Angel Escobar Nine Poems
translated from the Spanish by Mónica de la Torre

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The backs of all doors hurt.
And they hurt even more when they keep sayings
inside very jolly homes.
The Stranger knows it and doesn’t come near them.
He sits at a distance and thinks:
"On their left side joints
hinge the swinging of doors
with only one foot left to move about.
If they made you go in they’d have to
take a little step forward,
their insteps pointing in the kitchen’s direction
and their backs reaching toward your forehead.
Only if you’re already in
and the door offered its nape to anyone else
could you see its face, and, below, its chest
split by the eye of a hairless Cyclops.
They wear a belt whose buckle
is always imported. Only one key
has the pass code for the safes
of these banks
keeping people instead of gold.
They dangle from watch chains so they can half surrender themselves,
and a defective bone known as the latch
decides whether or not to open,
even if the one arriving knows the door inside and out.
And so they call me a passer-by, because doors are always
shoving their behinds to my face.
If I don’t have one myself by tomorrow,
one tending to my sobs of an orphan banged
by the rocks that the open air throws,
then the day after tomorrow there shall be no doors."

The Stranger gets up and sees how the night
lifts up its strings with a rod,
they drip thick black sheets as they sway.

He gets going stringing cusses,
and sees someone in a tux laughing
and peering out the door of the house across the street.

The Thumb and the Index Finger

The crying of a child in the dark does not involve used bookstores or office building complexes. The crying of a child waits. Others turn their backs. Seated at the table,
one by one, clinging to their nameless color,
all understand the delirium. I could be the table,
could be what is served. And I cry. You, stand up
and comment. Comment. I’m not the evil one, no one converts me,
no one awards me distinctions. My effort is useless
just like other people’s correspondence is useless. They say:
"Let’s stay outside." And ask themselves: "Maybe we’re stupid."
"Burn him, burn him," they scream, "let’s burn him, yes."
—That other one, we may even behead him—, they say.
(It’s over now. There’s no going back. The hung one is there.) The whack—
The knucklehead asks for understanding and is struck
by a foot in the middle. A good prey for the banquet,
you also stay away, speaking of
the stonework. Stuff yourself and shut up.
There’s a child who cries and a table ajar.
(The small head pounds on the wall. And the big one
does too.) "That falling foam, that sun
that howls." Why on earth would I envy
another one’s eloquence. No one like me
to smile, sometimes, while crying, like a child
in the dark, without involving books,
office building complexes,
the streets where, even when sullen,
another one rejoices.


I saw Rimbaud tied to a bed
and Protagonist Papa tying him tight,
and his pajamas, untying him —they were shouting and the virgin
little bones came loose with doctors blowing
into a broken bassoon,
the glasses cracked, the blinds, the symbols,
and then they delivered to each, according to their symptom,
their pill, their set of eyes, their Lent.
It was also March, but of a leap year, and I saw
how the goat was strangled on a boulder.
The blackbird was taking advantage of its enclosure, and he, seated
and watching from above—
placing responsibility and blame on the phones,
the old habits of judges
and their children. I saw Rimbaud spitting
in a basket of well-tuned eyes,
healthy as needles. I saw him "No
regrets." I keep calm, I am
the scribe, the bull
who has never had anything. I keep calm.

The Four Tales

"You and I will die early.
You and I will die tomorrow.
Not tomorrow, today. We could even be dead now."
He said that with a tired gait and grimaces
that mimicked what the last line
of my dream will say. Outdoors
two shadows (they’re no longer surprising
since you can see them and the clear
eye of this never-ending sham also saw them),
two shadows —the reverse of the argument:
every day thousands of subways set out—
we were. The one who spoke to me as a prisoner
speaks to another prisoner without speaking: shreds
that my fussy oblivion, that other spider,
erased so as to fulfill its deal with itself.
That oblivion is the only thing that memory reaches.
(I’ll leave you, reader, in a tax-free zone
And for the one who will never see, a blank drone:
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...)
It’s exhausting to be two shadows. The burden on the body
of the one who paces in a blind bedroom
and gets tired of reflections is not less true. In vain
he shouts out, smiling to his fickle Havana
like a chess king: "I’m not dead anymore."


If I weren’t a knife
I could talk with someone who’s nearby.
I would tell him that his horror is my horror,
but from another angle—
the atrocious never has only one face.
Or maybe everything would be silence.
My babbling can’t take the form of judgments.
If that one, to whom I say goodbye carelessly,
weren’t also a knife,
the conversation would cease to be spilt milk,
or the damsel torn to pieces in her chamber.
He comes from a world that, to me, is off limits,
where a coin equals wakefulness
and the nightmare gives birth to two crows
which, gradually, have pulled out his eyes,
so that even if wanting to, he won’t be able to see me.
They plugged up my eyes with fear—
even if wanting to, I won’t be able to see him either.
I come from a world that is banned to him,
where sleep is the barrenness longed for by a locust
and an almost lavender sunset says this is the land
we were given, where it’d be nice to simply fly
a kite, and bring a little sprig of
basil to the next suicide.

