Mercedes Roffé




I don’t know how many dreams ago this night began

at the shore of the sun              at the shore of death

Like a veil sinking back into memory

apprentice to banishment

oh mirror, moon of dark omens

From what heights will I ask the waters for the path

at the shore of the sun              at the shore of death

Time is suspended

                               and yet

verbs still happen

yesterday an elm           tomorrow perhaps a willow

I cross the milk-white thickness of the day



A blind man

a monk

a puppet           stretch their arms from the shore



I had prophesized the loss of the kingdom



I had seen the boats of madness go by

I had seen the lofty gestures of the idle priests



Innards of birds

you had revealed to me the destruction of the temple




who heard

Toledo and Alexandria had no room for 

the dark tongue of the seer


I had prophesized the death of the gods




who heard



* * *




Bloody tears

toothless laughter

on a river of fire the ship sails



The altars were sacked

and the leaves stirred up by the wind

and the sibyline dogs tempted by the profane beast

and by food

and the nuptial bed

and silence



Someone hurled the Word from the top of the tower

The tower is burning



Someone dug up the corpses of my voice

                                                        the bodies

        the names

the earth is burning



Someone hurled the light the canto

the ocean is burning





A delirious child has come out of my body

and has given me

                              a zither as my fate

and as scepter

                               a jewel-encrusted serpent


(oh moon of dark omens)





* * *



You know

you won’t know



You’ve fashioned a crown of perverse fruits

and placed it on my head





            has chosen your age         as a safe haven

and the hour of your thirst as a sanctuary



You’ve stolen the painted mantle of the bride

and draped me in golds and purples

                        (oh deceptive jewels

                                                       the words)



You know

You won’t know



And you’ve threaded diamonds for my bare feet

and you’ve aged honey for my body



Instead of the battle a monotonous song

Instead of a song a sharp stubborn iron. . .

Useless to crouch down in the ancient valley

Useless to tempt the hot coals


the golden domes of the Abyss will not shine on you

There is no shelter no flock



You won’t know



And you’ve clamored

and you’ve performed the rite

and you’ve given it up for dead  

      ( Night

       Nothing can hide from you          

                                           you deny nothing


      wish-giver )



And you’ve been pretending




you won’t know

The path has been forgotten

                                      if there was any


Tiny Feet . . .



from  Wandering Canto translated from the Spanish by Margaret Carson

Argentine poet Mercedes Roffé has published Poemas (Madrid, 1978), El tapiz de Ferdinand Oziel (BsAs, 1983), Cámara baja (BsAs, 1987; Chile, 1996), La noche y las palabras (BsAs, 1996; Chile, 1998), Definiciones Mayas (New York, 1999), Antología poética (Caracas, 2000), Canto errante (BsAs, 2002), and Memorial de agravios (Córdoba, 2002). Translated into English her poems have appeared in A*Bacus and The Literary Review (ed. by Leonard Schwartz), Chain, the Exact Change Yearbook (ed. by Peter Gizzi), and Boundary2--An International Poetics Symposium (ed. by Charles Bernstein). French and Italian translations of her work are published by Éditions du Noroît (Quebec) and Quaderni della Valle (Bari). Among other distinctions, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim  Foundation Fellowship in Poetry (2001).



Margaret Carson has translated numerous works by Latin American authors, including The Magic Lantern by the nineteen-century Mexican writer José Tomás de Cuéllar (Oxford University Press, 2000), and the drama Electra Garrigó by Cuban poet and playwright Virgilio Piñera (University of Michigan Press, 2004).




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