorriqueña en Nueva York, by Pedro López-Adorno; Los paraguas amarillos: los poetas latinos en New York, by Iván Silén; and Entre rascacielos: Doce poetas hispanos en Nueva York, by Marie Lise Gazarian Gautie, just to name a few titles.
This anthology was born to fill current gaps and to interconnect different narratives the city that has welcomed us, presenting the reader with a chronological journey through the work of the Hispanic poets who have left their mark on New York. This chronological journey addresses only the the poets’ birth dates, but does not differentiate authors by country or period, but rather connects and places them on a single stage full of lights and sounds that certainly becomes the quintessence of his poetic proposal. Much has been written since early 1823, and much remains to be written. Let this book be our humble way of honoring these first 200 years of Hispanic Poetry in New York City.
The authors included in these pages, in addition to their contributions to universal literature, have kept poetry in Spanish alive in New York. If it is essential to read Walt Whitman and Hart Crane in their allegories of New York within the American poetic tradition, it is also a must to visit the names of Hispanic literature who slept on the benche of the Hudson river if, we want to start understanding this vast city with the presumptuous eagerness of a child discovering the world.
Henry Ballate M.F.A
New York, spring 2023
Juan Clemente Zenea (1834-1871)
José Martí (1853 - 1895)
Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881 - 1958)
Federico García Lorca (1898 - 1936)
Julia de Burgos (1914 - 1953)
Ernesto Cardenal (1925 - 2020)
Lourdes Del Casal (1938 - 1981)
Miguel Falquez-Certain (1948)
Francisco Álvarez Koki (1957)
Carlos Aguasaco (1975)
José María Heredia
ODA AL NIÁGARA
Give me, give me my lyre! For I feel
in my aroused and trembling soul
the flame of inspiration! Oh, how much time
has gone by in darkness, my brow deprived
of the gleam of its light…Surging Niagara,
none but your awesome visage can return to me
the divine gift that sorrow with impious hand
cruelly snatched from me.
Oh mighty torrent, be calm and silence
your terrifying thunder: lighten
the mist that shrouds you,
let me ponder your serence face,
fueling thus my fervour.
I am your worthy contemplator: always
disdaining life’s common and petty cares,
I yearned for the extraordinary and the sublime.
The furious hurricane unleashed,
or the thunderbolt booming over my head,
my heart raced with joy. I saw the oceans,
lashed by howling southern winds,
rage against my ship and open
chasms before me, and I loved the danger,
the fury I loved. But all that fierceness
did not move me
as does this your grandeur.
You flow serene, majestic, and then
crashing onto sharp rugged rocks,
violently you dash forward, relentless,
like destiny, irrestistible and blind.
What human voice could describe
the terrifying spectacle
of these roaring rapids? My mind
is lost in vague thoughts,
reflecting on the seething current
that my clouded vision vainly tries
to follow as it sweeps to the wide edge
of so high a cliff. A thousand waves,
moving rapidly like thoughts,
clash in wild fury;
another thousand, and yet another rush to join them,
and amid foam and clamour they disappear.
But still they come…they leap…the horrendous abyss
devours the plunging torrents;
a thousand rainbows criss-cross there,
and the mighty roar resounds in the deafened forests.
Hitting the rocks with terrifying violence
the water breaks, leaping,
and whirling vapour
covers the abyss in swirling clouds; it rises,
circles about, then like a huge pyramid
reaches toward the heavens,
and drifting over the surrounding forests
frightens the solitary hunter.
But, what does my eager gaze
restless, forlorn, search for in you?
Why don’t I see, encircling your immense chasm,
the palm trees, ah! those delicious palm trees,
that on the plains of my beloved Cuba
come to life blessed by the sun’s smile, and flourish;
and in the waft of ocean breezes
sway under a sky of spotless blue?
Ah painful memory…
Oh Niagara, you’ve achieved your fullest destiny,
no crown but the wild pine
more befits your terrible majesty.
