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Ernesto Mejía Sánchez Incantations and Spells
translated by Anthony Seidman

                                                                                for Carlos Mérida


I rehearsed the word, its size,
the stage it requires. I took it
by the lips, placed it carefully
in your palm. Don’t let it escape. Grasp it!
Count till two (the most difficult task).
Open your hand:
a star in your palm.


I would close each night with a dream. I
would conjure someone in a secret spot. I
would count numbers. And someone,
whom you didn’t suspect, would be born within the shadow,
and didn’t shape his body from the obscurity; rather
from a limpid air, separate, he would fashion his self. I
would count numbers.
Someone, perforating the silence, was born
like a glass angel, like an empty child.
He made himself into a living emptiness. I
kept on counting.
He approached my lips. Lovingly,
he proved adhesive to my flesh. The most fitting
skin, the most fitting, enveloped me. I
kept on counting. I repeated,
the same numbers, but now with his voice.
As he was born each night in different shapes,
and to not find myself mistaken, I placed that angel
in a hiding place; and I placed on him his number.


To pacify solitude, pick
a virginal day. Keep all your books
beneath seven locks. Carry an apple
beneath the purest tree. Have no fear,
the Evil one won’t perturb you. Say
these words, as if they were
true: Solitude,
I love you, I believe in you, don’t abandon me.


After great joy, the afterglow of wine
or women, I am certain that I will
see you in mirrors, in still
waters. Before
surrendering yourself to delights,
cup some water in your left hand,
raise it to your mouth, tell it
these words as if they formed a kiss:
Just as wine and women
cleansed my mouth of words, so,
miraculous water, cleanse
my invisible body from within.


I learned a prayer to intone
only at night; to pacify sleep,
make your eyelids transparent:
Adonis, cleanse my eyes, stay by
my bedside while I surrender myself to nocturnal
death, instantaneous death.
Dream me a pure angel, let him accompany me
forever, but let the angel be a woman.


There are limpid days, erected from
a silken air. Neither demon nor
angel penetrates them. But
solitude then engages in the struggle.
It would have proven futile, dearest,
to summon her. Futile, for homogenous
and hermetic air, seals lead
over one’s voice. Beseech her, at the very least,
without stirring lips; like this:
adversarial companion, I join you.


In the same place where I summoned the moon,
let her appear. Because I repeated the exact word
until my voice turned hoarse.
Because I said: there, in the same place
where I summoned the moon as pale
as She, let her appear. Let this
take place; let it be not a lie.


Sometimes, Ernesto, I have heard you say:
an ill-fated demon has seized my body.
Don’t fear. Carefully shut the door
and window; the air will darken; remain
still, quietly tell him:
Angel, angel, angel, three times, and you will see
how tame he becomes, and he will seek
your company. Most surreptitiously,
light a redolent cigar from the Indies,
fashion three whites rings with the smoke;
thus, a column forms;
now imprison him.


To learn the precise date in which the virgin
must weep because of the smudges on your pedigree,
tie one of her headscarves around the calendar,
don’t say a single word; daily, pin a white lily to her chest: wait
till it flushes.


There is a demon who whispers
in your ear: Careful. They’re deceiving you. Always doubt
what they tell you. Break the circle.
The best amulet is in your hand.
Repeat his words: Careful. You’re deceiving me.
I always doubt you. Break the circle.
His evil verb won’t return,
for you drowned it in your own saliva.


To discern if the fruit of her womb
be male or female, let your hand
unveil the shadow before her eyes;
let her pronounce a name without
recalling the night of blood.
If she say: distaff. Or: swallow.
A woman shall shower joy upon your hearth.
If she say, for example: amaranth,
a boy shall plant a kiss on his
mother’s cheek. Should she remain mute,
be not saddened. He shall speak on her behalf;
for a poet will have come into the world.


A blind dove fluttered into
my darkness. I hadn’t kindled a fire.
I hadn’t intoned the incantation.
She came to tell me: It isn’t true
that I don’t love you enough, but my mother
would bolt upright in bed, panting.
Night: a star that is great, yet obscured.
I told her: Dove, blinded from
a pure blindness. And she regained her sight.
But who shall now utter the verb,
now that she is mute,
unable to pronounce it.


Often, I said: the fountain. Said: the waters.
I invoked the necessary images to meet in friendship.
They sought to please me, and they became a mirror.
So. With my hand, I raised the invisible, impalpable
curtain, and there were eyes behind,
eyes within, and listening from within the wall,
I heard distant echoes, indecipherable chatter.
Within its own depths, the mirror, too, was deceiving me.
Because of that, I said: Let it shatter! Day by day,
one by one, after my morning ablutions,
I would shatter them; but, Oh, the shards!
They multiplied me. There was the mirror,
and I deceived myself as I gazed back from each one.
Often, I said: moon, stars, vast
night. Frenzied, I would repeat these words,
I would magically repeat their names to obtain
by the twitching of my lips, a mirror
which wouldn’t deceive me.
And I pronounced a word, a single word:
Love. Then, of a sudden, the perfect, indelible
mirror, its surface the smoothest,
did not merely reflect the dimensions of the bathroom,
but its body matched my own and our space,
an exact contemporary to my origin:
A different Narcissus was born from my side,
born from my own self, now infallible,
because from opposing waters
I repeated myself, contemplated myself.

Ernesto Mejía Sánchez (Nicaragua, 1923 - Mexico, 1985) was a key member of the famous generation of Nicaraguan poets that included Ernesto Cardenal, Carlos Martínez Rivas, and others.
In 1956, he permanently settled in Mexico, after having completed post-graduate studies in Spain.
He was enthusiastically adopted by Mexican writers, such as Juan José Arreola, Octavio Paz, and Alfonso Reyes, for the quality of his poetry, work as an editor, and as a scholar. Mejía Sánchez was also one of the numerous Central Americans who made lasting contributions to Mexican letters, as the result of living in voluntary or forced exile from the brutal dictatorships in their homelands (among these writers, Augusto Monterroso and Luis Cardoza y Aragón immediately come to mind.) Among Mejía Sánchez’s accomplishments, once must mention his work as the leading scholar and editor of Rubén Darío’s complete works, and his essays on the complex and vast works of Alfonso Reyes.
The poetry of Mejías Sánchez is crystalline and pure in thought and style, as well as mysterious.
Arreola praised its “magical exactitude,” and Mejía Sánchez went on to win recognition in his homeland when he was awarded the Premio Nacional Rubén Darío in 1950.
Mejía Sánchez also excelled as a creator of prose poems, as well as a very sui generis type of micro critical essays, mixed with lyrical memories of fellow writers, such as Julio Torri, Carlos Martínez Rivas, and others.
He also translated such poets as Thomas Merton and Philip Lamantia into Spanish.
The poems included in this section comprise a complete translation of his early open sequence entitled Ensalmos y conjuros, his first book, published in 1947, in Mexico, by Cuadernos Americanos. [AS].
Anthony Seidman’s most recent collection of poetry is A Sleepless Man Sits Up In Bed, published in 2016 by Eyewear Publishing of London, as well as a translation of Luis Cardoza y Aragón’s Luna Park, released earlier this year by Cardboard House Press, and Smooth Talking Dog, translations from the poetry of Roberto Castillo Udiarte, published by Phoneme Media.
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