By Pura López Colomé

Translated by Forrest Gander

from Issue 7: Crossings


Those coveting health—
I saw them making their way along the worn path,
the one trailing from the city
to the far flung parts of the world,
part of my own wounded humanity,
a sweet apparition for whomever awaits me,
living within but apart from me,
in my thirst, my shifting
moments of tribulation and peace.
I was that. They were me.

They ascend toward Chalma, the pilgrims. Knowing that, on the way, their dry branch will break into blossom. Most are young. They carry water, a sleeping pallet, their daily lives. A few elders. Children on their shoulders. The sanctuary off in search of its premises.

At once, with a single question,
their antiquity awoke.
For what do they petition
the Lord they worship,

a Lord whose body
is mortified by today’s exhaustion
and yesterday’s misery?
To go on crying in fury or impotence,
to sicken and sicken,
to testify to, to endure the absence of . . .
at the very core of the horn of plenty,
to be able to forget, yes,
the seven or eight year old ghost
impetuously flying without the tail or string
by which it might be tugged back to earth,
to forget the future history,
the missing relinquishments to love.
Oh, body, love and Lord,
show me a tree made in your image,
synagogues, shrines, mosques,
filled out with your being.

They’ve made camp. Night. Groups of men over here, mixed groups over there, women with babies and children farther off. Around the campfires, standing, squatting. They share neither food nor coffee, each bringing out their own dinner, without making excuse for . . . and celebrating by sitting on the hard ground, letting rocks bruise their thighs, nursing the baby in front of strangers. The warmth whelms from the nearness of arms, backs, necks, breasts; not from fire. From blood. There are those falling asleep, those about to, and those keeping vigil. None need a roof.

We are all destined
to the measure of breath
by which the stars are singing.
A communion of luminous bodies,
I prayed in terror, in envy,
a particular rotation,
a particular translation,
the joy of the indispensable.
Nothing more.

The next morning, full of admiration and rapture, I returned to those places, hoping to breathe in the last smells of what was dreamed and shared. Going back as though to touch the votive stone, the feet or hands of the worn image of some miraculous saint:

I found nothing but garbage.
The Lord’s mouth agape,
stinking breath.

Pura López-Colomé was born in Mexico City in 1952, spent part of her childhood in Mérida, Yucatan, and attended high school in the United States. She studied literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, publishing literary criticism, poems, and translations in a regular column for the newspaper Unomásuno. Her poems have been translated into English in the books No Shelter: Selected Poems and Aurora.

Forrest Gander is an American poet, essayist, novelist, critic, and translator. He received an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University and moved to Mexico, where he began to assemble poems and translations for Mouth to Mouth: Poems by Twelve Contemporary Mexican Women, a bilingual anthology. Gander is a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, The Whiting Foundation, and the Howard Foundation.

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