Let the palm tree, myrtle and delicate rose
inspire easy pleasures and soft idleness
in giddy gardens; fate held for you
a worthier, loftier end.
Free, generous, strong spirits approach,
observe you, and are amazed;
henceforth they spurn frivolous delights
and feel uplifted at the mention of your name.
Oh God! God of truth! In other climes
I saw detestable monsters
blaspheming your sacrosanct name,
sow error and impious fanaticism,
flood fields with blood and tears,
stir up, despicable fratricidal war,
and in their frenzy desolate the land.
I saw them, and my chest heaved at their sight
in grave indignation. I saw as well
lying philosophers who dared
to question your mysteries, offend you,
and fiendishly drag
miserable men down to lamentable depths.
That’s why my mind, always searching for you
in heightened solitude, is now
in full communion with you. It feels your hand
in this immensity that surrounds me,
and your profound voice touches my heart
in the eternal thunder of these cascading waters.
How the sight of you confounds my spirit,
filling me with terror and wonder!
Where is your beginning? Who has been nourishing
your inexhaustible source as the centuries go by?
What powerful hand
has ordained that on receiving your mighty waters
the ocean does not inundate the land?
The Lord opened his omnipotent hand.
He covered you with restless clouds.
He gave his voice to your tumbling waters,
and adorned with his rainbow your fearsome forehead.
I look at your waters tirelessly flowing
like the long torrent of centuries
rolling along into eternity. Thus mankind’s flowery days
go fleetingly by
and give way to sorrow. Oh! I feel my youth
burnt out, my face withered,
and the profound pain that shakes me
wrinkles with sorrow my clouded brow.
Never have I felt as deeply as now
my wretched isolation, my abandonment,
my anguished lovelessness. How could
a passionate and turbulent soul
be happy without love? Oh! If only a beautiful woman
worthy of me would love me,
and share my wandering thoughts
and my lonely steps
beside this churning abyss.
How I would enjoy seeing a slight paleness
temper her face, more beautiful
in her sweet terror, and see her smile
as I hold her in my loving arms!
Vain ravings!…Oh! I am banished,
without homeland, without love,
with no prospects but tears and sorrow.
hear my final words! In a few years
a cold tomb will have swallowed up
your feeble singer. May my verses share
your immortal glory! May a kind
traveller on contemplating your face
one day sigh, remembering me.
May I, with the setting sun,
fly joyfully to the Creator’s call,
and on hearing the echoes of my fame,
lift my radiant head above the clouds.
Juan Clemente Zenea
TO A SWALLOW
Thou messenger, far wandering,
Who ‘neath my cell art fluttering
And round and round me gayly fly,
Whence comest thou, on restless wing?
And whither, swallow, dost thou hie?
To this south country thou hast flown
In quest of flowers and zephyr’s breath,
While I within my prison moan
And clamor in my dungeon lone
For wintry skies and snowy heath.
With longing heart I long to see
That which thou’st lightly left behind;
I long to fly beyond the sea,
To feel anew the northern wind,
To be a swallow and to flee.
I long again to find my nest
And there, as was wont of old,
Without a fear to mar my rest,
Repose in midst of Love’s sweet fold,
With wife and child to make me blest.
And if my dear ones, lost to me,
Should ask that thou a message bring
When thou again wilt cross the sea,
Pursue thy flight, thou bird of Spring,
Be not detained by thought of me.
For if thou, wanderer, seekest there
To find a drooping willow where
It shades the dust of him that’s free,
Thou swallow fair! thou swallow fair!
Thou’lt seek in vain where I will be.
So seek not thou with restless flight,
To find my dark and hidden grave,
For know’st thou not, thou winged dace?
O’er the poet’s tomb no willows wave,
No cypress marks his resting-place.
BIG CITY LOVE
Gorja are and speed of time:
The voice spreads like light; in high needle
Which ship plunged into sirte horrendous
The lightning sinks, and in a light boat
The man, as winged, the air splits.
So love, without pomp or mystery
Die, barely born, of sated!
