Rogelio Guedea (Mexico, 1974) is a poet, essayist, novelist and translator. He is the author of thirty-five books, including Mine fields (Aldus, 2013), Life in the rear window and other portable stories (Lectorum, 2012), Wristwatch: a chronicle of Mexican poetry (UNAM, 2011), and The crime of Los Tepames (Random House Mondadori, 2013). This novel reached the bestsellers list in Mexico. He is a columnist for the Mexican newspapers El Financiero and La Jornada Semanal. Rogelio coordinates the Spanish and Portugese Programme at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Megan Saltzman (from Kora, Spain, Rialp, 2009)
Peter Broad (from Free Fall, Auckland, Titus Books, 2009)
A woman doesn’t become with the shadow of spring,
nor does she become a woman like your shoulder with a chunk of the night you forgot.
Nor with the eaves of a country house, nor
with the hand that wears a glove.
A woman like your body that’s being born doesn’t become five minutes
before leaving for work. In the middle of breakfast: no.
Not during lunch with her colleagues either.
A woman is something different than a back leaning against a tree.
She is a different heron.
And she doesn’t become by writing about her day by day, or deleting her night by night,
not even thinking about her does she become,
she is not a date when we should meet
nor a white handkerchief for waving goodbye.
A woman is always something else,
she is beyond the lakes or buildings,
life insurance or a bank account cannot assure her life,
retirement or a rental home,
no one could intimidate her with a cut-throat razor
or soften her with a bouquet of white roses.
A woman does not exist because you exist,
she doesn’t transform with what you are or are not,
she doesn’t belong to you.
A woman is simply a man with good manners,
whether you want it or not, and she’ll always allow you to fall, you first,
into the next abyss.
Celebration of the Heron
Poetry is not for saving yourself. Not for saving anybody.
Poetry is not for crossing a river,
not for tangling a magnolia in an ear.
Nor is it for riding a bus without paying.
To enter the cinema through the manhole, poetry is not for that either. Nor is it for raising a wall to hold back the sea.
It’s no good as a train seat, as a pillow on high-altitude airplanes, poetry is not for making the girl in the apartment next door fall in love,
if you think that’s what it’s for, you’re mistaken.
It is not for that, stupid.
Poetry is not a painkiller to help you sleep.
It won’t take away your insomnia, instead it would make it worse, it would tighten your jaw.
Nor will it save you from a police fine. Not even from the sign that reads busy in a public bathroom.
Poetry only saves itself. Not you, or your grandma,
it is savior of its own free will.
It writes itself to save itself, it uses you like an old glove to save itself, it starts occupying your body, your hands, your eyes, your nose.
Occupying you until it makes you disappear.
One day you wonder and you’re not there, the house dismantled, the windows closed.
A sign that says: For sale. Inquire for more information.
lake without its blackbird,
and again born already grown standing up with its glow,
his hand, his jawbone, his closed bird,
another handle its spoon far away
lejos but noiseless star that you do not see, foot spinning around
all arch in order to start from the one to the two from the two
junction of its smell, imitating the stream of the holy virgin
from the town of José,
who used to eat it up (big bites): Suchitlán, 1996.
a rock blind from its movement,
a word that is and another
that lives its silence, together, crouched down/
(New Zealand, 2006)
to begin his bond: country, woman,
trains bridges routes (sic)
and a window: looking out to measure the distance
of the air from his foot to his foot,
of the flight from his eye to his eye,
of his hand that writes foot and eye to his hand that hushes leaning against
his old station without prophecies,
searching for his parts from the other side of the sidewalk:
his foot’s street,
an eye watching him cry
in the distance
(going here, coming there):
and then, on the corner
the man clutching his branches, his circle of infinite seas,
his shell above
and from below:
recovering tress and walls, watches and cornices, a boat
that was passing by carrying it,
brought towards its heron/
with a fishhook in the water’s limits, river without luggage or
don jorge’s verses
(all the rivers are going to end up…)
and a wave falls,
falling another inlet/ /
tied to its abysses (an abyss can also be
the sum of two houses)
and to its shadow (a shadow without pajamas or hammer),
retracing the corridors of memory,
his uncertain path,
one day and beyond,
until (his hand) arrives at my country,
in order to say –again, anew-:
these holes you left.
