from Against the Current

Tedi López Mills


If I begin: what kind of darkness, muzzle engulfed by mud, what wall of water
slamming what dead horse against its finical bank, and where,
mock battle, what empty mold for a barely expected defeat precedes
this strife between beasts, this calculation of routines midway through a feeling;
or do I declare, down with the mask, brother, away with you, you're always turning
your cheek, snorting, confusing honor with prudence, and you know nothing of blood,
it never stains your glimmering light, lucid lean-souled brother, how did this animal
come to be your allegory, how does its death transcribe you, insert a devil
where all that thrives is the timid swell of a stream upon which mosquitos
and iridescent oil converge, splashing in the dirty enigma of a water
that voids reflection and moves its solipsism toward the center, I hear it,
come up with so many concepts to postpone you, talk around you, brother, tenderness
makes its own mirage, loves what slips away, never the body safe in arms
but only its escape, street horse, abstract mane, what do I touch in the red zone,
what do I break with you, brother, the shape of my time with you, its glass sarcasm,
its green vision taking in the obvious, nominalizing it, confusing pride
with intelligence, scoffing at so much secondary sun, never seeing the idea,
only the usury of its gleam, puritanical dictum, none of this took place, the chair seats me,
the table bends me, knows nothing except in description, narrowing, but did the mind
exist beyond the facts, was it dark, were there bones, a politics of ornament, for sale,
for free, gift or compensation, never seeing how it was, by way of the corpse,
by way of a law laughably postponed, shamefully common to the senses,
so much for the accuracy of any hypothesis, cackling until the curtain falls,
where am I going, my own brother, my collective brother, I don't speak the dialect
of social graces, when the dead kill the dead they end up bringing them back to life,
by sense or science, I'm not judging, my cynical caste is what suggests to me
horses upon an instant, trash dimly seen in that darkness where I peel my eyes
for brother as well as accomplice, although a discordant third already
is foretold, begins, bullet, bulk, to keep its feet, to waive refuge,
so that no one comes in peace.


               To raise up mystery where none exists is a frozen
               and graceless act, because it produces only emptiness.
                              —Baltazar Gracián

Ah, how the world tempts us, leonine light drinking from the streamlet,
unaware of the poorly described hole or in what person I will return, bringing
my burden back, having only what I began with, an object unsheltered, chalky
hillside that does not exist unless I perceive it, captive in a certain phrase,
my simplest brother, where do I place this day, its measly dust settling
somewhere, its vicarious charity, where do I place my being outside, or who decides
upon what occasion, good cause, my pity should be praised,
or why when I read do I lose hold of the game, foreground the facts
without experience, reading as if I've got it right just because I understand
the words, weighing subtleties between the lines, settling on a punishment for all this
false landscape, it's true I made it, but you took it further, threshold brother,
diffusely, all of those clashing colors, column of yours
so broken by its red, by its blue, no one in their right mind would commune
with that clarity, the maimed law of intimation knows nothing empirically,
slips away on a shortcut, mythical prowess, dressing the gods, pandemonium,
once there was a forest where today the barbed wire chokes on its own rust,
false, my melancholy brother, devotee of an unpolluted past, always longing
for yesterday, eating away at its portrait, its submerged parasite of briefest
utopia, water's face in the water, give it weight, I won't say the name, fury
of the multitude that demands a destination when they're barely wandering the hillside
one opinion after another, pasturing where they may, paltry symbol, bony cow
of what I think, unimpeded gap, dry plain, no place persists beyond,
shall we say, the blessed monarchy of my eyes, searching for something to save,
some crust of bread, my brother in absurdity, descending on that road
I refuse to retouch, ugly tangent of garbage, matter is ineffable,
a truth that cannot be destroyed, and anyway who would come along later to expose
a corpse, when so much of the mouth's light pursues it and not even a bone to survive
its secret, ear's gracelessness, let it be filtered by my mob, let it incur
in me with its prolonged series, black number, there goes my lion dragging it
like bloody bait, piercing it with its sharp teeth, will it expose the sun within,
incarnate an instant, kill the living body, and as for the one who would add more, again,
will my animal pass through to dismantle the attempt, to rip the theory apart. 


               How always the cipher appears
               under every avatar's line.
                              —César Vallejo (trans. Rebecca Seiferle)

Synthetic saint, my saint, my rat-and-plaster street, my alibi of imagined
mosaics among veins of a gold hardly to be recognized as such,
gold of an air that goes against gold, no one's gold, my habitual turn of phrase:
once more I don't know what I know, leafless trunk, hollow wood left over
when I construct myself, splinter of mine, not again, the bolt jumps out at me,
lacking the tools I postpone myself, pause of mine as I hear the structure,
the street itself where a sound is polished until it is as seditious as its idea,
undermining wary sight, look at the park, the park as process,
reality's onset, displacing the tree towards its archetype
when there is no story in reserve, no world inserted
with room to hold it, reticent brother, tugged by my refrain, the past
is only a duplicate of death, a worthless card, there's hallway enough for the long queue,
friends and enemies, blameless judges of yours, of mine, even the one who tells the story,
obsessive, city or person, it doesn't matter, since they both fall apart
here in the land of the living, ingenious, as if my threadbare emotion
could ever be true, my islet of slender curves, my climate
slow like the steam that barely rises from the wet print
on the asphalt, foot submerged in a whole sun, below that pending,
manipulative springtime, never so beautiful the violet streaked
by soot twisted in gray minor, where do I hang it, I tell of
beginnings, nature compels me, a noon without snippets of conversation
where the rodent witness could encroach, gnaw away the fault, the length
of rope left hanging until it comes to create a moldy coast
in its well, some kind of breakage, less assiduous water, I overtake your trail,
I think of you, water, spilling cleanly, I think of you with my ear, I negate the house
where the people live, initials with three faces, mixed writing,
hatred on the one hand, never through the letter, clumsily deducing
Byzantine blades of grass, listen to me, through all the artifice, and later,
nearly night, speaking Greek with the letters that are left, heaping up
the rubbish, nothing but chickens from here on out, sainted hen scratching
what was, ladies and gentlemen, what is, its unhinged banquet of slobber
as it foams into rage, chicken before reason's first water
grabs me, brother of mine, and confines you
to those grounds where I come to number supplications for sullen rites,
for closed doors, for punishment, like I said, who goes through me,
you being, brother, the innocent one.

translated from the Spanish by Wendy Burk