Cage is the village of dead pigeons
And avid hunters! if the breasts
They break from men, and meats
Broken on the ground they roll, they should not be seen
Inside more than crushed strawberries!
One loves standing, in the streets, among the dust
Of the halls and the squares: die
The flower the day it is born. that virgin
Tremulous that before death gave
The pure hand that the young man ignored;
The joy of fear; that get out
From the chest the heart; the ineffable
Pleasure to deserve; the pleasant fright
To walk quickly straight
From the home of the beloved, and to her doors
Like a happy child bursting into tears;—
And that look, give our love to the fire,
Go dyeing the roses color,—
Hey, they are bullshit! So who has
Time to be hidalgo? feel good
Like a golden glass or sumptuous canvas
Gentle lady in tycoon's house!
Or if you are thirsty, you stretch out your arm
And to the glass that passes, he rushes it!
Then the cloudy cup rolls to dust,
And the skilful taster,— stained the chest
Of an invisible blood,—continue to be happy
Crowned with myrtle, his way!
They are not the bodies anymore but waste,
And pits and shreds! and the souls
They are not like rich fruit on the tree
In whose soft skin the sweet syrup
In its season of maturity it overflows,—
But fruit of the square that to brutal
Bangs the rough mature labrador!
Is this the age of the dry lips!
Of sleepless nights! Of the life
Crushed in agraz! What is missing
What luck is missing? like hare
Bewildered, the spirit hides,
Trembling fleeing the laughing hunter,
Which in jungle forest, in our chest;
And Desire, arm in arm with Fever,
Like a rich hunter walks through the grove.
The city scares me! everything is full
Of cups to empty, or hollow cups!
I am afraid, woe is me! what this came from
Cough it be, and in my veins later
Which avenging goblin the key teeth!
I am thirsty, —more of a wine than on earth
You don't know how to drink! I have not suffered
Enough still, to break the wall
That separates me oh pain! of my vineyard!
Take ye vile tasters
Of human vinyl, those glasses
Where the lily juice in large sips
Without compassion and without fear you drink!
Take! I am honest, and I am afraid!
Juan Ramón Jiménez
SMOKE AND GOLD
So much sea in the yellowing moonlight
lying between us, Spain! And so much sea to-morrow
in early morning sunshine...
in the wan light of daybreak, dim-seen ships
sounding their mournful sirens, naked visions;
sleepless, I hear them take farewell.
-In solitary splendor
the moon, oh, shade of Poe! dies over Broadway-
Sleepless, I hear them, my forehead pressing
against the rigid panes; I bear them
take farewell, once and again, amid their dreams...
-and now the daybreak is nothing but an empty space
in the frigid light only yesterday
the jet-black mole was glowing-
dreams in the dream of all of those now sleeping
in that part of their life that is still living
side by side
with that part of their life already dead.
How far off, oh! how far off
from you and from me they are, and from all things
-oh! olive-groves that once I saw at daybreak!
When I hear the alert given-Death!-
breaking into the harmony of my spirit
-immeasurable sea of joy and sorrow-
in the yellowing moonlight
of that pale orb that is setting lonely in Spain too!
ODE TO WALT WHITMAN
By the East River and the Bronx
boys were singing, exposing their waists
with the wheel, with oil, leather, and the hammer.
Ninety thousand miners taking silver from the rocks
and children drawing stairs and perspectives.
But none of them could sleep,
none of them wanted to be the river,
none of them loved the huge leaves
or the shoreline's blue tongue.
By the East River and the Queensboro
boys were battling with industry
and the Jews sold to the river faun
the rose of circumcision,
and over bridges and rooftops, the mouth of the sky emptied
herds of bison driven by the wind.
But none of them paused,
none of them wanted to be a cloud,
none of them looked for ferns
or the yellow wheel of a tambourine.
As soon as the moon rises
the pulleys will spin to alter the sky;
a border of needles will besiege memory
and the coffins will bear away those who don't work.