homage to wittgenstein
the thought of the word, its going toward the center: fallen
wings, doors half-open
and all that in order to flee
or enter, again, in even narrower geographies:
like the geography of your body,
your wet eyes at night
your hands love the impossible
a withdrawing goodbye en retirada
an anchor of sadnesses
a bird converted into a distant country/
the thought concentrated on itself
-thinking about the word that says it-
made by the emptiness of a used coin,
undecipherable, like your hair/
between your body and what I say (what this faraway language says) there are no
no one can be save from your abyss:
the fall always in its archipelago of dust
returning the air that was not his, sticking it in a little bag
the sock’s little bag
his evening without feet nor pumpkin
full of cold inside like thorns,
but thinking about what he left
of being by taking a step back:
counting monday tuesday lunes martes
mooing ox around its green meadow
and she (who was not she but her cricket)
expecting that the fountain is a fake, the candelabra, the boiler and its truck,
also the city and up to his hair,
all that is a lie (deceit accused with the finger) except his waiting
he/it hopes so/
he does not really want to say anything, the days repeat themselves,
his name becomes again (and his hat between parenthesis) //
someone that mentioned the hat
between parenthesis, he made it underline a flying bird,
a friend that was writing letters with flying birds and branches and that sea
sticking it in the little bags,
the socks’ little bags,
there (as over there and with you) everything fits,
(everything from napoleon to his left shore fits, his death in waterloo),
kermit the frog fits and kermit himself
sancho panza and the honorific Balzac
in the little bag,
melancholic little bag, reminder of future occurrences,
always well dressed for the photo,
and everything (even oblivion)
for strolling on.
Translated by Megan Saltzman (from Kora, Spain, Rialp, 2009) Premio Adonáis de Poesía 2008
Round trip ride
I have arrived home after a bicycle ride with my son. Like every afternoon, we rode through the cobblestone streets of the neighborhood, here and there greeting the trees, the gardens, the dogs, and the children we met on the way. My son enjoys the bicycle rides more than anyone, especially when we climb steep hills or enter steep terrain. While my being can’t resist the temptation to think about the future, household debts, lost friends, my work commitments, things I have to do tomorrow, his is poured completely into the landscape that he is discovering at every turn. It’s curious to see how our movements, so different, so distant, come together for a second on the same path, and how in a moment of carelessness the soul of my son is fused and confused with mine as if fate didn’t want to deny me the unrepeatable opportunity of living twice.
A closed room
The body of my wife has no history. Like the poem, her nakedness never ends. The body of this woman I love is unending purity: her rivers where I get lost, her breezes that overwhelm me. Look at her here in front of the mirror, this morning. Unknown and certain, unforeseeable and alone. I love her since I don’t know where. I love her since I don’t know how. What bird gave birth to this love of being at her side? From what sea this hurricane wrapped up in her silence? The body of my wife before the mirror, her back to my eyes, has no history. Like desire, her nakedness is always beginning.
Words that I said and have forgotten. Papers, drafts, desires. Poems that I wrote in airports. In bus stations. En train stations. Poems that never went anywhere or that came back from everywhere, with no destination. People that went by, little girls with their eyes stuck on a goodbye, arms that embraced the impossible. And then the conversations. Talking about my country with that woman. Remembering what her back was like before I ran into her. The parks, the avenues, the restaurants, what they were like without us. A desire to turn me into the man that she once had. A desire that she again be the words that I forgot.
A woman who is used to saying yes in the most unlikely situations in life. A woman who is at once a sea full of gulls, a reclining sofa, and a heater for cold nights. A woman who can’t guess your thoughts. A woman who appears and disappears according to the appearances and disappearances of other women. A woman who always has in her pocket an airplane ticket to a remote country. A woman whose name everyone forgets the next time she says goodbye. A woman who has more moles on her back than dreams in her left eye. A woman who changes her lips every day at daybreak. A woman like a looking glass. A woman like a rear view mirror. A woman like a kaleidoscope. A woman who is the main character in all the books you ever read. A woman who never dies and comes back to life. An urgent woman, an unavoidable woman, a fathomless woman, like your own shadow.
What can the word stone and the word night be in the midst of so many stones and so many nights? What can that birdless tree be in the midst of so many birdless trees? What can that crashing wave be in the midst of so many waves that have crashed and that are yet to crash? And the ships? What can the ships that sail away or return to port be, and the women who see them off with their white handkerchiefs or welcome them with baskets of fruit? What can time be in the midst of so many calendars, and calendars in the midst of so many empty hours? What can my mouth that kisses and my hands that caress be in the midst of so many mouths kissed and so many hands? And God? What can God be, indivisible and unique, in the midst of himself, God without God to ask for an answer or a clue, God without even the word God to protect himself against forgetfulness: that unceasing rain?
Words to postpone death, to invent a world where you don’t have to be born and even with so little to be happy, to watch the same days from the back, the sea, the streets of a city populated with pigeons and people in love. A garden, a trolley, my son on his tricycle on that avenue in Paris: the first thing that comes into my memory. The night wind eroding the reality of writing. Words like a stone wall against the river of time. Or to be for an instant a character in a story that doesn’t end. A story that always begins but doesn’t end. And may its strength lie in that: to walk around the fountain, to be inexhaustible like the warmth of its waters.
The sea ends also
Words take on the form of their own sadness, when they are sad; or of their own happiness, when happy. But there are words that fall silent faced with an afternoon like this one, they can’t manage to make out all that their eyes can see, they are dazzled by the wonder of the sea. No words exist to heal those defeated words, overcome by their own silence. And one should then turn to the image of an afternoon like this one, and set off down that path of the solitary child, and not turn one’s back. Those who know the craft, know that no one should name himself twice with the same word: not even in order to go back to the place left by absence.
Translated by Peter Broad (from Free Fall, Auckland, Titus Books, 2009)