Five Poems

Raúl Gómez Jattin

AS IF YOU’D remember Isabel
of the hopscotch underneath your patio’s mamoncillo tree
of the rag dolls that were our children
of the boats from Havana
loaded with . . .
When you had golden eyes
like a peacock feather
and your skirts were stained with mango
As if!
you don’t remember
Whereas I      didn’t you notice today
haven’t they told you
Keep throwing pebbles at the sky
searching for a place where I can put my feet at ease
Making and unmaking figures on the skin of the earth
and my children are made of rag and my dreams are made of rag
and I still play dolls under the lights of
the stage
Isabel peacock eyes
now that you have five kids with the mayor
and a chauffeur in his Sunday best takes you around town
now that you wear spectacles
when we see each other you shoot me a “how’s life”
cold and impersonal
As if I had one of those
As if I still used one of those

THE POETS, my darling, are
horrible men, they are
monsters of solitude, avoid them
always, starting with me
The poets, my love, are
to be read. But do not heed
what they do in their lives

for making me weak
Thank you for these prisons
that set me free
for the pain that began with me
and does not cease
Thank you for all my supple frailty
Like your bow
Lord Love           

The Adoring God

I am a God in my town and my valley
Not because they adore me      But because I do it
Because I bow before whoever gives me
a few granadillas or a smile from his land
Or because I go to its rough inhabitants
to beg a coin or a shirt and they give it to me
Because I guard the sky with the eyes of a sparrowhawk
and I name it in my verses      Because I am alone
Because I slept seven months in a rocking chair
and five on the sidewalks of a city
Because I look at riches in profile
But not with hate      Because I love whoever loves
Because I know how to grow orange-trees and vegetables
even in the heat      Because I have a compadre
whose sons and wedding I baptized
Because I am not good in a way that is known
Because I love the birds and the rain and its wildness
that washes my soul      Because I was born in May
Because I know how to thump a thieving friend
Because my mother abandoned me precisely
when I needed her most      Because when I am sick
I go to the charity hospital      Above all because
I only respect whoever respects me      Whoever works
every day for bread that is bitter and lonely and wrangled
like these verses of mine that I steal from death        

A Likely Constantine Cavafy at 19

Tonight he will take part in three dangerous ceremonies
Love among men
Smoking marijuana
And writing poems

Tomorrow he will get up after midday
He will have broken lips
Red eyes
and another piece of paper for an enemy

His lips will hurt from having kissed too much
And his eyes will burn like lit cigarette butts
And that poem will not express his sorrow

translated from the Spanish by James Rumsey-Merlan and Camila Vélez Valencia