Translated by Cheryl Clark Vermeulen
from Issue 21
“One has only learned to get the better of words.”
What becomes of barren land
pinned between this summer
and that wrought iron gate
with its metallic creatures,
one post after another,
the fence broken, the well dry,
the channel split along a fissure
from a heat so unusual,
so recent in the sudden tangle of shrubs?
What becomes of time
or the error of time
with its moon suspended in air,
fingertip by fingertip,
its spent star,
fingernail to number, its still sky
while this war
mounting and abstract
among the black picket signs
and the clamor of voices in the plaza
persists and regenerates
without another virtue being born,
another atmosphere of pavement and grass
to soften our footsteps?
What becomes of the insect on the sidewalk,
burning in its hole like a spark,
an oracular knot of membranes and dust,
the climate burnt into the ground,
the clear plan
of a coming season
unraveled by guile and the crowds,
by the insolent mouthing
of vermin and their offspring?
What becomes of dribbling water,
the eyes’ inversions
roving in their sockets,
seeing how the spring reappears
out of a merely damp crevice,
seeing the feast of remnants and scraps,
the distance between the rustic hoof
and the wolf along the eyelash?
What becomes of the people or a person,
the heart suited to the emptiest kingdom,
the decaying slaughterhouse on the hill,
the inspector and the tax collector,
the lot for sale amid thorn bushes and robbery,
the polls muddled with the fantasy
of a space opened up
through willpower and conspiracy,
the nest of rats and bees
hurled toward dusk
by a precise and skillful pebble?
What becomes of the beginning now in the end,
this reasonable plagiarism of a sense,
the house where it begins
and the street repeated,
its Greek pasture,
its Latin stubble,
later sheer darkness
when it appears
in one place and another?
Tedi López Mills, born in Mexico City in 1959, is a poet, essayist, translator, and editor. In 1998, she received the first poetry grant, awarded by the Octavio Paz Foundation. From 1994 to 1999 she was the editor in chief of the literary journal La Gaceta. Her poetry books include Segunda persona, (Efraín Huerta National Literature Prize), Glosas, Horas and Luz por aire y agua, Un jardín, cinco noches (y otros poemas), Contracorriente (José Fuentes Mares National Prize for Literature), Parafrasear and Muerte en la rúa Augusta (Xavier Villaurrutia Award).
Cheryl Clark Vermeulen earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop after working for a decade in non-profit organizations. Her poems have appeared or will appear in journals including Caketrain, Third Coast, DIAGRAM, EOAGH, Inertia Magazine, and her translations in eXchanges and the anthology Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico. She is the author of the chapbook Dead-Eye Spring (Cy Gist Press) and a 2010 finalist for the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship. She teaches writing at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Original text: Tedi López Mills. “Entre tanto,” from Horas. México, D.F.: Trilce Ediciones, 2000.