The Loss and Absence of the World

Panteón General (San Miguel) de Oaxaca, 31 de octubre de 2010

Remordimiento Por Cualquier Muerte
de Jorge Luis Borges, from Poems of the Night

Libre de la memoria y de la esperanza,
ilimitado, abstracto, casi futuro,
el muerto no es un muerto:  es la muerte.
Como el Díos de los místicos
de Quien deben negarse todos los predicados,
el muerto ubicuamente ajeno
no es sino la perdición y ausencia del mundo.
Todo se lo robamos,
no le dejamos ni un color ni una sílaba:
aquí está el patio que ya no comparten sus ojos,
allí la acera donde acechó su esperanza.
Aun lo que pensamos
podría estar pensándolo él;
nos hemos repartido como ladrones
el caudal de las noches y de los días.

Remorse for Any Death
translated by W.S. Merwin

Free of memory and hope,
unlimited, abstract, almost future,
the dead body is not somebody: It is death.
Like the God of the mystics,
whom they insist has no attributes,
the dead person is no one everywhere,
is nothing but the loss and absence of the world.
We rob it of everything,
we do not leave it one color, one syllable:
Here is the yard which its eyes no longer take up,
there is the sidewalk where it waylaid its hope.
It might even be thinking
what we are thinking.
We have divided among us, like thieves,
the treasure of nights and days.

Panteón General (San Miguel) de Oaxaca, 31 de octubre de 2010

Panteón General (San Miguel) de Oaxaca, 31 de octubre de 2010

You Have to Know How to Wait

CasAntica, Oaxaca de Juarez, 31 de octubre de 2010

Para hablar con los muertos
de Jorge Teiller

Para hablar con los muertos
hay que elegir palabras
que ellos reconozcan tan fácilmente
como sus manos
reconocían el pelaje de sus perros en la oscuridad.
Palabras claras y tranquilas
como el agua del torrente domesticada en la copa
o las sillas ordenadas por la madre
después que se han ido los invitados.
Palabras que la noche acoja
como a los fuegos fatuos los pantanos.

Para hablar con los muertos
hay que saber esperar:
ellos son miedosos
como los primeros pasos de un niño.
Pero si tenemos paciencia
un día nos responderán
con una hoja de álamo atrapada por un espejo roto,
con una llama de súbito reanimada en la chimenea,
con un regreso oscuro de pájaros
frente a la mirada de una muchacha
que aguarda inmóvil en el umbral.

In Order to Talk with the Dead

In order to talk to the dead
you have to choose words
that they recognize as easily
as their hands
recognized the fur of their dogs in the dark.
Words clear and calm
as water of the torrent tamed in the wineglass
or chairs the mother puts in order
after the guests have left.
Words that night shelters
as marshes do their ghostly fires

In order to talk to the dead
you have to know how to wait:
they are fearful
like the first steps of a child.
But if we are patient
one day they will answer us
with a poplar leaf trapped in a broken mirror,
with a flame that suddenly revives in the fireplace,
with a dark return of birds
before the glance of a girl
who waits motionless on the threshold.

Librería Grañén Porrúa, 31 de octubre de 2010
Librería Grañén Porrúa, 31 de octubre de 2010
Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, 31 de octubre de 2010
Casa de Josefina Mendez, Teotitlán del Valle, 1 de noviembre de 2010

An Unknowable Language

Visiting the Graveyard
by Mary Oliver, from Red Bird

When I think of death
it is a bright enough city,
and every year more faces there
are familiar

but not a single one
notices me,
though I long for it,
and when they talk together,

which they do
very quietly,
it's an unknowable language—
I can catch the tone

but understand not a single word—
and when I open my eyes
there's the mysterious field, the beautiful trees.
There are the stones.

Xoxocotlan Cemetery, 31 de octubrre de 2010

Xoxocotlan Cemetery, 31 de octubrre de 2010

Xoxocotlan Cemetery, 31 de octubrre de 2010

Xoxocotlan Cemetery, 31 de octubrre de 2010


Halloween seems more Eros than Thanatos these days. On Saturday evening, we were drinking tea and talking about Lars and the Real Girl before its charm had a chance to evaporate (the film cleverly uses restraint to ground its unlikely premise--boy meets artificial girl--and grows a sincere tenderness out of simple and familiar social conventions), but my attention kept wandering to the Ohio State students drifting past the window on their way to costume parties.

A surgeon crossed the street with a short skirted nurse on each arm. A woman in a tight black dress wore a gilded hard hat with a light mounted on it, and yelled up to people drinking on a nearby balcony that she was a gold digger. A muscular man with glitter on his chest and shoulders clomped by alone in high heels and a low-cut ball gown. A Spartan soldier in a helmet, boots, and red cape passed by to reveal that the only other thing he’d brought along besides his spear was the pair of black briefs he was wearing. And just this morning, the sun played along as it rose slowly over the city, saturating the entire backdrop with copper and amber, the pale thighs of a French maid glowed like the moon as she stepped over the railroad tracks in fishnet stockings, long black gloves, and the lingering darkness.