New York, mire,
New York, mire and death.
What angel is hidden in your cheek?
Whose perfect voice will sing the truths of wheat?
Who, the terrible dream of your stained anemones?
Not for a moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies,
nor your corduroy shoulders frayed by the moon,
nor your thighs pure as Apollo's,
nor your voice like a column of ash,
old man, beautiful as the mist,
you moaned like a bird
with its sex pierced by a needle.
Enemy of the satyr,
enemy of the vine,
and lover of bodies beneath rough cloth...
Not for a moment, virile beauty,
who among mountains of coal, billboards, and railroads,
dreamed of becoming a river and sleeping like a river
with that comrade who would place in your breast
the small ache of an ignorant leopard.
Not for a moment, Adam of blood, Macho,
man alone at sea, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
because on penthouse roofs,
gathered at bars,
emerging in bunches from the sewers,
trembling between the legs of chauffeurs,
or spinning on dance floors wet with absinthe,
the faggots, Walt Whitman, point you out.
He's one, too! That's right! And they land
on your luminous chaste beard,
blonds from the north, blacks from the sands,
crowds of howls and gestures,
like cats or like snakes,
the faggots, Walt Whitman, the faggots,
clouded with tears, flesh for the whip,
the boot, or the teeth of the lion tamers.
He's one, too! That's right! Stained fingers
point to the shore of your dream
when a friend eats your apple
with a slight taste of gasoline
and the sun sings in the navels
of boys who play under bridges.
But you didn't look for scratched eyes,
nor the darkest swamp where someone submerges children,
nor frozen saliva,
nor the curves slit open like a toad's belly
that the faggots wear in cars and on terraces
while the moon lashes them on the street corners of terror.
You looked for a naked body like a river.
Bull and dream who would join wheel with seaweed,
father of your agony, camellia of your death,
who would groan in the blaze of your hidden equator.
Because it's all right if a man doesn't look for his delight
in tomorrow morning's jungle of blood.
The sky has shores where life is avoided
and there are bodies that shouldn't repeat themselves in the dawn.
Agony, agony, dream, ferment, and dream.
This is the world, my friend, agony, agony.
Bodies decompose beneath the city clocks,
war passes by in tears, followed by a million gray rats,
the rich give their mistresses
small illuminated dying things,
and life is neither noble, nor good, nor sacred.
Man is able, if he wishes, to guide his desire
through a vein of coral or a heavenly naked body.
Tomorrow, loves will become stones, and Time
a breeze that drowses in the branches.
That's why I don't raise my voice, old Walt Whitman,
against the little boy who writes
the name of a girl on his pillow,
nor against the boy who dresses as a bride
in the darkness of the wardrobe,
nor against the solitary men in casinos
who drink prostitution's water with revulsion,
nor against the men with that green look in their eyes
who love other men and burn their lips in silence.
But yes against you, urban faggots,
tumescent flesh and unclean thoughts.
Mothers of mud. Harpies. Sleepless enemies
of the love that bestows crowns of joy.
Always against you, who give boys
drops of foul death with bitter poison.
Always against you,
Fairies of North America,
Pájaros of Havana,
Jotos of Mexico,
Sarasas of Cádiz,
Apios of Seville,
Cancos of Madrid,
Floras of Alicante,
Adelaidas of Portugal.
Faggots of the world, murderers of doves!
Slaves of women. Their bedroom bitches.
Opening in public squares like feverish fans
or ambushed in rigid hemlock landscapes.
No quarter given! Death
spills from your eyes
and gathers gray flowers at the mire's edge.
No quarter given! Attention!
Let the confused, the pure,
the classical, the celebrated, the supplicants
close the doors of the bacchanal to you.
And you, lovely Walt Whitman, stay asleep on the Hudson's banks
with your beard toward the pole, openhanded.
Soft clay or snow, your tongue calls for
comrades to keep watch over your unbodied gazelle.
Sleep on, nothing remains.
Dancing walls stir the prairies
and America drowns itself in machinery and lament.
