In the poems below, Carles Riba Prize-winning poet Maria Cabrera combines prose and verse in masterful ways, with results that are at once incendiary, unexpected, and clairvoyant.
ways of knowing
i know the fear in your eyes at dawn. and the crackle of flames, the hidden creaking of the woods, the madness of the birds beating paths in the air. the two of us were just a vague hypothesis, on the threshold of sleep, in the vertigo of doubt and the feline night. we weren’t walking: we were sitting at the peak of a mountain we had scaled insatiably up the soul’s steep paths. you didn’t laugh, you didn’t look at me: your eyes were fast on the flames, in your eyes were two flames that would not be long in following all the ashen routes inside me: ever so cruel and ever so beautiful. and I awaited you, crouching atop a rocky peak riddled with impassible hurdles, teetering one shiver from the abyss: will you come and save me? will you hurtle past me? i know the lodes of fear in your verses, the scalene triangle of your gestures, the animal huddled in your pulse, the dissonant repeat of the taste of you when I walk away, the bitter taste of the orange you hand to me. i have learned all the dawns, i have learned all the quiet sounds of the morning: the forest, the bird, the stones, the wood, the flames. and now, when nothing is left of our walk together surely in opposite directions but a handful of pebbles pinging in my pockets, an empty glass flask and all this dust on my shoes; now that I have learned by heart the rosary of sadness; now that you know by heart the filigrees of the wood at its roots; now; now that I have become a deep gorge, death and passion, three days without bread and deliriums of water: now I carry in my breast the whole of the night.
Alguer, the 18th of the 11th of the year 8/November 11, 2008
or physiology of a heart
Woman, how to know if not knowing how to turn the page on the old days,
or finding the dust of the old days clinging under your fingernails
in the shape of white moons,
woman in ruins,
is something you owe to the Proust you never read,
or to the agony of books, or to the poem that pursues you,
or to the unripeness of fruit or the incessant rain that inhabits you.
Woman, if memories turn into clumps of earth on you,
and lines of poetry grow in you like succulents,
like unexpected rats in the dark of the kitchen,
like sandstorms in the eye of the poem
or like the nightly attack of syllables that keeps you tossing in bed,
verse in flames,
and shadow woman,
how to know if you owe it to Freud whom you never got,
or to the cold touch of marble, or the sadness of pencils
or the echo of your ventricles.
And the systole speaks to you of guilt,
and the diastole says genetics,
and the heart valves
sigh orphan sighs.
You Came Toward Me . . .
And you came toward me with a peninsular gaze
the noblest of tear ducts,
a classic pate
and the pride of titans in your veins,
with the punic wars still palpitating,
and the folly of a thousand lost battles on your shoulders,
swift swipe of the willow as you climb the mountain crest,
and your right hand and your left hand in love, respectively,
with the legends of Homer
and the trains that cross continents down my back,
with a pocket full of tin mysteries and promises of silicate nights,
and a cold lime well holding all the drugs
that have kept us tied so long to the port of this Greek city,
with apples fermented over the slow simmer of love,
with love scalded in the brusque fire of thirst,
with astute little lizard eyes,
with the deep sleep of the provinces of Spain,
with the dream dwarf's seven cards up your sleeve
and a multicolored spool to spin the yarn of the planets.
For me, just for me, you came,
and behind you the evening stretched across countries like a strange shadow.
© Maria Cabrera Callís. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2017 by Mary Ann Newman. All rights reserved.