Thursday, February 9, 2012

José Emilio Pacheco, "Tree Between Two Walls," trans. Gordon Brotherston and Ed Dorn

Trapped between two nights
(between two armies who unthread and rewind
the unending sound of their reciprocal guarantee;
between two pits, two waiting basins
tense with water dull to the edge;
between two skies rushing together;
two eroded cliffs that throw themselves by habit down into crabbed stark halves;
two chains of mirrors, grand navigable walls;
two winged beasts each biting the other's tail),
the day shines,
turns on its air and its memory;
lets fall its dates, its cities, its faces.
The day,— prompt horseman, flaking angel —
raises its great sword of clarity;
its sword a sea of light which rises keenly,
like a cup lips never touch and in it the concentration of the world,
or the flower stem which rams the marble of this defenceless question
— devouring eye, carnivorous fiesta in the thickness of the clock upon the minute.

The day is consumed in its progression
and its ruins are spread over a scorched demesne.
But you, Señora, thrive on this long obeisance,
on the bare edge of this occurrence which reaches us from the distance,
from some riddled sky in which order
is beginning to crush the bloodless stones.

The day passes over my forehead just as the sea warps thought;
walking, the day grows old and I look at its back,
its broken palmer's feet, galleyslave's feet, its footstep chained
until it touches the suns who conquer the abyss.

And while the day journeys to the red gateways
— the extremes of punishment, frontiers where all permanency ends —
the night displays its gift, its hair ablaze, — its light,
its tongue which stains all things with darkness,
its face no one any longer looks upon;
a river-spate it is which takes wings
and rises to tear down eyes from their hypnotic demesnes.
Night wars and dreams in its fluvial territory
— a wellspring absorbed into the hour which oars on
until it is sunk in an eyelid.

Then, when the impenetrable and hollow day
begins to rise and snakes and laughs,
then I let fall your name:
a sheaf of roman letters which like a wild river sound.
And from your name the moon and its splendid lineage rise;
but your name reaches me lank and used, an unkept promise,
a delusion which has sailed out from eyes in ruins,
a conquered island which flares and is consumed:
a dull coin I hid in the air.

But that face, a tower which watched over the water of summer was your face,
a tomb of hollow quicknesses in which the world excavates a testament
while an abandoned night pays court, in each valley,
in each crenelation of the space
that unchanging wind ploughs.

Everything is clear my love;
everything is the whirlwind and fleeting wind;
everything interrogates and accuses us.
But nothing answers,
nothing persists, nothing rises against the journey of the day,
the sun is unwound and no longer pulses and is a cry in the desert;
each resurrection is an insult
and to awake is the corrupt a dream.

Behind us, time fights against the sky
like a snuffed thing that flickers beyond its ending,
a harp without sound on which the wind plays the tune of its own wear;
the blaze darkened by the moss and water at the foot of the plateau;
a great tree flowing
on the moving lode of its fluency of sap,
the wall of darkness
where the world abandons our entwined name;
the end of the burning
— this long slow fire ingesting its own brilliancies face downward —
but it is invulnerable
— despoilation, sweeping defeat —
because everything ends above the night . . .

Because everything is extinguished upon you, strange shore,
smiling plantation, where the thunder buries its sounding.
Like burning ivy you scale yourself,
reflect, like crystal, your inflexible whiteness.

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