December 19, 2007

I still got dreams that
can keep me
from worrying about my age

Amy Sillman, Big Girl, 2006

Self Portrait at Twenty Years
-- by Roberto Bolaño

(translated from the Spanish by Laura Healy)

I set off, I took up the march and never knew
where it might take me. I went full of fear,
my stomach dropped, my head was buzzing:
I think it was the icy wind of the dead.
I don't know. I set off, I thought it was a shame
to leave so soon, but at the same time
I heard that mysterious and convincing call.
You either listen or you don't, and I listened
and almost burst out crying: a terrible sound,
born on the air and in the sea.
A sword and shield. And then,
despite the fear, I set off, I put my cheek
against death's cheek.
And it was impossible to close my eyes and miss seeing
that strange spectacle, slow and strange,
though fixed in such a swift reality:
thousands of guys like me, baby-faced
or bearded, but Latin American, all of us,
brushing cheeks with death.

-- by klipschutz

Death’s cheek he brushed, did he,
the Latin American poet? I brushed
my sleek black cat. Maybe we’re
not as far apart as at first blush.
My cat suffers from cardiomyopathy.
Lucky boy, he doesn’t know it,
my youngest and best friend,
as we brush cheeks, or at any
other time. The Latin American
died, waiting on a transplant,
just as he began to get his due.
My cat is blinking, waiting too,
for me to write a poem about him
as great as Smart’s paean to his cat.
He knows I cannot do it, still he
believes in me. The Latin American
had the same disease as me. I have
his disease but not his passport. He lived
a Latin American literary life, drifting,
roaming, feuding, starting movements,
ending others. My cat looks at me
with unsettling affection in his eyes.
Neither one of us, he thinks, will ever die.

Report to R.S.B.
-- by Leonard Cohen

Peace did not come into my life.
My life escaped
and peace was there.
Often I bump into my life,
trying to catch its breath,
pay a bill,
or tolerate the news,
tripping as usual
over the cables
of someone's beauty --

My little life:
so loyal,
so devoted to its obscure purposes --
And, I hasten to report,
doing fine without me.


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