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Rafael Pérez Estrada Rafael Pérez Estrada

Mark Aldrich
Translated by Mark Aldrich


Four Poems

I

The renouncement of the lips, if done out of true love, or if there exist heroic reasons for the renouncing, allows them to subsist independently, free of the face and the mouth that sustain them. Following this hypothesis, as independent beings, lips can live and reproduce in a fashion similar to that of certain oriental fish.
In her old age, the wife of Tryon Roland believed that a most vivid, almost violently red carp was the smile of a lover from her adolescence who, in a moment of ecstasy, offered her his most expressive trait.

II

She could never brush her hair. Her red mane burned like the hallucination of a newly created oil well. Her hair was a bramble of red, red fire, and she was happy because some of the boys treated her respectfully, as if she were the light that burns in the memories of heroes. Nonetheless, the most daring among them, who were also the most handsome, would not hesitate to light their cigarettes on that disconsolate flame.

III

A treatise of practical and elemental philosophy is attributed to the waxen child, who is also distant and indifferent. The treatise takes up questions with a dispatch that is full of risks and equivocations. This passage may serve as an example:
There are at least two classes of major silences. The first inhabits the depths of pipes and sewers. It is a huddled up, traitorous silence. The other, luminous, frequents only the calm surfaces of lakes.

IV

On November 12th, 1975, I received an envelope whose appearance made me suspect it contained an anonymous letter. I opened it with the resignation you get from a mixture of curiosity and discomfort: I was mistaken. In its interior, shining like a stone cut by Spinoza himself, a metaphor innocently awaited me. Metaphors have the beauty — when authentic — of certain carnivorous plants, and can immediately captivate their receptors. The one in question was of a very pure fineness, and it shined like a Mediterranean dawn. Ever since, I keep it pinned to my key chain and people confuse it with a good luck charm.


A Passion for Brevity


Why write for immortality, said the accountant/poet, who was most practical, if mortality is closer.

*****

The serenity of a symbol makes a decided mystic of a retailer from New Jersey, and all for having contemplated, on a skyscraper dawn, the flight of a pigeon whose virginal breast was stained rouge.

*****

Desperate, after trying with his assets and his fortune, he tried his luck.

*****

Standing before the helpless nudity of the dead narrator, the coroner said: he choked on a meaningless word.

*****

With the coldness of a surgeon, he plunged the dagger of criticism into the vulnerable tenderness of the poem.

*****

He made of poetry a mysticism and a passion. He felt so one with the word that, like a secret martyr to blood, he was willing to defend with his life the pulchritude of his hexameters. To him we owe the idea of the Poetic Crusade, a holy fight against prose. Nonsense similar to the crusades of children.

*****

The writer who leaves his thoughts in the ether may be committing the sin of Onan.

*****

I met a woman at the Fine Arts Society: the sonnet messenger, and as soon as she saw me, as if preparing to assault the Bastille, she screamed frightfully: Down with poetic liberty!

*****

Who does the blind man's wife dress for, asked the philosopher, in search of a pretext for an impossible lecture. For the night and touch, responded the blind man, who was an insufferable idiot.

*****

He looked so happy and confident that I couldn't resist: you are in no condition to write poetry, I warned him didactically.

*****

I think, therefore I am;
and the defense responded:
Objects exist,
therefore they think.
And insisting
on just that point,
I pushed the vase, that had
till then been our pretext,
to the floor:
And they suffer — I added —
in silence.


*****

Clapping his hands, the librarian called out lustily: Books, back to the drawing room!

*****

Zinnias, verbena, petunias,
and a ladybug like a drop
of blood made gloomy
by double sixes.

*****

I let go of the tape recorder, let go of my imagination: let's go out and hunt ideas, I merrily told myself.

*****

Homage to William Carlos Williams:
What could have become of the messenger boy who went up the glass elevator carrying a bouquet of peonies. A little boy too young for so much responsibility!

*****

She dreamt that, as a mythological creature, her mane was turning to ivy, and she awoke to find it knotted among the furniture, invading everything. It is said that she lived in fear, afraid that a gardener might come to prune it.

*****

She hated the number 17 because it was discourteous and offensive, and she saved all her charms for 18. He is soft and malleable, she would comment in moments of great intimacy.