Sunday, June 9, 2013

José Lezama Lima, "Thoughts in Havana," trans. James Irby

Because I dwell in a whisper like a set of sails,
a land where ice is a reminiscence,
fire cannot hoist a bird
and burn it in a conversation calm in style.
Though that style doesn't dictate to me a sob
and a tenuous hop lets me live in bad humor,
I will not recognize the useless movement
of a mask floating where I cannot,
where I cannot transport the stonecutter or the door latch
to the museums where murders are papered 
while the judges point out the squirrel
that straightens its stockings with its tail.
If a previous style shakes the tree,
it decides the sob of two hairs and exclaims:
mi alma no está en un cenicero.

Any memory that is transported,
received like a galantine from the obese ambassadors of old,
will not make us live like the broken chair
of the lonesome existence that notes the tide
and sneezes in autumn.
And the size of a loud laugh,
broken by saying that its memories are remembered,
and its styles the fragments of a serpent
that we want to solder together
without worrying about the intensity of its eyes.
If someone reminds us that our styles
are already remembered;
that through our nostrils no subtle air thinks forth
but rather that the Aeolus of the sources elaborated
by those who decided that being
should dwell in man,
without any of us
dropping the saliva of a danceable decision,
though we presume like other men
that our nostrils expel a subtle air.
Since they dream of humiliating us,
repeating day and night with the rhythm of the tortoise
that conceals time on its back: 
you didn't decide that being should dwell in man; 
your God is the moon
watching like a banister
the entrance of being into man. 
Since they want to humiliate us we say to them:
el jefe de la tribu descendió la escalinata.

They have some show windows and wear some shoes.
In those show windows they alternate the mannequin with the stuffed ossifrage,
and everything that has passed through the forehead
of the lonesome buffalo's boredom.
If we don't look at the show window, they chat
about our insufficient nakedness that isn't worth a figurine from Naples.
If we go through it and don't break the glass,
they don't stress amusingly that our boredom can break the fire 
and they talk to us about the living model and the parable of the ossifrage.
They who carry their mannequins to all the ports
and who push down into their trunks a screeching
of stuffed vultures. 
They don't want to know that we climb up along the damp roots of the fern
--where there are two men in front of a table; to the right, the jug
and the bread that has been caressed--,
and that though we may chew their style,
no escogemos nuestros zapatos en una vitrina

The horse neighs when there's a shape
that comes in between like a toy ox,
that keeps the river from hitting it on the side
and kissing the spurs that were a present
from a rosy-cheeked adulteress from New York.
The horse doesn't neigh at night;
the crystals it exhales through its nose,
a warm frost, of paper;
the digestion of the spurs
after going through its muscles now glassy
with the sweat of a frying pan.
The toy ox and the horse 
hear the violin, but the fruit doesn't fall
squashed on their backs that are rubbed
with a syrup that is never tar.
The horse slides over the moss
where there is a table exhibiting the spurs,
but the perked-up ear of the beast doesn't decipher.

The calm with stumble music
and drunken circus horses in a tangle,
where the needle bites because there's no leopard
and the surge of the accordion
elaborates some tights of worn taffeta.
Though the man doesn't leap, there's a sound
of divided shapes in each indivisible season,
because the violin leaps like an eye.
The motionless jugs stir up a cartilaginous echo:
the shepherd's blue belly
is displayed on a tray of oysters.
In that echo of the bone and the flesh, some snorts
come out covered with a spiderweb disguise,
for the delight to which a mouth is opened,
like the bamboo flute elaborated
by the boys always asking for something.
They ask for a hollow darkness
to sleep in, splitting open, with no sensitivity,
the style of their mother's bellies.
But while they sharpen a spiderweb sigh
inside a jug passing from hand to hand,
the scratch on the lute doesn't decipher.
The indicated some moldings
that my flesh preferred to almonds.
Some delicious moldings riddled with holes 
by the hand that wraps them
and sprinkles them with the insects that will accompany it.
And that waiting, waited for in the wood
by its absorption that doesn't stop the horseman,
while not some masks, the ax cuts
that do not reach the moldings,
which do not wait like an ax or a mask,
but like the man who waits in a house of leaves.
But in tracing the cracks in the molding
and making a glory of the parsley and the canary,
l'etranger nous demande le garçon maudit

