from Hemispheres

María do Cebreiro


—ONCE I tried to kiss a song,
it didn't pull away, it kept on playing
till the final bar.
—Are you serious? With you poets
one never can tell. You're idealists.
—Do you think I can quit?
—You could try thinking before you open your mouth.

(That afternoon, in the café, she was about to ask him: open your eyes, then she'd enter them,
hold her breath.
—How many seconds?
—All of them.
—You should be careful. When the divers
go down they can lose
consciousness. Sometimes they let themselves sink
to the bottom. —As though pleasure
were stronger than life.
—They take to fondling the seaweed. They don't come back.
—Is life an instinct?
—Life is what we have.)

—If you look at me so intently,
I'll end up thinking that you can get in.

(They live as a couple. They are not a couple.
Nor are they friends exactly.)

—I met a guy. Sometimes
we would talk, one day I turned away.
If we crossed paths again
I don't think I would recognize him.
—Did anything happen between you?
—You mean did we sleep together?
—Yes. I'm imagining
his hand between your legs.
—The curious thing was that he wasn't doing it
to get me to open up.
He said he couldn't sleep.
—A long time ago?
Actually it was three nights.
He wasn't looking for treasure. He was shy.

(They have a father. But they're not brother and sister, either.)

Sometimes I think: even if I repeated myself
a hundred times
you still wouldn't get it.
—Is that why you talk, so I won't understand you?
—Actually I talk so that you will still be there.

(She goes out, zips up,
she's wearing headphones. —Music keeps me warm.
—What if someone says hi and you don't hear them?

—There are two speeds:
voice and silence.)

—You ever set a dumpster on fire?
Graffiti a wall?
Smash up a pay phone?

—Sometimes it bothers me that you don't respect pauses.

— Would you mind if I put you in my poems?
—Not if I'm with you.

S/he'd let go. (S/he'd let go.)


BEFORE being caught they opened their hands,
let the net fall, for once unaware
of the metal. No one else was there,
barely the feeling
that they were beginning to know one another
on the inside. —Let's change the subject.
Do you think that when the rain stops
we will be different?
–One image to look at forever: What would
you pick? You know what they say,
that you see your life go by
and there are images you were holding onto
without knowing it. Unless
it's possible to pick just one,
like when you enlarge a photo.

(They stop. They pick up again a bit later.)

–You'd be the kind to start a fire.
I'd try to make a little bonfire
and then it would spread.
–In either case the fire
is under control at first. Nobody cares
if it was a miscalculation, it's your intentions
that count.

—Who was it who said that you can't trust
people who always go around
with their shoes untied.

—As I'm listening to you I'm seeing
the sheets, getting softer
the more worn out they get.
Is that what you meant
when you were talking about work uniforms?
Lately, as you know, I've been thinking a lot
about mistakes. Could it be true that sometimes
we read so as not to see?
—It depends on what you read. What are you reading?
—No, for once I'd like
to talk about what's outside, seriously. Say,
at what point did you decide
to stop being ironic?
Just about anything can be learned,
but it's so difficult to forget
certain things.

—I think it's not a matter of forgetting things,
but of changing one's habits.
The wear that makes your bed soft
ruins my work clothes.
—I'm sorry, I just wanted
to try out some of the words
I've never been able to say.
—"Free them from consciousness
that they may dwell in the body."
They'd be better off not wasting their time
in your mind, in my mouth.

(They are both thinking about the words
"industry", "unions")

—Being in the world, coming back to reality, that
doesn't mean loving the facts. It means working
so that other facts are possible.
—No, I think that above all it means
thinking of others, working with others.
—And how to you do that in front of a computer?
—You mean intention. (Here s/he stops.)
For that you need a kind of bravery that's bigger
than silence.

(They leave a lot of things unsaid.
On the street, cars go by. The lights of the city
begin slowly to darken the conversation.) 


(AFTER ALL, s/he wasn't as intelligent
as the tests said.)

—We can only measure that which doesn't matter to us.
—Speak for yourself. —I can't.

They were next to the cinema, in a convenience store.
He hadn't had dinner yet.

—Is there someone at home waiting for you?

(This time she doesn't like it that he refers to the context.)

—He was in a hurry and I was hungry.
We'd been out all day.

—You said you didn't like him.
—I said he was difficult.

To really listen to her, you had to

Sometimes she closes her eyes.

—Do you find difficultness seductive?
—I find distance seductive.

To talk to her you have to wait.

She likes it when people ask her

—How are you? —Overwhelmed.
—Do you go out when you get overwhelmed?
—When I get overwhelmed I escape.
—Do you go to the movies or the supermarket?
—I don't buy anything. I browse.
—What you like about the supermarket is the light.
—I go to the eleven o'clock show.

In the dark she can let the screen wipe away
everything. She leaves before
the credits roll.

—Will you come with me to the ATM?
It's hard for him not to notice
the mechanics of it, the way the card slides
through the slot
barely touching it. He wonders
if she will let him go in with her.

—Are you coming?

It seems more like a necessity
than a show of confidence.

When their coats touch
he looks for his face in the camera.
—What am I to you?
—Can we avoid that kind of talk?

As she punches the keys, she says something very offensive,
something that would be rather inappropriate to repeat
here. She does it just to measure the distance, because
she can.

The machine is reliable, it keeps giving instructions
until the paper comes out.

Want to see? I have income, I have
a good last name.
He meets her gaze.
—Shall I write a dedication on the back?
—Put the dedication right over the numbers.

She waits to be inspired.

—Promise you won't read it till you get home:

"and I think that someday you won't be able to avoid writing a poem that says to hell with everything, and you'll go back to the poetry that you used to write when you were younger, the stuff you never showed to anyone and that couldn't even formally be considered beneath you." 


THE BOOK is sexless. The book is a tree.

She was like morning frost.
He wore a ring on his little finger.

—I don't want to thaw you,
I only want to see the grass
beneath your body.

And if we have ideas
it's because the frost will come to retrieve them.

What deed splits our history in two
if we don't have a history,
only these verses?

—I barely remember my childhood.
I'm falling asleep.
My little head resting on the table,
while the others are talking.

—Was it the language of the dead,
the language of your dead?

—No, and she looked down.

—It was the language of school,
it was the language of machines.

—Intimate is a word we use
for what is deep inside.

—The poems I've kept are the ones that don't close down.

—Or the ones that don't open up?

—I'm looking for a lost language,
the one that came before me.

If I write I occupy space.

—Like astronauts?

—Almost like that, almost,
but without the flag.

Without planting it in the ground,
without raising it up.

—Not even the one with the river
that crosses it corner to corner?

—Not even the one with the black field.

Her voice quavers as she reads.
As he listens he spills wine on the table.

Vibration is the rhythm of desire. 

translated from the Galician by Neil Anderson