Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening, as in a room

In which we rest and, for small reason, think

The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.

It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,

Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl

Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,

A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.

We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,

A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.

We say God and the imagination are one…

How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,

We make a dwelling in the evening air,

In which being there together is enough.

– Wallace Stevens

Advertisements

The Husband Sings to his Love

She appeared on my chest
tattooed like age
and pain.

Like a soft flock of hills
whose course returns with dawn,

My beloved speaks
with a love that barely holds
the heart of the day and a barefoot voice.

Under my shadow
her hips were hemmed by flesh.

For me she drives the cattle of dawn
with her breasts,

And the afternoon breaks loose to her passing
like wounded reeds
and half-opened laurel.

Eyelids traveled
by snow and midday,

A well where my unbridled
mouth slides
like a torrent of doves
and dampened salt.

—Clusters of anger and a vocation of kisses
were placed upon your thighs.

I will make bouquets of water
fall beneath your thighs,
and faltered spumes
and secret flocks.

Come,
Beloved.

The trees
all possess your candid stature,
your fallen eyelids,
and your dampened gesture,

Building of larks
inhabited by climates
where the sun rules
over golden vineyards.
Wild birds
will find me at your shadow.

Your voice of fallen air
among four white lillies
will march through my ear
as the afternoon approaches.

Come,
I will savor you with joy.
You will dream of me
tonight.

– Eunice Odio

Eroded

Eroded by

the beamwind of your speech

the gaudy chatter of the pseudo-

experienced-my hundred-

tongued perjury-

poem, the noem

Hollow-

whirled.

free
the path through the men-

shaped snow,

the penitent’s snow, to

the hospitable

glacier-parlours and -tables

Deep

in the timecrevasse,

in the

honeycomb-ice

waits a breathcrystal,

your unalterable

testimony.

– Paul Celan

Luisa Frascati

My infatuation with the lovely Luisa Frascati began in the most ordinary way in the world.

I was the supervisor of the late shift at the telegraph office and, during my nightly foot-commute, which was also an after-dinner stroll, I would always pass, halfway there, a house with two low balconies — the only one on the block. The rest was taken up by the grounds of a small estate, at the ironwork of whose gate it was my custom to stop to snap off a sprig of honeysuckle.

The house with two balconies, for some reason, remained isolated; and because of this, the sidewalk was dark and quiet. At one of the balconies, the first night I passed by, stood a pale girl taking the air; she was so pale that I couldn’t help but stare at her profoundly — my pace was casual — entranced by her superb beauty. It was a warm evening, whitened by the soft stars of summer. The fragrance of the honeysuckle mingled with that of this pale young woman, as might be expected. I felt poetic and my heart skipped a beat.

I walked by three or four nights in a row. She was always there. She was always there, dressed in white, as soft and mute as a character from a romantic novel, and somehow it bothered me.

On the fifth night, I forced an exploratory greeting, and she returned it. At first, I just said hello, because I was seized by the shyness of first love, mixed with the ardent desire to own a beautiful voice while being heard by her; but two weeks later I was standing beneath her window, speaking of love.

She lived alone, except for an old Galician woman who was her servant; and when I asked the shopkeeper at the corner about her background and her parents, he turned out to know less than I did. What’s more, he smiled snidely, and I decided to keep silent. Interrogating the servant would have been out of place, and I wasn’t about to do that.

I resolved, then, to make the most of the fortune which had come my way, and to devote myself to loving as fervently as I could. The rest was for destiny to decide.

My beloved had a voice which was divine, but which was always soft, always low; it was more like music than simple sound. Many times, as I was leaving one of our trysts, drunk with love, and fittingly so, I was struck by the idea that she hadn’t communicated with me by means of language but by a sort of melodic interpenetration of thought. Even today, calmly detached as I am, I have to ask myself if I ever actually heard her voice, the angelic voice of Luisa Frascati.

The thing that’s certain is that she invited me one evening to visit her in her parlor, to avoid the gossip of the neighbors, on one capricious condition:

“Promise with your word of honor you will never turn on the light in my presence…”

I gave my word, but not without feeling a slight twinge of mystery and misgiving. Some defect, some unconfessable blemish perhaps?

Subsequent intimacies proved otherwise. My beloved was beautiful to the point of ecstasy, a being rarefied and irreal. The first night I entered her house I noticed, as she withdrew from the balcony to order the maid to open the door, a strange lightness to her step. One might say she really wasn’t even walking. But my happiness was such that I didn’t dwell on details.

My love had extraordinary hands. Hands more refined, more aesthetic than any I had ever seen. But she never let me stroke them with my own. However odd it may seem, we spent four straight months alone together, night after night, speaking of love in strict and perfect purity.

Can it even be said that we spoke?

Only she spoke, in that melodious, ethereal voice of hers, which hurled me into a delirium simultaneously rapturous and deep as fear. I have never felt such a poetic rhapsody of moments shared in mutual solitude.

Now and then a moonbeam strayed through the parlor from the half-open balcony door. For awhile, the beauty of my beloved would shimmer in its immaterial pallor, her supreme eyes filled with an anguished fatality, her mouth throbbing with the foretaste of future kisses, her hands inaccessible as a cosmic spell; but as soon as she sensed the advent of light, she would rise to her feet with a shiver.

“Go away,” she would cry in distress. And I would obey. Was there anything else I could have done, enslaved as I was by my own ecstasy?

Curse the hour I made my escape! Curse that scoundrel Albertino Talante and his perfidious counsel! Curse the vanity that led me to tell him about my love!

Albertino Talante laughed at me because, after four months of rendezvous, I hadn’t kissed my beloved. And so as not to look like a coward in the eyes of that rake, I brought about my own downfall.

I tried, that same night, to give a kiss to Luisa Frascati. I approached her surreptitiously, tried to take her by surprise, but she eluded my grasp like a gust of wind. I’m sure she started to scream but couldn’t. I had removed the key from the door.

Then ensued an ignoble and exhausting chase around the darkened parlor where, in her white dress, she looked like a swirl of mist. Once, and then again, we spun around the room. Suddenly a piece of furniture broke with a loud crash.

I stood stock still; then I perceived my beloved silhouetted against the opposite wall, motionless, as if pasted to it, about six feet above the floor.

At that moment, the maid came through the door, entering hurriedly with a lamp in her hand.

My blood froze in horror. Luisa Frascati was nothing but a tall oil painting in a gilded frame, with all the characteristic traits: those hands of hers, those eyes of hers, that unmistakable pallor…

I don’t know how I got out of the house, but no one barred my way.

A year later, that same Albertino Talante, author of my undoing, came to invite me to an auction of artworks.

I accepted, though what transpired there almost knocked me off my feet. Imagine my chagrin when, barely through the door, I was confronted by that portrait of Luisa Frascati. A man with a long beard was studying it carefully.

“Devilish canvas,” said my friend. “I could have sworn that yesterday the lady was seated and was wearing a green dress.”

“Precisely so,” the bearded gentleman courteously concurred.

– Leopoldo Lugones
(Translated by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert)

The Dark Night

One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
– ah, the sheer grace! –
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
– him I knew so well –
there in a place where no one appeared.

O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

– San Juan de la Cruz