Image credit: Maddison Colvin, "Untitled (grasses, shifted)," mixed media

View Artwork Credits
View full size

In the Last Pneumonia

In the last pneumonia I lost hope that time

hadn’t passed.

The house in Cheste (finger pointed at the sky as if to test

the direction of the wind: for the record, it's not mine), that house

in Cheste isn’t made to shelter convalescents.

On the nightstand, water, sweets, thermometer. Or are there two,

generic brand.

The sheets like crumpled wrappers, yellow vapor

on my temples

and acid on the pillow.

Pain arrives not really knowing where it came from, and falls

in whole-body headaches.

Fever, like snow, makes everything uniform.

The night is humid and I’m alone. No matter how wide I open my eyes,

I feel myself inside a dark interior.

Coughing, so much coughing, makes ashes

out of our birthcries.

I think about all kinds of things, let it be morning soon,

let the towel that dries me be fresh,

let the swifts never stop flying.

 

 

Miguel de Molinos Has Lifted a Finger

Miguel de Molinos has lifted a finger. It seems as if he’s saying

yes, of course not, lightly.

The owl doesn’t blink.

The wise man stops tossing bread to the catfish.

The snail is forewarned.

What disquiets him? In his honor, a little breeze scatters

the leaf-pile.

Don’t move, stay still, he’s about to mutter an inference.

Like the slam of a door, the chameleon fires its tongue. I

honestly have no clue what’s going on with the bumblebee.

Peace returns. The hedge, the tumbledown mansion, the dead

moths’ dust . . .

Count on it: it will be some time before anything happens.

 

 

In the Depths of Winter Animals Watch from a Distance

My hound-dog instinct never paid me mind.
How to free my soul from it? I’m at a loss.
—Farid ud-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds

 

In the depths of winter animals watch from a distance.

They distrust any renewal, their own tracks in the mud, the smallest shift in the wind.

It’s the fog on the mesa, and deep down, forests and deadly-pure shadow.

Fogbanks that run away from the first moon that comes closer, closer, and bites down on the heat of the nape, on the ease of living things. In that beast’s breath, in its moribund tongue, a fear ferments, whole, unbroken, incisive.

 

The shadow on the staircase. The animals scatter and we watch, still and elemental. A breath comes down the steps. It circles the walls, stains the silence with its secrecy. José Hierro° heard it panting in the dark hall and sang to send it running.

 

In Sumeria, a land where earthquakes lodged complaints against the wind, a dog barked at the sullen sea. With burning alcohol, Leopoldo Lugones† shed light on his fears. It came from the mouth of that dog, like a shriek in the shape of a glacier, the soul and its total bitterness.

 

I can’t look away: the mist in the distance, the cold, the spirit that sends animals running. The bone.



View Original Work ↓

En la última neumonía

En la última neumonía perdí la esperanza de que el tiempo

no hubiera pasado.

La casa de Cheste (índice al cielo como si se comprobara

la dirección del aire: conste que no es mía), esa casa

de Cheste no está hecha para albergar convalecencias.

En la mesilla agua, caramelos, termómetro. Creo que son dos,

Marca Aposán.

Las sábanas tal que un envoltorio estrujado, vapor amarillo

en las sienes

y acidez en la almohada.

El dolor llega sin saber muy bien de dónde, y cae

por los quebraderos del cuerpo.

La fiebre, como la nieve, todo lo hace uniforme.

La noche es húmeda y estoy solo. Por mucho que abra los ojos,

me siento en el interior de un negro adentro.

La tos, mucha, muchísima, transforma en ceniza el sollozo

con que nacemos.

Uno piensa de todo, que se haga pronto la mañana,

que la toalla que me seque sea nueva,

que los vencejos jamás interrumpan su vuelo.

 

 

Miguel de Molinos ha movido un dedo

Miguel de Molinos ha movido un dedo. Parece que dijera

que no, eso sí, levemente.

El búho no parpadea.

El sabio deja de echar pan a las carpas.

El caracol está avisado.

¿Qué le inquieta? En su homenaje, un airecillo desordena

la hojarasca.

No te muevas, quieto, a punto está de musitar una inferencia.

Como un portazo, el camaleón dispara su lengua. Yo,

de veras, ni idea del abejorro.

La paz regresa. El bancal, el caserón, el polvo de las polillas

muertas . . .

Tenlo por seguro, pasará tiempo hasta que algo suceda.

 

 

Dentro del invierno hay animales que miran de lejos

Mi instinto de can nunca me obedeció,
yo no sé cómo liberar de él a mi alma.
—Farid ud-Din Attar, El lenguaje de los pájaros

 

Dentro del invierno hay animales que miran de lejos.

Desconfían de cualquier relance, su propio rastro en el lodo, la mínima anomalía en la dirección del viento.

Es el vaho de la meseta, y al fondo los bosques y la sombra de pureza mortal.

Vaharadas que huyen desde la primera luna que se acerca, se acerca y muerde en el calor de la nuca y en la facilidad de lo que vive. En el aliento de esa bestia, en su lengua moribunda fermenta un miedo entero, continuo, incisorio.

 

La sombra en la escalera. Los animales huyen y nosotros miramos quietos y elementales. Un aliento baja por los peldaños. Rodea las paredes, mancha la quietud con su sigilo. José Hierro oía en el pasillo oscuro el jadeo, y cantaba para ahuyentarlo.

 

En la tierra cimeriana, un país donde ponía quejas el temblor del viento, un perro ladraba al hosco mar. Leopoldo Lugones iluminaba con alcohol encendido sus miedos. Por la boca de aquel perro salió, como un alarido en forma de glaciar, el alma y su completa amargura.

 

No puedo dejar de mirar: el vaho a lo lejos, el frío, el espíritu que ahuyenta a los animales. El hueso.

Translator Notes

Paco Layna published his first collection of poems in 2016 at age 55, followed quickly by a second collection in 2017. I find Layna’s voice as energetic as one could hope for from a prolific newcomer, while also often world-weary and knowingly sardonic about subjects like aging, a tone sometimes hard to find among new voices. While Layna enthusiastically samples lines and images from global art and literature, he grounds even his most esoteric musings in small details—bedside tables, fish tanks, little towns. He gravitates toward two idiosyncratic but well-developed forms: extremely long lines that spill over the edge of the page to match his scattered, self-questioning labyrinths of thought, and bullet-point-like indentations, applying a form suggestive of logic to content that favors discursiveness. If he sometimes gets a little lost in his own poems, he always invites us to be lost alongside him. Layna’s best work is nerdy, friendly, tender and grave. I am honored to share it with you.


JP Allen

×