Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jaime Manrique

Barcelona Days

Soon it will be twenty years,
and like the tango says, that's nothing.
And the burden of memories we've
accumulated since then--
that's nothing either;
what's heavy, too heavy,
is disordered flesh,
the wrinkles of the spirit
no surgery can remove.
Maybe your monuments
have grown old. But the patina of their surfaces
is nothing compared
to the collapse of my illusions.
Today I live just to live,
and what's left of yesterday's illusions
is in poems, blurred memories,
letters that pierce us like knives.
Recently, walking the streets,
I've recognized in passersby
the faces of my dear dead:
Andrés, Mike, Douglas, Luis Roberto,
reincarnated in a gesture, a lock of hair,
a Chabrolesque frame.
The man I was yesterday,
and soon it will be twenty years,
I can't remember.
I see him, the other Manrique,
a hero in a postwar novel,
a classic, a myth
forever repeating itself.
Today I am a foreigner
writing lines filled with nostalgia
for times when I didn't love either,
wasn't happy, wasn't even myself.
Sometimes, recently, when I ride
the subway,
it is as if I were traveling
through the circles of hell.
And I know that though I live
I am dead, that only in death,
perhaps, Barcelona, I'll walk
your boulevards again,
looking for him, with his eternal moaning,
trying in vain to fill in
the squares of a crossword puzzle
that grows large
and larger
and more uncertain.

--Trans., Edith Grossman


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