from The Smoking Angel
Who Says Joy
Spring came and, of its hand
the tender leaves and early light
the pale sneeze of the almond tree
and a crystalline and radiant blue sky.
It is life which struggles among the ruins
of forgotten Eden.
I watch with skyward eyes,
and I sing the praises
of sudden pleasures,
and I tell myself that never,
never should a man conﬁne the scent
Aromas were made to ﬂy.
To burst, intense and deﬁant,
and then spread,
and evaporate at once,
and laugh, and end.
Of my ﬂowers I always ask
a brief, but new essence,
and if not, I destroy them.
I know why men
come into this world with two hands:
to give, with one of them, sadly,
what the other took with pleasure.
To leave the home of your elders,
their happy steaming saucepans,
the radical tulle that enveloped you,
and that love that would never end,
to embrace the worship and work
of a dwelling sick with bricks,
perforated with ruts and pigeons,
skeptical of kisses,
and risen to the edge of winter.
To climb that steep slope that ends
where a throat opens at your feet,
where it is the heart that closes.
The path is the same,
only no one sings anymore.
And to go back to the womb
that returns men to the earth.
My youth is going, and I don't understand.
As if I had mistreated it!
As if I weren't fully devoted
to stupidly celebrating it,
to following it in its moral orbits,
to burning in its hazardous wax,
and wrapping it up in its cold,
and assisting it in its birth of apples.
My youth is going, and one might say
that it is only abandoning me on a whim,
but as determined as ever.
Me, who invited it to dine on stars
and to dance on the porches of dawn.
It leaves me without rancor and it isn't to blame.
The blame lies upon this century, which weighs on me,
or upon this clumsy body, which fails me,
or on this plentitude in captivity.
I never asked it to go,
but how can I impede it, when no one
leaves so slowly and so in earnest.
Smoking is not a sin.
It's just a way of getting back
for the many ways that life has had
of hurting me.
I would preferred to have been a white cloud,
to be hard as ice,
to reign above,
to plate myself with glass,
and to never fall into the saucepans
that collect tears from the sky.
I would have rather
not sought my ashes in your embers,
nor donated my organs to the world.
But I don't know if you know
that there are men who between wounding and destroying themselves
prefer the latter.
I have opted for carrying with me always
a clot of foam in my throat.
The smoking angel,
a friend used to call me . . .
You were already somewhat dead,
all you who made of my life
a contraction of solitudes
and left me orphaned in that
room looking out over the empty.
You weren't there anymore when I thought
that before me, a calamity
of cemeteries outspread grimly,
an untrod carpet,
a valley uninhabited
and deaf as a battleﬁeld.
In those bitter moments,
I don't recall the telephone ringing.
You all left me here without a single
question or suggestion.
And you went out, fading
and you were like a shadow of blurred contours,
when I awoke from your absence.
When I knew that all of you
were completely dead.
translated from the Spanish by Emily Toder