I want the powerful air from the deepest night
to blow away flowers and inscriptions from the arch where you sleep,
and a black child to inform the gold-craving whites
that the kingdom of grain has arrived.
Julia de Burgos
Nothing troubles my being, but I am sad.
Something slow and dark strikes me,
though just behind this agony,
I have held the stars in my hand.
It must be the caress of the useless,
the unending sadness of being a poet,
of singing and singing, without breaking
the greatest tragedy of existence.
To be and not want to be … that’s the motto,
the battle that exhausts all expectation,
to find, when the soul is almost dead,
that the miserable body still has strength.
Forgive me, oh love, if I do not name you!
Apart from your song I am dry wing.
Death and I sleep together . . .
Only when I sing to you, I awake.
Prayer For Marilyn Monroe
accept this girl known over the world by the name of
though that was not her true name
(but You know her true name, the name of the orphan
raped at age nine
and the name of the shopgirl who first tried
suicide at sixteen)
and who now presents herself before You without her makeup
without her press agent
without photographs and without signing autographs
alone as an astronaut facing the dark night of deep space
While still a girl, she dreamed she was nude in a church
(according to copy filed by Time)
before a prostrate multitude with their heads on the ground
and she had to tiptoe in order to avoid stepping on the heads.
You know our dreams better than psychiatrists.
Church, house, den, all are the security of the maternal womb
but also something more…
The heads are the admirers, clearly
(the mass of heads in the darkness beneath the beam of light).
But the temple is not the studio of 20th Century Fox.
The temple – of marble and gold – is the temple of her body
in which the Son of Man stands with His whip in His hand
driving out the money changers of 20th Century Fox
who made Your house of prayer a den of thieves.
in this world contaminated by sin and radioactivity
You do not only blame a shopgirl alone
who like any shopgirl dreamed of being a star.
And her dream was reality (Technicolor reality).
She could not but act according to the script we gave her
–the story of our life–the script was absurd.
Forgive her Lord and forgive all of us
for our 20th Century
for this Colossal Super-Production in which we all had a hand.
She hungered for love and we offer her tranquilizers.
For the sin of not being a saint
we recommended psychoanalysis.
Remember her growing hatred of the camera
and the hatred of make-up – she insisted on make-up for each scene –
and how her terror grew
and how her tardiness grew.
Like any shopgirl
she dreamed of being a star.
And her dream was unreal as a dream a psychiatrist interprets and files.
Her romances were a kiss with closed eyes
that when the eyes were opened
were uncovered by the spotlight
then the spotlight was turned off!
and the crew struck the two room walls (it was a set)
while the Director walked off with the script
this scene now a take.
Or like a voyage of a yacht, a kiss in Singapore, a dance in Rio
the reception in the mansion of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor
viewed from some slum tenement.
The movie ended without the final kiss.
They found her dead in bed, hand on the phone.
And the detectives never discovered who she was going to call.
like someone who dialed the number of the only friendly voice
and hears a tape saying: WRONG NUMBER.
Or like someone who is wounded by gangsters
who stretches out her hand for a disconnected phone.
whoever it is she was going to call
and didn’t call (and maybe it was no one at all
or Someone whose number is not in the Los Angeles Directory)
You answer that call.
FOR ANA VELDFORD
Never a summertime in Provincetown
and even on this limpid afternoon
(so out of the ordinary for New York)
it is from the window of a bus that I contemplate
the serenity of the grass up and down Riverside Park
and the easy freedom of vacationers resting on rumpled blankets,
fooling around on bicycles along the paths.
I remain as foreign behind this protective glass
as I was that winter
—that unexpected weekend—
when I first confronted Vermont’s snow.
And still New York is my home.
I am ferociously loyal to this acquired patria chica.
