Translated by Robin Myers

I don’t understand how we walk around the world
as if there were a single way for each of us, a kind
of life stamped into us like a childhood injection,
a cure painstakingly released into the blood with every passing year
like a poison transmuted into antidote
against any possible disobedience that might
awaken in the body. But the body isn’t mere
submissive matter, a mouth that cleanly swallows
whatever it’s fed. It’s a lattice
of little filaments, as I imagine
threads of starlight must be. What can never
be touched: that’s the body. What lives outside
the law when the law is muscled and violent,
a boulder plunging off a precipice
and crushing everything in its path. How do they manage
to wander around so happily and comfortably in their bodies, how
do they feel so sure, so confident in being what they are: this blood,
these organs, this sex, this species? Haven’t they ever longed
to be a lizard scorching in the sun
every day, or an old man, or a vine
clutching a trunk in search of somewhere
to hold on, or a boy sprinting till his heart
bursts from his chest with sheer brute energy,
with sheer desire? We’re forced
to be whatever we resemble. Haven’t
you ever wished you knew what it would feel like to have claws
or roots or fins instead of hands, what it would mean
if you could only live in silence
or by murmuring or crying out
in pain or fear or pleasure? Or if there weren’t any words
at all and so the soul of every living thing were measured
by the intensity it manifests
once it’s set free?


Tomboy

Yo no sé cómo se hace para andar por el mundo
como si solo hubiera una posibilidad para cada cual,
una manera 
de estar vivos inoculada en las venas durante la niñez,
un remedio que va liberándose lentamente en la sangre
a lo largo 
de los años igual que un veneno
que se convierte en un antídoto

contra cualquier desobediencia que pudiera
despertarse en el cuerpo. Pero el cuerpo no es
una materia sumisa, una boca que traga limpiamente
aquello con que se la alimenta. Es un entramado
de pequeños filamentos, como imagino que son los hilos
de luz de las estrellas. Lo que nunca podría
ser tocado: eso es el cuerpo. Lo que siempre
queda afuera 
de la ley cuando la ley es maciza
y violenta, una piedra descomunal cayendo 
desde lo alto de una cima

arrasando lo que encuentra. ¿Cómo pueden entonces
andar tan cómodos y felices en su cuerpo, cómo hacen
para tener la certeza, la seguridad de que son eso: esa sangre,
esos órganos, ese sexo, esa especie? ¿Nunca quisieron
ser un lagarto prendido cada día del calor del sol
hasta quemarse el cuero, un hombre viejo, una enredadera
apretándose contra el tronco de un árbol para tener de dónde
sostenerse, un chico corriendo hasta que el corazón
se le sale del pecho de pura energía brutal,
de puro deseo? Nos esforzamos tanto
por ser aquello a lo que nos parecemos. ¿Nunca
se te ocurrió cómo sería si en lugar de manos tuvieras garras
o raíces o aletas, cómo sería
si la única manera de vivir fuera en silencio o aullando
de placer o de dolor o de miedo,
si no hubiera palabras

y el alma de cada cosa viva se midiera
por la intensidad de la que es capaz una vez
que queda suelta? 

Related Poems

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities

To be a good
ex/current friend for R. To be one last

inspired way to get back at R. To be relationship
advice for L. To be advice

for my mother. To be a more comfortable
hospital bed for my mother. To be

no more hospital beds. To be, in my spare time,
America for my uncle, who wants to be China

for me. To be a country of trafficless roads
& a sports car for my aunt, who likes to go

fast. To be a cyclone
of laughter when my parents say

their new coworker is like that, they can tell
because he wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t,

can’t be one of them. To be the one
my parents raised me to be—

a season from the planet
of planet-sized storms.

To be a backpack of PB&J & every
thing I know, for my brothers, who are becoming

their own storms. To be, for me, nobody,
homebody, body in bed watching TV. To go 2D

& be a painting, an amateur’s hilltop & stars,
simple decoration for the new apartment

with you. To be close, J.,
to everything that is close to you—

blue blanket, red cup, green shoes
with pink laces.

To be the blue & the red.
The green, the hot pink.

Dear Melissa: [a curve billed thrasher]

a curve billed thrasher
is cleaning its beak on the ground—
we are closer now than ever—sitting
in shadow—I never want to scare
anyone—not really—I have a friend
who loves people who come out
suddenly—in the dark—
                                    pleasure
is the same distance as pain from here—
that’s my skin on your sweater—both hands
stripped now—I know I am someone
to you I am entirely—practicing
Spanish on the computer—gesturing to
the neighbor instead of speaking—
                                    to sharpen
the body is never an accident—someone
I know I am not—letters are inseparable
from loss—moving what can be still
moved—one is sweeping the mouth—
what ever isn’t skin—take it off—

We All Return to the Place Where We Were Born

What remains of my childhood
are the fragmentary visions
of large patios
extending
like an oceanic green mist over the afternoon.

Then, crickets would forge in the wind
their deep music of centuries
and the purple fragrances of Grandmother
always would receive without questions
our return home.

The hammock shivering in the breeze
like the trembling voice of light at dusk,
the unforeseeable future
that would never exist without Mother,
the Tall tales that filled
with their most engaging lunar weight our days
—all those unchangeable things—
were the morning constellations
that we would recognize daily without sadness.

In the tropical days we had no intuition of the winter
nor of autumn, that often returns with pain
in the shadows of this new territory
—like the cold moving through our shivering hands—
that I have learned to accept
in the same way you welcome
the uncertainty of a false and cordial smile.

Those were the days of the solstice
when the wind pushed the smoke from the clay ovens
through the zinc kitchens
and the ancient stone stoves
clearly spoke
of the secrets of our barefooted and wise Indian ancestors.

The beautiful, unformed rocks in our hands
that served as detailed toys
seemed to give us the illusion
of fantastic events
that invaded our joyful chants
with infinite color.

It was a life without seasonal pains,
a life without unredeemable time
a life without the somber dark shadows
that have intently translated my life
that slowly move today through my soul.


 

Todos volvemos al lugar donde nacimos

 

De mi infancia solo quedan
     las visiones fragmentarias
          de los patios tendidos
               como un naval terciopelo sobre la tarde.
 
 Entonces, los grillos cuajaban sobre el aire
     su profunda música de siglos
          y las fragancias empurpuradas de la abuela
               meciéndose en la noche
                    siempre recibían sin preguntas nuestra vuelta al hogar.

La hamaca temblando con la brisa,
como la voz trémula del sol en el ocaso;
el futuro imprevisible
que jamás existiría sin la madre;
las leyendas
cargadas de su peso lunar más devorador;
—todas esas cosas inalterables—
eran las constelaciones diurnas que reconocíamos sin tristeza.

Entonces no se intuía el invierno,
ni el otoño que retoña con dolor
entre las sombras de este territorio
—como el frío entre las manos doblegadas—
que hoy he aprendido
a soportar
de la misma forma en que se acepta
la incertidumbre de una falsa sonrisa.

Eran los días en que el solsticio
acarreaba humaredas polvorientas
por las ventanas de las cocinas de zinc
donde el fogón de barro milenario
decía oscuramente
el secreto de nuestros ancestros sabios y descalzos.

Las rocas deformes en nuestras manos
     parecían darnos
          la ilusión de eventos fabulosos
               que invadían nuestras gargantas de aromas desmedidos.

Era una vida sin dolores estacionales
     Vida sin tiempos irredimibles:
          Vida sin las puras formas sombrías
               que se resbalan hoy lentamente por mi pecho.