Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Favila* or: The Ember (José María Eguren)

En la arena
Se ha bañado la sombra
Una, dos
Libélulas fantasmas...

Aves de humo
Van a la penumbra
Del bosque.

Medio siglo
Y en el límite blanco
Esperamos la noche.

El pórtico
Con perfume de algas,
El último mar.

En la sombra
Ríen los triángulos.

(José María Eguren)


In the sand
Has bathed the shade--
One, two phantom dragonflies...

Birds of smoke
are wafting toward the half-shadow
of the trees.

Half an age
Half a century
Half a world

and at the very limit of white
we wait for night.

The portico
perfumed with seaweed--
the last and ultimate sea.

In the shadow
the triangles laugh.

(tr. E. A. Costa  26  November 2013

* favila = pavesa (burning cinder) and is also the name of the second King of Asturias, memorialized by a famous triptych in bas-relief on the portal of the monastery of San Pedro de Villa Nueva. The triptych shows the king  kissing his wife before he is off on a bear hunt in which he is killed. The poem is a tour de force of layered and intertwined types,  subtle eroticism and mathematics.

Monday, November 18, 2013


                          The ice was here, the ice was there
                          The ice was all around....

Are you okay?

Are you today

who you are yesterday?

How is it going?

What is it that goes?

What is it that comes?

Who are these words meeting and greeting

one another as if to say no day had passed

no month

no year

no decade

no century

no millennium

no ten thousand years?

Is recognition the essence of repetition?

Or is it as imaginary as poor cruel Coleridge
lying in drugged stupor

vapored in technique

breathng Bibles

with a hard-skinned Chinaman around his neck

trying to untell the story

trying to sell his barbaric door-to-door rhetoric
to characters more ancient than Tin Isles?

Hello, how are you in yellow Xanadu?

Are you okay?

Are you today

who you are yesterday?

Your ancient forests...all lost, all lost

to ringing and to China....

all lost to China.

[E. A. Costa 18 November 2013]

Friday, November 15, 2013

Question Sixty-Eight

"Cuando lee la mariposa
lo que vuela escrito en sus alas?

Qué letras conoce la abeja
para saber su itinerario?

Y con que cifras va restando
la hormiga sus soldados muertos?

Cómo se llaman los ciclones
cuando no tienen movimiento?"

(Pablo Neruda)

When does the butterfly decipher
what flies inscribed on its wings?

What alphabet does the bee use
in kenning its itinerary?

In what runes does the ant
on the march number its fallen soldiers?

What do you call in any ocean
cyclones & typhoons devoid of motion?

[tr. E. A. Costa 15 November 2013]

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tristesses de la lune (Sangaku—Gunma Prefecture)

                                    The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
                                    The moon in lonely alleys make
                                    A grail of laughter of an empty ash can....

                                     (Hart Crane)


Previous lives are a long unblushing of knives in ice.

Do you embrace the perfect moon and on the morrow
a moon more perfect than the one before?

What does it mean to say she is dark-eyed and moist with white?

That her dusks are divided and multiplied in honey, each a meadow,
each a broken comb?


Fallen walls are secret in their snares, for her flesh is not endless
nor undressed witlessly and without prowess.

It is remembered that she wavered.

Remembered is impassable smile and flawless lips,

night bare and deep with her hips.

It is remembered that she resisted.

Remembered is another life round and imperious as her breasts.


Every machine comes with directions
two-faced like fans.

Annals are a machine.

Menology is a machine.

Diary is a machine.

Her face is the space between.


Unnamed is sudden dismantling come very late.

Is it thereby proved that no woman is a goddess unless craftily embarrassed?

There are few tears, just a half-mad joust that pleases broad day

and her exquisite mouth competing with the moon.


Where in the rhythm of the night air is the almanac of her black hair
cascading down her back and at ease with waist?

She is impossible to clothe.
She is impossible to close.
She is impossible to begin afresh.


