A SMALL POEM FOR MY FATHER
WHILE WAITING FOR A LONG
AND EXTENDED CONVERSATION
WHICH VERY PROBABLY
WILL NEVER TAKE PLACE
With you I can't talk
even though my eyes
and my nose be yours
—as they've told me—
or that I have been
your greatest mistake
—so they've suggested—
and that, in a certain way,
it’s you, not me, who walks
—which is what I suspect—
when I walk on the street.
THE MADHOUSE TREE
He knocked on all doors and none opened,
he looked at every window but all were closed.
It was a way of saying:
"There are more doors and windows
than you’ve ever dreamed of."
He appealed to the highest courts of justice
and he humbled himself before a lot of people,
he acted the clown in the streets.
His family almost forgot about him
but one day they found him in a madhouse,
where the more he announced his soundness
the more they thought his madness deep and cureless.
So during the hours he spent in the courtyard
he learned how to become a tree,
and then the wind, as it swayed its leaves,
produced a subjugating song
and made music when it shook its branches.
THE THINGS I HAVE BEEN HIDING
The things I have been hiding
under the stones,
among the skeletons,
in the dust, in chairs, in sheets of paper,
in my guts,
throwing thick, viscous
like the snot of dirty politicians.
I opened my eyes and they told me
to do like the blind in the country of the blind.
Later they taught me words
and they advised me to close my mouth
unless it were to repeat that already repeated
and to be meek to reach the kingdom of heaven.
They told me what I could do, believe or wish,
and I moaned at night under the sheets
because I was not as holy as Saint Louis Gonzaga.
They come back those things I have been piling
by the roadway to forget them.
They come as if they had feet,
they speak if they had a mouth,
the patio where I more or less warmed myself,
the rooms in darkness and the light,
the mortal and the venial sins,
the last day of school
the waltzes in the "Home" movie theater,
and all those children's parties
with those gifts I gave that had been given me.
They come as if pushed by the wind,
that icy whistle from the high moors,
and they take me by the hand
to take a walk on the very same street
with the beggar woman, her tatters and her dogs,
with the child sleeping in his case of whisky
Johny Walker who keeps walking,
with the sexton masturbating
in front of the Virgin with her beautiful boy in her arms,
with the man waiting for death in the corner,
with the man waiting for life in his makeshift bed,
with all those alive and all the dead ones
and colder than I ever will be in my tomb.
THE TIME MACHINE
The clock has lost its hands
and man marks time with his,
always turning around on his own axle,
noisy voyager of space,
that vast silence
unbroken by his voice or his cries
or his erratic passage through the world,
the ungratefulness of a prodigal son
who never returns,
till the hour of his death,
to the great Mother Earth who gave him life.
The clock has lost its hands
and man marks time with his.
A MAN OF MY AGE
I travel in front of a man of my age
bearded as I am, but bent down.
His eyes are lost in emptiness,
I doubt it's his hands he's looking at.
He moves in a strange and desert territory,
his time is not my time,
it’s not me he’s interested in, in any case,
safe and sound, my back straight, after so much.
A moment later I watch him
burying his head in his hands,
pick his ears, read loudly cuttings
of some Miss Lonelyheart’s column,
as if he were reading a speech,
and finally take out a little notebook
at which he peers page after page
and where he writes a word,
a single word or two, from time to time.
What does he write?, I ask myself
trying to understand why there is chaos
in that body which could be mine,
why it’s not him who’s examining me.
I went by him
And I heard him say
He has nothing on which to lie
But the hard, cold ground.
He talked about himself in the third person,
A prolongued psalmody of griefs,
That human wretch
With swollen legs,
Who sleeps in the street
Near my house.
And some nights
He also paints a sexy woman
In erotic scenes by the sea,
Born, like Venus, from the foam.
They were sweet love ballads
Sung by an indian mummy
Under a sign that said:
In big, red letters,
While like a scalpel
The wind from the moors
Cut into his body
And deepened the wound of memory.
That night I wished I could dream his dreams
in that moment, again,
but in another bed, in another time.
A PIOUS WOMAN
She knocks against the walls,
She stops here and there
To catch her breath.
Two blocks take her one hour
From her hovel to the church,
Two hours the way back
From the church to her hovel.
Among paper saints and saints of plaster
She babbles prayers, she practices hope
and the Holy Spirit comforts her,
the Sacred Heart guides her every step,
the Blessed Virgin mediates for her
and even the beautiful Jesus
pays her a visit from time to time.
The sea, immense and blue,
deep tomb of pirates and treasures,
was far away
behind the mountains.
It was an absence.
The rivers were also absent:
Their waters under the earth
flowed, dense and dark,
and beauty also hid,
it rarely went out on the street
but sometimes she peeked
with the sun in the patio
or in the eyes of the cat on the roof,
and voyages had to be imaginary,
poor, lukewarm daydreams
in the cold corners
where all roads began,
so every voyage had to be a project
and every project
a secret, unspeakable voyage,
and the vacant plots where I used to play football
were soon filled with houses:
One had to walk very far to find a place
where there were no strangers.
The walk home from school:
That simulacrum of The Odyssey.
Translations by Nicolás Suescún
Nicolás Suescún was born in Bogotá, Colombia. He is a poet, short story writer and translator. Suescún is author of an “antinovel”, Los cuadernos de N (1994), which has become an underground cult book among Colombia’s young people. He has published four books of short stories — El retorno a casa (1971), El último escalón (1974), El extraño y otros cuentos (1980) y Oniromanía (1996) — and several collections of poetry, among them, La vida es, 3 A.M (1986) and Bag Bag (selección) (2003), of which he made a selection in La voz de nadie. His poems as well as his short stories have been included in many anthologies. Suescún is also a graphic designer and journalist — he regularly writes on world affairs, now in Cromos. The collages with which he illustrates his work in magazines have been displayed in various exhibitions.
Nicolás Suescún translated into Spanish Rimbaud’s Une saison en enfer, Illuminations and Le Bateau ivre; Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Balzac’s Seraphita; Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens; and selections of Bierce (Aceite de perros y otros cuentos macabros) and Robert Louis Stevenson (El príncipe Florizel) — as well as many other books of literary criticism, history, anthropology and business. Not yet published are his translations of The Black Riders and The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane; Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake; and a selection: Un verde pensar bajo una sombre verde — Six poems de Andrew Marvell. Suescún has translated individual poems of many other poets. He also translated the work of Mario Rivero and Raúl Gómez Jattin into English.