from Oxen Rage

Juan Gelman

Seeing the particulars

the wonderful woman she was that evening lodged in her sweetness oh how
                                                                                          she would yield
of herself tender of herself along the remotest of streets the trees the patios
faces as if surrendered to the scandals of forgetting
the whore the most lovely so full of sudden women
like regrets like guilt spattered about the air
seamen beckoning storms would dream them up in cabins
ever rocking concocting them with backs to the brine
tall women black and beautiful mothers the salvos of their flesh
breast-rich thigh-rich those child-bearing sufferers traveling through Dakar
it was Dakar precisely
the sergeants of l'armée coloniale and the stevedores cloaking their rage
                                                                                          with their bodies
yvonne enfolded in flames pursued by golden boars
the whore the most gorgeous
with barely her mulatto flesh to counter the world her celebrated body
acclaimed in borneo caressed beloved yvonne the capital of diverse
                                                                                          catastrophes and oblivion
written on the walls of all that booze
yvonne who loathed the french
through her eyes all the blind men in the bazaar would walk
pustules of the medinah the worldwide pustules
sad furies falling from the coda of her breasts

For now

twilight slithered in through the window the motionless masts
huddled all quiet to keep from annoying this twilight
that had entered from behind the market inching toward the counters
where men lingered searching within their wine involving themselves
besieged by women from the south
edicts from their breasts like so many mellow foghorns
twilight was anchored in that port with a hazardous languor
arriving from africa the great devourer
offloading beasts of sadness guns traps bogus ebony
twilight lord and master
advanced winding through the old marketplace meting out intimate blows
binges of love above all catastrophes of sweetness
faces beneath the wine
that rolled in around dusk to grow like some unease
like the odor of hags sifting through the trash in the port of Santos
and it was 11 in the glory of this soaring day but not above this grand woman
                                                                                          among women
the soft honey lost in the saliva of so many of these men
torn to bits and pieces devoured grown old with eyes gone dry like
the evaporation of longlastkisses
the plunders of the shadows hags
foraging for oranges rotted fish leftovers from the show
close to their dust hags avid for the doors of the dance hall
where fabulous sailors smelling of monsters blindly swayed
against those dead breasts exchanging the sea for the beer-whores
where do these things happen
where do these things where will the dregs of love wind up
how will they echo in the ages to come
answer if you please grand children
cruel in your compassion


the suns are sunning and the seas still seaing
the druggists are specific
dictating delicate prescriptions for shock
breaking fast in their great beakers

my thing is to gelman
we have lost our fear of the great stallion
successive hatchets are upon us
and it always dawns upon our testicles

it's no small thing that this should happen to us
in light of the love misdealt these days
the decks of catastrophes the debts
beloved be those who loathe

progeny that peck about at my livers
and their disgrace and grace is to not be blind
great mother marie
great father steed
giddy up gelman on i say
go gelmaning on to meet the most beautiful ones
those who launched victories in their great defeat

Other questions

what was i to find in the country of wine?
who? what faces or what face?
the engineer who was lost at sea forty engines ago?
dylan thomas's donkey?
your body so desired beloved unexpected? what body would i find
consumed emberbraced by night like some long donkey
that brays like machines like the sea
who knows how that goes but ten centuries ago
leif ericson founded this vikinged belching country of wine
rather brutish he likewise fornicated beneath the celestial glory
and you miserable souls hide away your pallid finales in bedrooms
shielding your bodies with shadows like milkless jennies
something in this world has changed and your body is as strange as forty
and the engineer lost at sea was shining
phosphorescent like leif ericson when ten centuries ago
he pinned  a woman to the earth
and the earth took on the color of their bodies
and your body was the only land where i was overcome

translated from the Spanish by Lisa Rose Bradford