from lo que dices de mi / what you say about me
Co-translated by Electa Arenal & Beatrix Gates

excerpt from Part II

there we were behind the brambles
etched by an engraving burr into the wood

we were there embracing, motionless
safe from the dogs of the house

we were there
like words chiseled by the song of the owl
like water restrained by the song of the lichen
like a medicinal root waiting for a woman struck ill

there we were in the thicket
safe from the happy racket of words
what you say about me what I say about you
words that say
get supper ready    the swing squeaks    wash your hands
I found that wine you like

we were there
without words
sunken like footprints in clay in the night
embracing, motionless like a ray caught on a tree-trunk
safe from Being and from There
dogs that bite the stranger who leaps over the wall of the house

there we were in the brush
a light rain drying on the laundry line
kissing each other slowly to detain the river
slowly seeking each other, finding each other out
to stop the freezing and unfreezing
to stop the clouds and the eagles
to slowly enter the room where questions sleep
to step out of time without leaving ourselves

there we were
without the bows without the arrows of words,
disarmed and alone like rust running down the iron railing
without the usual traps or binding words
without words streaming
like dried grass in a nest, embracing and motionless
like a butterfly on the horn of a bull
like a soldier dead in the trench
safe from the Pronouncement and from the Two of Us
ambushed and sad
licking ourselves from one never to another
plucking each other like strings on a violin showing changes in humidity
slowly folding into our burrow of desire
while the dogs go on barking and sniffing us out
while Saying barks and We bark
while in a chorus, words bark
what you say about me what I say about you
help me comb my hair    the milk’s gone sour
thanks for the sweater    thanks for your smile
today it’s your turn to do the dishes and mine to make the beds
yesterday you forgot to pick up the photos
the roses have wilted but not the geraniums

we were there
sowing seeds of fingers and mouths
pips, cores, ribs, hocks, tarsus
planting our tree of bones
tossing caresses like seeds in a furrow
plowing behind the heavy oxen of the spirit

there we were behind the brambles
not silent, because silence stems from words
besieged by ferrets and slugs
by pistils of the flower and bees, by the wind and a sheet of paper
not in silence because silence keeps still in words
safe from Being and There
gorging themselves with all of your words and mine
words like I think, the weight of words
that keep Being and There alive and excited, cracking their teeth
words on collection plates of silence
shattering, staining you with their cloven hooves, howling at those from
words that keep to themselves and loudly exclude others

there we were behind the brambles
like clover    mushrooms    insects
like asteroids recently fallen from oblivion
like the spiny thorny stem of the void
like the awkward students of the willow and the hill
like light bouncing from the walls of your body to the walls of my body
slowly removing the bricks
taking down the high walls around each other brick by brick to clear
                                                               a space in the forest between us
saving formulas for the time of chaos

there we were
sculpting light in the forest

there we were in the brush
like thieves without a past
thieves without a plan except to slip the trap of History
thieves with hands empty of emptiness
thieves with no picklocks    no flashlights    no gloves    no stopwatches
without gunpowder for the future or metal-cutters for the present
thieves without syntax or pistols
planted in a robbery like a key in a flower pot
planted in the blueprint for a house like pins in a bottle cork
planted in before and after like a javelin thrown at a gnu

there we were
soldiers in the night like the exposed planking of a boat adrift
sucked into ourselves for survival and being sucked down by all the sea
phantom shipwrecked inside a phantom

there we were
between forest and home
behind the brambles
safe from Saying    that shatterer of the spines of cats
safe from Being    that mole-catcher
safe from Us—stalker of sparrows
safe from There—growling at visitors
safe from the parade of words that crushes tulips and magnolias
what you say about me what I say about you
it will take me a whole afternoon at least to varnish the venetian blinds
your friend reminds me of the package of flour
I’ll hide in the gel when you take your shower
I saw you in my nightmare with thirty-two heads of lettuce
make a copy of this key    make a copy of your tongue

we were there
embracing and motionless like railroad tracks on the earth
like a glass to the water it spills
torn to pieces for a crow
disoriented, like a compass glued to a magnet
embracing and motionless like smoke and tree trunks
like the blackbird and its trills
the train, the earthquake and the passenger

