from The Lower Chamber

My day won’t change
My life won’t change
I pull back my hair
You give me a brief kiss on the brow
and say: it’s over
Then you the last
              may close my eyes
It’s all the same
Help me to bury myself
One shouldn’t ask
One shouldn’t ask the one who’s leaving
It’s simple:
              one will ask and remain without it
One can’t ask
There’s nothing to ask for
The little school
Teaching the children
Everything should be sought without words
Everything should be demanded
              in silence
The only dignity
Watch your eyes
Watch out
She looked like a young boy
Dance for the big toe of the right foot
La mer
I felt bad
Half-open mouth
S p r e a d   i t   o u t
There was blood
There was
You weren’t going to kill me
We weren’t going to die
        would come
Coffee and milk for the little pimp
That morning he would lose his fortune
Dawn of a cold day the sirens’ eyes
          like amber
and the pebbles
and the fortune
the conquerors came
        in galleys

Sister Ana, sister Ana
        tell me what you see
A single shadow
A single shadow
A single long shadow
I’ll see her skin in the galleys
                        her hands
                      her voice I’ll hear
                    her eyes
              like hair
            like a mouth half open
The foreigner came
          in galleys
In ships
The foreigner leaves

Sister Ana, sister Ana
          tell me what you see
Men like ants in the woods
ta ta
    ra ta ta…
A hum
A hum of bees
It doesn’t change me
What calls doesn’t change me
The leaves pressed between the pages
          won’t change me
Albertine’s dream like a silk worm
It’s not the same dog that eats me in its mouth grinds
        our bones
My hand is cupped and filled
I fill you
I tire you
I sate you
I bore you
I bore myself too
We’ve been since long ago coming in ships and saying
      the girl
        love and hate
          I suffer
            we are crucified
The foolish plot:
      a piece of wood
            set upon
      another piece of wood
The intersection:
      Nobody blinded the Minotaur
A single shadow
We’ve been calling Nobody for a long time
          a single shadow

I’ll thread beads
I’ll try pottery
I’ll design bridges
I’ll build walls
I’ll tie sneakers
I’ll do the wash in the river
There was
            your face in the galleys

from Floating Lanterns

Would love be to the body
what contemplation is to the soul?
That stillness?
That intuition
                of every thing at an instant?
                That bolt of lightning in which
the real is made evident
in accord with its echo?
The elusive suspension
that perceives and
comprehends everything?

Is that the pause in the flow of time
the only true home and homeland?
Home and homeland:
                              This is what I call to possess each other,
                              as you look at each other and see your own reflection
in trustworthy and serene

Body of light
Body of goodness
Hyperbolic petal rowing
between one shore and the other.
And if there are not two shores?
If all is one?
If there are not two or one
but a glissando of mirrors
toward and from the light     —or the mire?

Each station with its diligent demiurge
more confused than cruel
deadened, sunken
in the excess
of a kingdom he ignores and that ignores him.

Regent, prince and child —all at once,
all untimely.

And if it were nothing more
than a voyage
through the frozen ages of that prince
toward the light     —or the mire?

(translated from the Spanish by Anna Deeny)

Mercedes Roffé is an Argentine poet. Her books have been translated and published in Italy, France, Romania, England, Canada, Brazil, and the United States. They include Floating Lanterns, translated by Anna Deeny (Shearsman Books, 2015) and Ghost Opera, translated by Judith Filc (co-im-press, 2017). In 2016, her Definiciones Mayas was listed by the Spanish newspaper, El País, as one of the 100 best books published in Spanish in the past twenty-five years. Roffé is the founding editor of Ediciones Pen Press. She lives in New York City.