The Lady from Shanghai

Roberto Echavarren

If I whip you or you whip me, in your red-bandana crime,
in the atmosphere of a torch-lit pavilion,
in the rock garden, police raid of destiny
in a black night near the sea,
an ancient remorse for having murdered the brother
precisely for wearing a red bandana
relentlessly embedded in matte flesh, burnt on the island.
Toward the paradise of my dreams, in the bow, he, the bulky man,
with melancholy grin at the diagonal cumulus,
she, with golden hair and sailor’s cap,
whose short visor cuts her face diagonally;
if I love you, it’ll not be for the rudder nor fear nor an oar;
in the next scene the angel considers suicide.
But leave the Caribbean and head for the Golden Gate.
There green light shines in the backlight of the streetlamp,
and the wolf, with its teeth, cuts out its prey.
The sea turns you red as it does the red instrument,
foreskin first, shark or seabass
become dolphins on a shield; the city and the whale,
heraldic lineages affix you to the wall.
But, if we say goodbye between sudden dusk like an interference
of the climate and the timetable,
the civic abyss will make life
a question of coughing or ice, the virgin lad
deeply buried by the hungers of a knife.
In support and in delight
the blind man seeks his seasoning;
although a greedy windfall
upsets reason.
The blind glance, the empty pond,
and where I look for gold marrows of forearms
have been put in debt up to my ass.
So the lesson in anatomy parts muscle and nerve,
marinates between fingers dried cords on hooks  
that tomorrow we’ll have to endure on the gray chopping block or pig meat.
Endure them like a loan made by the state,
following the law of greatest profit
or the abstract law of the largest number,
infinite like an ox prod.
So the dying to one side
and on the other him for whom they kill the heifer or call the thing off.
To study the stars with the geometric method
or to weigh down the dragging foot.
If you snug the necktie around your throat,
or, if you don’t wear a necktie, you make from the luminous Adam’s apple
citronella at the edge of the mirror, phosphorescent,
in the foyer of your nakedness,
in both cases you will leave in triumph.
Because the battle has not been decided with your own cremation.
Finally, knowing that thefts occur at night,
that sunrays only gild the last stages of sensation,
already at early dawn you will have fled.
A fish grabs your penis, a hook your neck,
a kingdom your waist, the flood of your teeth your ancestry,
the whitewash of torture the needle,
the rigidity of jade your eyes,
the bag of your body thread,
the tree upon the blazing up of your thread,
wind-tousled bushes, your new consistency,
as green grass your falling body.


translated from the Spanish by Donald Wellman