from Edinburgh Notebook

Valerie Mejer Caso


Once the ocean is spent, its hollow converts to steel, and all the oddly propped boats are ready to tumble onto that empty plate. I have no sun in this world, no ocean. What can I do with these daggers, heaped where the mountain used to be? Some piece of history has left us shaking, like when a great wind jingles the bangles on a frightful crown, has dragged the rain and waterfalls to a distant atmosphere. Water’s time is captive. In it, the groom clenches his eyes and takes in the night of another body, and that breath flickeringly lights the shack, the palm trees, the people drinking in silence. It brightens his face like a planet. Light enough to burst the sphere and spill its liquid down the street where the sea is still evaporating and the boat, with no way to steady itself, lurches. On their bloody evening, the trees stir, the broken jugs rejoin along empty paths. There is a mountain made of teeth. The last of our water hovers around the king, in his bath. No river feeds into the sea. Its runnels are just writing. Stories about water, reedy paradises, cities looped in canals. Debouchment tales. And to think that you and I were right there, standing, when you were alive, in Veracruz, in that effluvium where the sand shone blue and the orange moon had the glint of a good omen. On that rocky reef into the bay, we watched the bride melt in the milk of clouds and new stars. On the mountain, the trees could stand witness. Now is the echo. The landscape is a big spoon, and the words are still searching themselves, alone in the storm.  

Riding the Crocodile

This is my fresh blood: their bodies.
My husband entering her. Covers her, thickens her, 
unties her hair, her mouth.
           I howl
through the halls of their new house. My daughter and her headless mother
buy two tickets to the apocalypse.
A crocodile ferries a woman over the waves.
(It’s a painting by Kobayashi Kiyochika.)
One of my sentences hits an atmospheric peak.
Rises to that godless night where dogs gnaw
butterflies in repose.
Come down, my God. Unlock
your bite and blow, nudge the clouds.
Nudge the waves. So we reach the beach. So our bleeding clots.
Or let it dissolve in the ocean’s dusk.
               So, in a window in the future, an old woman forgives.


I was reading the Portrait d’une femme and listening to Janet Barker
when I thought of your eyes
and other fugitives from ultramarine minds.
Reading and listening was your stage, when the proscenium
spilled over with marbles (you watched your step)
rolling like worlds.
But you walked forward. 
The curtain lifted, and the seats were packed with fathers and mothers,
as if it were a school play.
In that scene, Ezra Pound told you, “You're patient,
on the ready for whatever floats up,”
and the parents didn’t understand, but they shed a few tears,
which they wiped with the backs of their hands. At the sight of them,
                                                                                      Pound rose
and stood for the rest of the play
gazing at the sky on set.
He did right, because the rest of the poem does you no justice,  
and the air tinted indigo, and the gathered tears
left under the sea.
There the marbles melted like sugar cubes.
As you swam to the surface, I thought back   
to your favorite novels and told myself,
how great, how great, what a blue intelligence. And the song ended.
Your children mopped the theater
as you walked out onto a French street, to cry for the rutty water,
the grim tablecloths with mildewed silverware,  
and with a single step, you abandoned
that audience, which glimmered like gold on the dead.

Sixth Movement (Transfigured Night)

“I assume this is the closest I’ll ever be to a dragon.”

The green meteor already crossed the dawn. The ones who fought in real life for equality and freedom were already old. One was in the hospital. The other wrote books. They lived separate lives, but now and then, they remembered a shirt, a drink, a song, like medals of bravery, for having tethered their feet to the other shore. They made that place in the distance by walking on water, trailing fish. Someone betrayed them, and they lost their battle. Having lost, one turned into a pigeon; the other went to jail. Years passed, and their battlefield littered over with propaganda and domestic animals. The meteor on its long trajectory swept through our sky sometimes, and the pigeon took wing on the eve of deceit. From dusk to dawn, the prisoner lured it with crumbs. The green glow crowded out the constellations, and all acts of cowardice waited for dawn. I knew about the meteor’s never-ending rounds, and I always walked home scolding myself: Aren’t you sick of this spectacle, of how it feeds your painful hope? Why don’t the pigeon and the prisoner write the names of the brave in the sky, until that glittering list crowds out the stars? But the lemon-green flame was unforgettably luminous, and before I even reached my house, before I opened the door, its brightness had entirely occupied my mind.

translated from the Spanish by Michelle Gil-Montero