Driven by a Strange Desire

Mónica de la Torre
I. Before Breakfast


When the sun turns gray and I become tired
of looking at your many-colored shoes


I will give you balloons for all the holes
we speak too much to fill. Who believes


in air, nowadays? Or do you prefer tea
with the dried fruit I will have to throw out


the window of your room? Because I want
this to stop I want this to stop I want this


II. Towards Moorish Spain


To kill the dragons is a different thing
in my family there are only lizards.


In Sevilla--never famous for its lamps--
a dissected crocodile hangs from a roof.


The reptile, the Crown’s Byzantine gift. Its teeth
suspended in the air of the cathedral.


I stole a pair of shoes; but didn’t run far
from the orchard where water had women’s scent.


Thirst is not fear, thirst is not green, but has wings
like dragons, or airplanes. As oranges


in Sevilla, driven by a strange desire
to stay where they are. Floating. Suspended.


III. Towards Virgo

The Milky Way is not only expanding;
the Bang is not only a Bang. It is drifting


and being pulled away from, let’s say, something.
Because dark matter is ninety nine of what


there is and visible matter is so small
it clusters together and forms a Great Wall.


China and Spain and my eyes reading the paper.
We are still together, are we not, wondering if.

More by Mónica de la Torre

Demolition Derby

                  Sonya's so good that all the guys 
pick on her, so the evening's narrative goes. I've heard she wears 
yellow t-shirts each time to match her hair. Last time her tennis 
shoes got so dusty that she had to throw them out because there 
was no way on earth that they could be white again. 
                  Trunks shrink like deflated accor-
dions, like melodramatic arguments after they've met face to 
face with someone's indifference. A baby cries and pouts 
while her mother is trying to scoop more Velveta on to her 
nacho. The father is strung out on something, someone in 
back of us says. A teenager with severe acne turns around 
and fires a dart full of cavities into my gaze. We give in to the 
pleasure of destruction for the sheer sake of waste. What 
inside, the collision, the jerk on the nape that makes the 
driver wonder whether this one's it. Swallow me dust while 
the crowd cheers and claps its French fries away into the 
space between a nearby neon and the floodlights gathering 
an army of many sized moths.

The Script

I.
You thought this would be 
a dance lesson,
things were easier then.
No marimbas, no clarinets;
only a longing for the fun
to begin.
Rain came down.
Nothing seems as remote
as the days you didn't 
have to think about it:
always already there,
gushing out. Control
was required to stop ideas 
from overflowing. 
You did your job well, 
you killed them as one kills Easter 
baby chickens. 

II.
Rasputin was on the lookout.
Magdalene had multipurpose hair:
Kumernis had it in stocks 
where and when she needed it,
on her beard especially. Anything 
to keep the Barbarians away
will do. Chopped noses, 
rotten chicken stuffed in corsets. 
We were told that the demons 
would come out in Maine. 
They hate recollections and certainty. 
Their favorite verb is sabotage. 

III.
Rasputin helps one to recognize inspiration; but, oh, what 
   could imagination be?

To retrieve, to plunder, to forge.

To be bored. 

To rip kites so they may stay on the ground.

To forget jokes and misunderstand common sense. 

To sit for four hours without getting up. 

To count words and people and only remember their 
   numbers. 

To listen closely to what loons could be trying to say.

To permutate dots so that lines are never identical to 
   each other.

To return to known places and act always the same, 
   thus the slightest change might become apparent. 

To force things to happen.  

To pretend there's meaning when all that comes out is a 
   "My dog loves me and he's no showboat."

To think there's nothing to say. 

To leap from canopy to can openers to can open her.

You've begun, now use your props.

On Translation

Not to search for meaning, but to reedify a gesture, an intent.

As a translator, one grows attached to originals. Seldom are choices 
   so purposeful.

At midday, the translator meets with the poet at a café at the intersection 
   where for decades whores and cross-dressers have lined up at 
   night for passers-by to peruse.  

Not a monologue, but an implied conversation. The translator's 
   response is delayed. 

The translator asks, the poet answers unrestrictedly. Someone 
   watches the hand movements that punctuate the flow of an 
   incomprehensible dialogue.

They're speaking about the poet's disillusionment with Freud. 

One after another, vivid descriptions of the poet's dreams begin to 
   pour out of his mouth. There's no signal of irony in his voice. 
   Nor a hint of astonishment, nor a suggestion of hidden meanings,
   rather a belief in the detritus theory.

"Se me aparece un gato fosforescente. Lo sostengo en mis brazos 
   sabiendo que no volveré a ser el mismo." 

"Estoy en una fiesta. De pronto veo que el diablo está sentado frente 
   a mí. Viste de negro, lleva una barba puntiaguda y un tridente en 
   la mano izquierda. Es tan amable que nadie se da cuenta de que 
   no es un invitado como los otros." 

"Anuncian en el radio que Octavio Paz leerá su poema más reciente:
   'Vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . .'"

"Entro a un laboratorio y percibo aromas inusitados. Aún los recuerdo." 


The translator knows that nothing the poet has ever said or written 
   reveals as much about him as the expression on his face when he 
   was asked to pose for a picture. He greets posterity with a devilish 
   grin. To the translator's delight, he's forced to repeat the gesture at 
   least three or four times. The camera has no film.