Maybe Borneo

Pura López-Colomé

                                                          ...follow me and I will be your guide
                                         and lead you from here through an eternal place....

                                                                    —Dante, The Inferno, Canto I

From the nacre of any name
that starts a list to specify
one among others of a kind,
an unfathomable
tunnel opens
and a glimpse
of some equidistant equivalence.
—Not congruence.

I say
anthurium or narcissus
and so light up some ridiculously
pink-colored flower
or one with petals fringing
an endless depth;
a thicket,
and out of it comes
The Golden Age
when a forest could be
baptized beneficent.
Something says to me in secret:
if you would chant a litany
to that chaotic orchard of your childhood,
the caimito, nance, zaramullo, and chinalima trees,
it would all arboresce inside you.


None of this crossed your mind
when you fell together with the Indonesian prince.

The unnamable
held you
at a distance, in reverence.

He went looking for his daughter
who was, like himself or his ancestors,
a native of those landscapes
and knew them so well
she could never get lost
within, along, above, near, beside
those springs and whirlpools
familiar as the palm of her hand.

His life,
his filial bond to that territory,
held you
at a distance.  But not too far.
Not so far that
you couldn't hear
within the wind
the bestial bellow
of a soul
that had lost everything.

The man
the monarch
the father sobbed
before a child's corpse
on the riverbank.
And none of that undergrowth, undergrowth, undergrowth
could muffle his grief:

the names concealed
by sullen weeds
began to twirl
to the beat of a torrential,
cadenced rain,
lifting into the air as prayers,
as a seamless body,
a dirge
rising toward the north pole
or to wintry Antarctica,
seeping into the thousands of ways
to designate, in the here and now,
one color of white against another:
the color of virgin snow
and the color of snow frozen for months.
—a superlative albescence—,
the precise color of ice,
everything as much itself as the sweltering green
on the far side, the southern frontier,
that intense green, green of plants or malachite,
moss on stones, on the cliff,
brambles or heavy thickets,
what difference does it make,
and the color that denotes, connotes, notes
a fading away, a falling off, an endless
diminishment of shades and hues
little by little
satiating the nothingness
so later it might
flare up yellow or orange,
fiery as fruit
from New Zealand
or from some unimagined Borneo
in the Malayan latitudes
just a shout
away.  A vivid tearing apart.

Water of every kind.
From rushing, sylvan streams
to melting icebergs.
The same story.
The same tears
of rapture,
of being wrung out completely,
from top to bottom,
and left desiccated and then
persevering in the dirt,
recognizing the blood of my blood
right up into madness
or its equidistant equivalence.

From verb to verb
from forest to forest
from pole to pole
from thou to thou ...
In the Ngaju tongue,
it's understood,
or being known,
goes without saying.

A vague, indefinite pain
held you
on this globe
one foot in each hemisphere.
As absurd as it is human.
As human as it is divine.
As humbling as it is eternal.

translated from the Spanish by Forrest Gander