Pavilion of Nothingness

I join the screw
posing questions in the wall,
a lackluster sound
color covered with a blanket.
But I falter and momentarily
blind, I can barely feel myself.
All at once, I call to mind,
with my fingernails I tunnel
a tokonoma in the wall.
I need a tiny hollow,
it’s there I go diminishing
to reappear anew,
to touch myself and set my forehead in its place.
A tiny hollow in the wall.

Multiplier of weariness 
the café I’m sitting in,
the insistent daiquiri
returning like a face of no use
for death, for springtime.
With my hands I trace the length
of a lapel that feels cold to me.
I wait for no one and I insist
on someone’s pressing arrival.
All at once, with my fingernail
I draw a tiny crevice on the table.
There it is, the tokonoma, the hollow,
I’m in company unrivaled,
a corner conversation in Alexandria.
We’re together in a round
of skaters through the Prado.
He was a child who inhaled
all the tenacious dew from the sky,
even then with the hollow, like a cat
that circles the whole body
with a silence full of flickerings.

Within reach of what surrounds us,
and close to our body,
the stubborn notion that says our soul
and its enwraptment fit
inside a tiny hollow in the wall
or on a tissue paper scratched with a fingernail.
I’m diminishing
I’m a point that disappears and returns
and a fit full-length inside the tokonoma.
I make myself invisible
and on the verso I recover my body
swimming at the beach,
encircled by bachelors of art with banners of snow,
mathematicians and baseball players
describing sapodilla ice cream.
The hollow is smaller than a deck of cards
and it can be as big as the sky,
but we can shape it with our fingernail
along the brim of a coffee cup
or in the sky that falls beside our shoulder.

The beginning is united with the tokonoma,
in the hollow a kangaroo can hide
without forfeit of its bounding joy.
The apparition of a cave is
mysterious and begins to disentangle its dreadful.
To hide there is to tremble,
the hunter’s horns resound
in the frozen forest.
But the hollow is soothing,
we can lure it with a thread
and usher it in to insignificance.
I scrape the wall with a fingernail,
slivers of lime crumble down
as though they were shards
from the celestial tortoise shell.
Is the barrenness in the hollow
the first and final path?
I fall asleep, in the tokonoma
the other still walking is the one I evaporate.

Used with the permission of the University of California Press, from Selections: José Lezama Lima, edited by Ernesto Livon-Grosman, 2005; permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.