Because of New York I am a foreigner anywhere else,
fierce pride in the scents that assault us along any West side street,
marijuana and the smell of beer
and the odor of dog urine
and the savage vitality of Santana
descending upon us
from a speaker that thunders, improbably balanced on a fire escape,
the raucous glory of New York in summer,
Central Park and us,
who have inherited the lake of the north side,
and Harlem sails through the slackness of this sluggish afternoon.
The bus slips lazily,
down, along Fifth Avenue;
and facing me, the young bearded man
carrying a heap of books from the Public Library,
and it seems as if you could touch summer in the sweaty brow of the cyclist
who rides holding onto my window.
But New York wasn’t the city of my childhood,
It was not here that I acquired my first convictions,
not here the spot where I took my first fall,
nor the piercing whistle that marked the night.
This is why I will always remain on the margins,
a stranger among the stones,
even when I return to the city of my childhood
I carry this marginality, immune to all turning back,
too habanera to be newyorkina,
too newyorkina to be
—even to become again—
FLIGHT OF SHIPS
When the afternoon lights turn to dusk,
A cruiser silently sails in the distance down
A wide, quiet river, just like the golden prairie
Of our childhood. The empty streets in the
Afternoon — with the spring’s first buds
Blooming under the High Line — are a harbinger
Of death: The absolute chaos of uncertainty.
A man dressed in rags is crossing the park
With a bundle of scrapped meals; the cold
Is leaving the corners, and the chrysalis is a reason
To rejoice, since not everything is lost, he wonders.
What are those gallerists doing all crammed
Up at the corner, now that they’re supposed
To keep their distance? What are our roles,
They wonder, now that our words
Have become irrelevant?
Tiny particles float and then
Land on the faces of the few
Passersby. The schooner sails far
Away, and the tiny shapes of men
Outline the wispy clouds on the pier.
Are they aware of the strict order?
The seagulls’ cawing creates
A dissonant concert. The fading
Lights of dusk cover the abbey
With an afterglow in the opposite bank.
The cause of the anxiety insists on tormenting us.
This evening will not be pleasant. The buzzing
Of a bumblebee foreshadows the dénouement;
It lands on the banister, as if it were planning
Its strategy. Towards the south, it’s possible
To catch a glimpse of the beacon of freedom
Against the city’s glowing lights. Will the
Mettle of a Sage fulfill our expectations?
Only the future is at stake.
Francisco Álvarez Koki
SONATA TO A BODY BATHING IN A TUB
Like a vessel, the bathtub
Rocked you in time,
And I was your silence
Across the water.
Your exquisite body
Sank in the tenuous water,
While the moon fi ltered in
With all its mysteries.
The window blinds
Played with the wind,
And the tub embraced you
With its arms of iron.
The water forever
Climbed up your skin
With its tender swashing
To break your codes.
I was the gale
Stirring your sails,
I was the tsunami
Shaking your tub.
At the end, however, time was
Relentless, and I surrendered,
Becoming harbor and seashore,
To be the water in your bathtub.
NEW YORK WOMAN
New York was a feature film in Technicolor.
The frustrated dancer who works as a waitress
in the Village,
alongside a Peruvian Indian girl who cooks
like the gods.
The New York woman with the bare back,
the woman with the disjointed hip,
the sugar candy collarbone,
a long-legged Coca-Cola ad.
Someone who passes by quickly, returns quickly,
New York was a few glances in a bar
and a motel on the outskirts,
a Huidobro plot produced by David Lynch,
César Vallejo poisoned with lights,
and again, the waitress who performs a rehearsed jump,
the woman who serves me and shows me her back,
the young actress who is surprised to see me reading.
The poet got into the movie by accident.
They gave him a minor role ordering coffee
at the counter,
he had to light up an unfiltered cigarette
and watch the leading actress pass by,
look lost in New York,
look like an anteater sniffing
among the iron and be silent.
But the poet doesn’t know how to act, just over-act,
taking himself too seriously.
He spends his life among bars
and knows nothing of restaurants.
New York was a feature film in Technicolor,
the dancer sitting with the poet
and the precious Peruvian Indian girl who translates
everything the blonde girl says.