we were there behind the brambles
not listening to the laughter nor the records nor the cars braking
                                                           as they rounded the bend
not looking at the colorful balloons
not smelling the fresh cookies in the oven
safe from the host, the Us at the party
safe from the Idiom of the juggler
safe from the Being that serves canapés
safe from the There that takes coats for the evening
embracing and motionless like sweet-water otters
like kites made of air
like clay on the potter’s skin
not sensing the dampness that soaks the hammocks and the
                   awnings and curls the hair of the dancers on the porch
not paying attention to the silence alive in all the words
what you say about me what I say about you
we’re going to your house. I can’t help myself— you’re my type. so much
                         the better for me. it’s just that I never go to bed with men
                         that I like. it ruins things when it’s all
                         over. there’s still time for you not to like me
                         give me half an hour. it’s late for time and it’s too late
                         for you I already like you a lot. I’m horrible I
                         swear it.
for me a gin I’ll continue with white
they’ve told me about you    they’ve said you are sweet and an optimist
money you know is only good for nothing    the more you have the less
                                                    you are
I’ve left the girls with my cousin

there we were
embracing and motionless
unoccupied like the benches in a plaza on a stormy day
deserted like the iris of a dead doe
dispossessed like a quarry full of reptiles
unseen like the tiles of a tower
safe from the Embrace and from Motionlessness
those rabid dogs that turn on their owners
safe from the Embrace that feeds your eyes to the octopus
                         betraying your rescue of the drowning man
safe from the Motionlessness that changes this dot into a

there we were
between the forest and the house
elucidated by the song of a forest and a house
elucidated by the humus, the husks, the praying mantis
clarified by the song of windows and doors
open to meaning open to the senses
penetrating what is other that is not other
falling from a bridge painted over water toward that otherness

crossing to the other shore on a raft of mirrors
clarified by the song that saves one from Other
clarified by the song that saves us from Between

we were there behind the brambles
absent from the lance tip traveling through us
                         like a beetle through the hollow of a tree
the lance tip no longer controlled either by the grip nor by the
                         curve of a draw
the lance tip that moistens the dried blood
                         a motionless string attached to our mouths
taken from the tortoise that spawns her eggs on the silent beach
taken from the strawberries and the mistletoe
beyond the Saying and the Us
those rats that break the eggs of the tortoise
beyond Being and There
the typhoon that razes the beach and silence
beyond strawberries compared to lips and beyond
                         mistletoe that keeps absent symbols
and present ones awake like the sky reflected in a lake
what you say about me what I say about you
I’d add a pinch of sage and of thyme
pain doesn’t help me understand the spikenard
that’s a good novel but better forgotten
when I introduce him to you don’t forget your gentle hypocrisy

we were there
etched by the engraving burr in the wood
etched by the engraving burr of the void

Jesús Aguado, b. 1961, Spain, is the author of the following books, among others: Los amores imposibles [Impossible Loves] (Hiperión Prize, 1990, Madrid); Libro de Homenajes [Book of Homage] (Hiperión Press, Madrid, 1993), El fugitivo [The Fugitive] (Pre-Textos, Valencia, 1998); Los poemas de Vikram Babu (Hiperión, 2000) [under consideration for English ed. as Like the Oar that Cuts the Current: The Poems of Vikram Babu, co-translated by Arenal/Gates]; Lo que dices de mí [What You Say About Me] (Pre-Textos, 2002); Heridas [Wounds] (Renacimiento, Seville, 2004); La astucia del vacío. Cuadernos de Benarés 1986-2004 [The Cunning of the Void: Benares Notebooks 1987-2004] (Ediciones Narila, Málaga, 2005). Editor and translator of several volumes of devotional and tribal poetry of India, his work has appeared in 40 poetry anthologies, including volumes in Italian, Portuguese, English, French, Romanian, and Swedish. Born in Madrid, he has lived, since the age of two, in Seville, Malaga and Benares (India); he presently resides in Barcelona.

Co-translators Electa Arenal and Beatrix Gates were awarded the 2003 Witter Bynner Translation Residency at the Sante Fe Art Institute to collaborate on selected works of contemporary Spanish poet Jesus Aguado; they produced a translation of the book-length poem, what you say about me. An earlier co-translation from Aguado's Like the Oar That Cuts the Current: Poems of Vikram Babu appeared in Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War. Electa Arenal's published work includes translations of Leon Felipe, Vicente Huidobro, Claribel Alegria, Gioconda Belli, Angel Rama and the critical edition and translation, co-authored with Amanda Powell, of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's, The Answer/La Respuesta, Including a Selection of Poetry. Beatrix Gates’ third book of poetry, In the Open, was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. She has been a fellow in poetry at the MacDowell Colony and VCCA, and as publisher of Granite Press, she published Ixok Amargo: Central American Women Poets for Peace ed. by Zoe Angelsey.


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