The musk ox itself knew the entrance,
the thread of three secrets
continued till it reached the terrace
without seeing the burning of the grotesque palace.
Does a door collapse because the drunken man
with no boots on yields to it his dream?
A muddy sweat fell from the shafts
and the columns crumbled in a sigh
that scattered their stones as far as the brook.
The roofs and the barges
safeguard the calm liquid and the chosen air;
the roofs that are friends of the toy tops
and the barges that anchor in a truncated backland,
scatter in confusion caused by a stuffed gallantry that catches unawares
the weaving and the obverse of the eye shivering together in masks.

To think that some crossbowmen
shoot at a funeral urn
and that from the urn leap
some pale people singing,
because our memories are already remembered
and we ruminate with a very bewildered dignity
some moldings that came out of the hunter's pecked siesta.
To know whether the song is ours or the night's,
they want to give us an ax elaborated in the sources of Aeolus. 
They want us to leap from that urn
and they also want to see us naked.
They want that death they have given us as a gift
to be the source of our birth,
and our obscure weaving and undoing
to be remembered by the thread of the woman beset by suitors.
We know that the canary and the parsley make a glory
and that the first flute was made from a stolen branch.

We go through ourselves
and having stopped point out the urn and the doves
engraved in the chosen air.
We go through ourselves
and the new surprise gives us our friends
and the birth of a dialectic: 
while two dihedrals spin and nibble each other,
the water strolling through the canals of our bones
carries our body toward the calm flow
of the unnavigated land,
where a walking alga tirelessly digests a sleeping bird.
It gives us friends that a light rediscovers
and the square where they converse without being awakened.
From that urn maliciously donated,
there come leaping couples, contrasts and the fever
grafted into the magnet horns
of the crazy page boy making a slick torture even more subtle.
My shame, the magnet horns smeared with a cold moon,
but the scorn gave birth to a cipher
and now unconsciously swung on a branch.
But after offering his respects,
when two-headed people, crafty, correct,
strike with algal hammers the tenor-voiced android,
the chief of the tribe descended the staircase.
The beads they have given us as gifts
have fortified our own poverty,
but since we know we are naked
being will come to rest upon our crossed steps.
And while they were daubing us in wild colors
so we would leap out of the funeral urn,
we knew that as always the wind was rippling the waters
and some steps were following with delight our own poverty.
The steps fled with the first questions of sleep.
But the dog bitten by light and by shadow,
by tail and head; 
the dog of dark light that cannot engrave it
and of stinking shadow; the light doesn't refine it
nor does the shadow nurture it: and so it bites
the light and the fruit, the wood and the shadow,
the mansion and the son, breaking the buzz
when the steps go away and he knocks at the portico.
Poor silly river that finds no way out
nor the doors and leaves swelling their music.
It chose, double against single, the cursed clods,
but I don't choose my shoes in a show window.

As it lost its shape on the leaf
the worm sniffed and inspected its old home; 
as it bit the waters that had come to the defined river,
the hummingbird touched the old moldings.
The violin of ice shrouded in reminiscence.
The colibri unbraids a music and ties a music. 
Our forests don't force man to become lost,
the forest is for us a harmonium in reminiscence.
Every naked man that comes along the river,
in the current or in the glassy egg,
swims in the air if he suspends his breath
and stretches out indefinitely his legs.
The mouth of the flesh of our wood
burns the rippled drops.
The chosen air is like an ax
for the flesh of our wood,
and the hummingbird pierces it.

My back is irritated and furrowed by the caterpillars
that chew some wicker changed into centurion fish,
but I go on working that wood,
like a sleepless fingernail,
like a harmonium that ties and unbraids in reminiscence.
The forest, breathed upon,
releases the hummingbird of the instant
and the old moldings.
Our wood is a toy ox; 
the city state is today the state and a small forest.
The guest breathes upon the horse and the rains, too.
The horse rubs its muzzle and its tail over the harmonium of the forest; 
the naked man intones his own poverty,
the colibri stains and pierces him. 
My soul is not in an ashtray.

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