The Shadow of Speech

Blanket cared for by retained dust,
the sun does not flee nor is the number two beheaded.
Grass brushes against the foot, and no stopover
In flight may reach the place where you immolate yourself.
And there’s no other faith than limit and endure.
Touch my heart, stellar verb—
number, solstice, marathon. I run to take shelter
from time. Not even a dingdong
for church. The crusader stares at me. I am
the crusader—come to my side, feel me.
Oh, residue that I exhale, look, look
how it escapes: foot, dolmen, clatter—only listen
to the music. And this pain killing my side.
It’s yours, I know. There’s no orthopedic
Neo-Romanticism here. Only my soul eggs me on:
where I put my face, green dew, a blaze.
I give from myself, my equals know me, and it crushes me,
that speech, the ploy, the blow. I want to be
where not today, nor gems nor blind outburst.
You’ll see how I immolate myself so as to speak
the shadow, mother, till machine-like neglect
and broken wings. How the mask arrives, ash
of speech. Put it out, let it not accompany
my small voice, God overwhelming me:
he left me alone, and there the palace shows off its curls.
I go there and plant myself, a plant before the sun and tree
intolerant of missteps. Nothing, nobody displaces
this fall, this jumble of nerves. Not
a voyage. I am sitting on the torment. There is not
an I or a you that can speak like this.
Say, say what; only silence, soot
befuddling me. And only the gaze, the two—
and the trinity you adore. They think I want
to see little birdies, columns, ceremonies. The hill
could be, the city I am: no more subterfuges—
all creation, the tusk of a wild boar to my thigh.

And to see and be water, what awaits. They’re
suspicious of me, and my hard chest falls on top of you,
it diverts, an eye on the scare toward you.
Don’t be so sure: I am proof of what exists,
of what doesn’t. My yes fertilizes the earth, and she is,
she is: she takes me in, sperm word covering her,
she covers me. I don’t leave her: gold to the torment, no, only
the boulder on which to sit, dance left behind—
mountain I carry, plains, contrite valley,
herein the scrawl that signifies everything.

Daycare Center

They’ve put us to sleep,
and here we sleep.
They tell us that a Russian governess,
an English wet nurse,
or a good efficient Korean or Japanese fairy will come.
They’ve put us in cribs,
beds, cots,
and imported sleeping bags:
that we sleep, even if this is no eternal sleep,
is what matters the most, they say.
They want this and we do it
like happy children:
we’re not sleepyheads,
and we’re not atop the Alps;
we are, among other things, adults—
but others are our keepers:
they, too, are adults,
they sing to us what we’ll become—
constables of sorts,
councilmen or night watchmen or magicians—
or maybe even lawyers or nurses,
or economists in this nice carousel
of money—; others are the ones
functioning as tutors; but they’re elsewhere,
where they tell us life is—
she must be so coy she’s never in—;
we don’t know how they’re doing, our tutors:
we suppose, for a moment before falling asleep,
that the one who plays Great Mama is watching soap operas,
or baking buns for the Bishop—
in boredom there’s always a bishop and a whore—
and that the one who plays Great Papa might be at the office
dictating a decree that will summarize,
once and for all, the Nine O-Clock News,
and shining his only gun—
in boredom there’s always a gun and a knife—;
but maybe they, too,
are sleeping here—; so we won’t even get to be
the subjects of a blurry photograph,
not to mention a video clip rousing a frenetic one.

No one watches over us; God is not in; there is no Homer.

They’ve put us to sleep,
and it’s true that we’ll be forever asleep.

Who’s Afraid of Franz Kafka

The logicians put us in this room.
It is not a labyrinth or a tunnel or a sewer;
it is simply a room.
There are no minotaurs or blind people or rats.
The logicians aren’t saying how they got us in here.
They’re saying how we can get out even less.
We can’t be in or out,
the logicians claim; what is true
is that the room is real,
and one of two things should happen—
always according to the logicians—
but none of those ever occurs.

Cold Front

I’ve got eczema in my heart.
I would water it with muriatic acid,
with some barbiturate or patience.
I don’t want it to be made of nylon,
nor do I want them to have it dance
between one billiard and another. I don’t want it to drip.
I like it rotten like this.
That it may stick to my body.
Perhaps I’ll be able to see a landscape, one day.
I cry slowly; but I long for some January
rain: yes, that it may wipe away my sadness—
a blanket, a cloth to cover my face.
I have neither a megaphone nor stilts;
I can’t be a mask.
My body shakes; I shudder,
I’m mortified. What is this that comes for me—
drowns me in dark tears as would mud
and says: "Yet, yet." Perhaps
I am a tragic monkey—
that’s it: I’m only a tragic monkey
that has nothing to do with grammarians.

Angel Escobar was born in Guantanamo in 1957. Perhaps mental illness and a life abounding in excruciating hardships are to account for his suicide in Havana in 1997. He wrote poetry, plays, prose, and criticism, and published ten books of poetry during his lifetime: Viejas palabras de uso, Epílogo famoso, Allegro de sonata, La vía pública, Malos pasos, Todavía, Abuso de confianza, Cuando salí de La Habana, El examen no ha terminado, and La sombra del decir.[MdlT]

English translation © Mónica de la Torre

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