Postcards

I’m thinking about you. What else can I say? 

The palm trees on the reverse 

are a delusion; so is the pink sand. 

What we have are the usual 

fractured coke bottles and the smell 

of backed-up drains, too sweet, 

like a mango on the verge 

of rot, which we have also. 

The air clear sweat, mosquitoes 

& their tracks; birds & elusive. 

Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one 

day after the other rolling on; 

I move up, it’s called 

awake, then down into the uneasy 

nights but never 

forward. The roosters crow 

for hours before dawn, and a prodded 

child howls & howls 

on the pocked road to school. 

In the hold with the baggage 

there are two prisoners, 

their heads shaved by bayonets, & ten crates 

of queasy chicks. Each spring 

there’s race of cripples, from the store 

to the church. This is the sort of junk 

I carry with me; and a clipping 

about democracy from the local paper. 

Outside the window 

they’re building the damn hotel, 

nail by nail, someone’s 

crumbling dream. A universe that includes you 

can’t be all bad, but 

does it? At this distance 

you’re a mirage, a glossy image 

fixed in the posture 

of the last time I saw you. 

Turn you over, there’s the place 

for the address. Wish you were 

here. Love comes 

in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on 

& on, a hollow cave 

in the head, filling & pounding, a kicked ear.
Margaret Atwood

The World is Too Much with Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon;

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth

Matthew 25:30

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness:

there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.



The first bridge on Constitution. At my feet

the shunting trains trace iron labyrinths.

Steam hisses up and up into the night

which becomes, at a stroke, the Night of the Last Judgment.

From the unseen horizon,

and from the very center of my being,

an infinite voice pronounced these things–

things, not words. This is my feeble translation,

time-bound, of what was a single limitless Word:

 

 

“Stars, bread, libraries of East and West,

playing cards, chessboards, galleries, skylights, cellars,

a human body to walk with on the earth,

fingernails, growing at nighttime and in death,

shadows for forgetting, mirrors which endlessly multiply,

falls in music, gentlest of all time’s shapes,

borders of Brazil, Uruguay, horses and morning,

a bronze weight, a copy of Grettir Saga,

algebra and fire, the charge at Junin in your blood,

days more crowded than Balzac, scent of the honeysuckle,

love, and the imminence of love, and intolerable remembering,

dreams like buried treasure, generous luck,

and memory itself, where a glance can make men dizzy–

 

 

all this was given to you and, with it,

the ancient nourishment of heroes–

treachery, defeat, humiliation.

In vain have oceans been squandered on you, in vain

the sun, wonderfully seen through Whitman’s eyes.

 

 

You have used up the years and they have used up you,

and still, and still, you have not written the poem.”

 

 

Jorge Luis Borges

–Translated by Alastair Reid


In Spanish:

El primer puente de Constitución y a mis pies

Fragor de trenes que tejían laberintos de hierro.

Humo y silbatos escalaban la noche,

Que de golpe fue el juicio Universal. Desde el invisible horizonte

Y desde el centro de mi ser, una voz infinita

Dijo estas cosas (estas cosas, no estas palabras,

Que son mi pobre traducción temporal de una sola palabra):

—Estrellas, pan, bibliotecas orientales y occidentales,

Naipes, tableros de ajedrez, galerías, claraboyas y sótanos,

Un cuerpo humano para andar por la tierra,

Uñas que crecen en la noche, en la muerte,

Sombra que olvida, atareados espejos que multiplican,

Declives de la música, la más dócil de las formas del tiempo,

Fronteras del Brasil y del Uruguay, caballos y mañanas,

Una pesa de bronce y un ejemplar de la Saga de Grettir,

Álgebra y fuego, la carga de Junín en tu sangre,

Días más populosos que Balzac, el olor de la madreselva,

Amor y víspera de amor y recuerdos intolerables,

El sueño como un tesoro enterrado, el dadivoso azar

Y la memoria, que el hombre no mira sin vértigo,

Todo eso te fue dado, y también

El antiguo alimento de los héroes:

La falsía, la derrota, la humillación.

En vano te hemos prodigado el océano,

En vano el sol, que vieron los maravillados ojos de Whitman;

Has gastado los años y te han gastado,

Y todavía no has escrito el poema.