Friday, July 18, 2008

Poems and a translation by Kory Martin-Damon

Three poems by an amazing young poet, the Cuban-born, Seattle-based poet Kory Martin-Damon, from her manuscript in progress Blue, Yellow, Red, followed by her translation from the Spanish of a poem by Coral Bracho.

Poetry is

a country of loss. Everything within
its borders weeps. Memories are
mannequins in windows, their naked arms
displayed in thoughtful poses. Here
are the tears of loss collected in opaque
vases, the salt of them like frost filming
the glass. Here is the hole everything
disappears through. Here is Cassandra
calling into the wind. Her hair has come
undone. Her eyes are mad, her words torn
from her mouth. She is the muse of poetry.
The poet listens to her and believes her
no more than anyone else does.

In it my childhood swims

I take my coffee sweet and light.
I learned from my mother
how to drink it, when to drink it, and why.
My father took his coffee twice a day, upon
rising and when he came home from work.
My mother could not drink it—this dark,
smoky flavor drowned in sugar. Her stomach
would not tolerate the acid. But every morning
she would sneak a tablespoon into her mouth,
as if she were fooling the body beneath her
clothes. She smelled of soap in the morning,
sweat in the evening when she came home from work.
Sweat and a strange odor like burnt plastic.
One time she came home with a burn on the palm
of her hand. Her mind had drifted off the conveyor
belt, into some place where the tropical breezes
teased the sweat in her hair, where the sky was
wide open and promising, no cloud anywhere in sight.
Maybe she was dreaming of eating beans and rice,
or guava pastries. The next day the burn had
swelled to a pus sack. As she made coffee
for my father and harangued me for getting up
again before I had to, she was careful with
the hot coffee maker. She was careful to look
at me so that I would understand why a child
does not get up at 4 a.m. even though the kitchen
smells of coffee I’ve yet to taste, and mother
is there smelling of soap, her face clean, her
hair all in place, before the day has time to weary
her, before conveyor belts get to nip at her hands,
before her eyes begin to dream. She is there,
with that spoon of sweet coffee, her hand shaking.

“Father rocked me later by the water…”
--Lynda Hull

What must it be like? What must it be like—
that when a father holds his daughter,
a father simply holds his daughter?

What must it be like, to have a door in the heart
that swings with each kiss, with each hug, with
every touch? The echoes of its swinging,

that breath of air that whispers, “You’re home.
You’re home. You’re home.” The child listens
and knows, little rifts and tears healing with

each breath. What must it be like, arms strong
and warm, that feeling of never having to fall
through the lies of them, through arms that conspire

with a heart where the worm has made its way,
eating and corrupting until the wood
is a filter through which blood leaks, meaning

nothing. This child knows because her heart’s
door never swung, never whispered, screamed instead,
slamming shut before she could spell the word “door.”

A poem by Coral Bracho (born in Mexico City, 1951),
translated by Kory Martin-Damon

Love is its own half-closed being

Aflame in the forests of time, love
is its own half-closed being. It opens
its marmot snout and inextricable
paths upon paths spill forth. This is the path
the dead
return upon, the luminous place from which
they shine. Like sapphires under sand,
they make their beach, they make their intimate waves,
their flint flowering, their white, drowning,
erupting foam. This is how it whispers in the ear: of the breeze,
of the water’s calm, and the sun
that brushes,
with delicate, igneous fingers
the vital freshness. That is how it speaks to us
with its shell-like candor; that is how it reels us in
with its light that is stone,
and that begins with the water, and is a sea
of impregnable deep foliages,
and that only so, at night,
allows us to see
and ignite.

El amor es su entornada sustancia

Encendido en los boscajes del tiempo, el amor
es su entornada sustancia. Abre
con hociquillo de marmota,
senderos y senderos
inextricables. Es el camino
de vueltade los muertos, el lugar luminoso en donde suelen
resplandecer. Como zafiros bajo la arena
hacen su playa, hacen sus olas íntimas, su floración
de pedernal, blanca y hundiéndose
y volcando su espuma. Así nos dicen al oído: del viento,
de la calma del agua, y del sol
que toca,
con dedos ígneos y delicados
la frescura vital. Así nos dicen
con su candor de caracolas; así van devanándonos
con su luz, que es piedra,
y que es principio con el agua, y es mar
de hondos follajes
inexpugnables, a los que sólo así, de noche,
nos es dado ver
y encender

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