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from the August 2007 issue

from “The Moment for Pindar Is a Small Space in Time”


This poem could be a face
Not the right one, but the true one. Analogies deal with relationships that hold. It

Speaks. The poem's similarity to the face consists, among other things, in the poet's
capacity to see it from inside and struggle to regard it as an outsider. Without

ever entirely succeeding. A mirror might be helpful.

In Pindar's seventh Nemean Ode he compares song to a mirror. Memory's. The face
A sounding mirror. The poem. A mirror of sound. Can we call this an analogy?

I try to imagine what you see. How I look when I think of this topos of from inside or
outside. To reveal
is to conceal. To oscillate between things which cannot be made one

As a metaphor for theoretical knowledge transparency is comically opaque, at least with
respect to poetry. High clear space. Gaze deeply into the well of the poem, where
the moon glitters in the black

water. I saw a long line of antique mirrors in the museum. Archeological goods, a
dime a dozen. Burnished metal. Dark inside. But isn't song always transparent?
Words never. Yes maybe

it is only when the poem longs for simplicity
that it can actually become like

like a face


Our time, why

shouldn't I go backward into the moment with my trembling preferences, my restless
desire, my thought's uttermost solitude? When I blink

I usually see my mother, sitting on
the sofa with a book, the gaze from her eyes full

of shimmering darkness. Am I filling you up? Maybe you could slap me or kiss
me or stick a finger in one of my orifices or in some other way connect yourself to my
body. I
feel rather like the hand of John of Damascus, cut off

by his master the Caliph, restored by the Virgin Mary. Am I not just

so? The third hand. Take it. A church Father, maybe the last. Our

time. At times I wake up far from myself, helplessly calling out my mother's name with
mouth full of sand. Compared to our bodies'

incomprehensible density the image, John writes, is a dark

glass. His metaphor makes us all transparent. Holiness illuminates the
body, makes it shimmer. A dense lantern. We should approach images as
we do living bodies, in veneration. They move

behind the dark glass. Chew their sand hesitantly. The image of Paul came to life,
writes John, when his namesake, Father Chrysostom, inwardly read
     Paul's letter. Our

time protects no one from death. Inwardly we shall look at pictures of one another. Open,
eager faces. Searching. Hopeful. Despairing. And our time's

severed hand that absentmindedly always strokes other cheeks

Reddening the non-existent. The imaginary. Shimmering

(Lengua: María Zambrano)

The word's dawn is meaning's night

I walk in springtime. The wild, strange, violent spring. Birdsong. The beginning of
everything, verdure that seems to levitate. Death with a cig in its long holder

Chiastic life

Aristotle's reason, Parmenides' vision

In every word beyond day
and night, birth
and death this attestation of the unspeakable. A

pearl that goes from mouth to mouth. I shall bow down over the dead woman's body there in the
green grass. Her
pale face, her gazeless gaze

My warm moist tongue in her cold, white, dry, delightful nicotine-mouth where

no pearl also is a


María Zambrano (1904-91), philosopher and author. Like many Spanish twentieth-century intellectuals, she lived in exile for the greater part of her adult life. After the death of Franco she returned to Spain. Tirelessly productive, she lived to see her work command a wide audience.

From Ögonblicket är för Pindaros ett litet rum i tiden [The Moment for Pindar Is a Small Space in Time] (Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 2006). Copyright Magnus William-Olsson. Translation copyright 2007 by Rika Lesser. All rights reserved.

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