Disliked are fictions that pose questions.

Flatter and tell them they matter.

Give them a formula or a mystery to crack.

Give them one raindrop falling

from frightened eye to the night flowers.


Body records and remembers and there is no being born again
save in palsied repetition.

There is but one drama and no sequel.

Her suit to be disincarnated is summarily dismissed:

her fate is to be as real and living as the phases

of the moon.


What is now is not what went before.

Is memory a function of the difference?

What follows both?

Imagine one category in intimate coitus with another

and complete complements,

the unequalled and cunning join of a Japanese beam.


Body and antibody are strange and venomous flowers
pressed between the fallen lives of forest floor.

Worm is the interloper who builds ticket booths to a sideshow.

Be digestible and digested in the only carnival on earth.

Step right up--Be prolific. Be pacific. Be specific.

Be quick-footed and elegant in this thicket of copulating words.


Pyramids are built on one foundation: that nothing is final.

Is there one more chance to dance on other mountains?

Wherever your moon is, caged or free,

wide upon the plain or webbed by sleeping trees,

yours is only half the time and space of that remembered

smile on unremembered face.

[E. A. Costa November 7, 2013 Granada]

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mamood's Tale

“There is a bird," said Mamood, “who flies underground and eats children.”

The words hang like icicles in the warm night.

“This bird,” continues Mamood," is plumed in invisibility. We see it only by smell.”

The whole camp tightens with attention. Nostrils flare. Cups of tea hang in the air. Nursing women hold infants closer.

“Long ago this bird," continues Mamood, “appeared to our grandfathers and grandmothers in the air, over the soft soil and in fresh and salt water. They smelled it everywhere. The expanse of its body was measured in weeks of walking and running. It was near from dawn to dusk. There was no escape. Some burrowed in the earth to escape it. It followed them rustling unseen wings. The smell was foul and metallic. Many lost their minds.”

A woman begins to hum.

“I was a small child then,” says Mamood, “Our grandfathers and grandmothers were terrified. Their grandfathers and grandmothers, who still lived in those times, were terrified. The terror was hidden at the back of their hearts, as if they were being eaten alive from the inside out. We children were too young to know anything of it.”

The humming ceases. No one reaches for tea.

“Dream came to a woman of our clan. Her name was never to be spoken again. It meant 'Forehead' in the speech of those times, which is not our speech now but another secret tongue. Dream was bright red-yellow, like the fruit of the bitter orange. Dream told the woman of the unspeakable name to weave a carpet of pure light and cast it upon the air.”

Not one dares breathe.

“Our grandfathers and grandmothers labored for forty days and nights weaving this carpet of thought, this carpet of mind. We children, who knew nothing of what they were doing, brought them tea and candy and cooled their foreheads with damp rags. We wiped the blood from their eyelids.”

There is a murmur as if something has been remembered.

“When the carpet was finished, “ says Mamood, “ it bore the image of a bird, wings spread and perched at the center of the world. It covered space from here to there, from yesterday to tomorrow. It was immeasurably large and though light as air a heavy burden. Grandfathers and grandmothers labored to throw it upon the air as a fisherman casts his net.”

The humming resumes.

“With much groaning and sweating the carpet was at last cast upon the air. It floated for the space of two new moons and then fell to ground here as this common carpet between us. Smell, my fellows—smell the cool clean night air. The great invisible bird who ate children was enmeshed in what fell from the sky, what emerged from the earth, what rose up out of the fresh and salt seas.”

Several reached for tea.

“As children we trod upon it laughing,” said Mamood, “The bird has never again risen into our world. It is intricated here in the image of our minds. It is completed. It is finished.”

A drum of stretched hide sounds. A young woman arises clicking castanets and undulating like a fish. A young man shadows her shaking a tambourine. The fire flares. Children run out of the darkness dancing.

The long night yields at last to soft red dawn.

[E. A. Costa March 2011--November 2013]