Two Poems

September 9, 2015
translated by 
Guillermo Arreola, Ni tú escaparás (2005), mixed media on canvas, 90 x 80cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Guillermo Arreola, Ni tú escaparás (2005), mixed media on canvas, 90 x 80cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Durability of Materials

                                 L’Art est long et le Temps est court.
                                       – Charles Baudelaire

The stone was here
before my birth, before
the birth of my father
and his father, my grandfather
and ten generations preceding,
and all the living beings
that people this planet
until this closing moment. 

I can only kneel,
venerate the moisture
growing stronger as I sniff
its odor: a chunk of forest,
that ancient moisture
emanating from caves
sunken deep in time.

We will depart
                              and the stone
will remain in the plaza, erect,
atop the pile of its own bones
which do not crumble
with haste
                             unlike our
body parts. 

Consistence of the world:
regard the mute corrosion
of flesh, so unlike the solidity
of millennia-laden textures; look,
the wasting envelopment,
the brittle bones sustaining
a tattered coat;
the stem which we ultimately are,
unlike the quarry or basalt
chilled by the alchemy of centuries. 

Man is not older than stone,
nor does he reach as far
                                         or outlive
what he has erected with his living pulse. 

He endures less than his creations.

 

First Call

One must recount what occurs
not in the upper registers of language
and its crust of foam 

but on the lower registers where
the flame bends
or the root shudders. 

One must turn the cone upside
down and denounce what’s settled at rock-bottom,
summon the roar of the sands
that the open sea
sifts. 

Take a deep breath, then dive.
Come up and report what you have seen,
in order to relieve those waiting
by the mirror of the surface. 

Much ink has smeared,
yet we’re still on tenterhooks. 

So. Cast a little more light on your predicament,
raise your lantern above the abyss
as you seek a key among the rocks.

 

Translations from the Spanish
By Anthony Seidman

Jorge Ortega (b. 1972, Mexicali) is one of Mexico’s most celebrated contemporary poets. His recent collection, Devoción por la piedra, won Mexico’s highly coveted poetry prize named in honor of Jaime Sabines, the Premio Internacional de Poesía Jaime Sabines of 2010. Other titles include Ajedrez de polvo (Tsé-Tsé, 2003) and Estado del tiempo (Poesía Hiperión, 2004). His work has been included in numerous anthologies in Mexico and the United States, including Across the Line. The Poetry of Baja California (Junction Press, 2002). His poetry and translations of such poets as Hart Crane have appeared in such journals as Letras Libres, The Bitter Oleander, The Black Herald Review, Crítica, and Structo.

Anthony Seidman is a poet and translator residing in Los Angeles. His work has been included in such journals as Chiron Review, Nimrod, World Literature Today, The Black Herald Review, Ambit, Cardinal Points, among other publications. He has a new collection of poetry entitled Cosmic Weather forthcoming from Eyewear. With David Shook, he is the co-translator of Confetti-Ash: Selected Poems by Salvador Novo, to be published later this year by the Bitter Oleander Press.

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