Image credit: Katie Neece, "Cocktail Hour", Oil on Canvas

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i decided to write you a letter, although

i suppose i’m beginning to discover that

all i write are letters

 

that sometimes don’t arrive

 

that almost never

 

arrive

 

but that are born, like every writing, of

urgency

and of silence

 

and that is what you are, too:

an urgency

a silence

 

***

 

i don’t know if it is possible to save the abyss between two

worlds,

between two bodies

 

between two mouths that move without emitting 

any sound, i don’t know

if it is possible to face the cold of bare

feet over tile 

 

the cold that darts like an insect across the body

 

(the body

moves

without emitting any sound)

 

skin against skin as if they were at war

 

as if i were watching you, and in my gaze you 

were already deforming

 

and i don’t know if it is possible to save the abyss

between two eyes that confront each other







(touching you, touching me, the body was the only

reciprocity)

 

***

 

(you said let’s go and i said yes,

and we left, slowly

 

– carry me toward you

on paths no one else knows –

 

i remember how you were that night,

pure levity, space

pain-free in the treeless garden

 

you molded me without breaking me, you molded me

without deforming me

without cutting me open, and you touched me

almost without touching

 

like the puff of air that nevertheless moves the tops of

trees

 

but even so i carry with me a scar

 

– every body is a scar on the surface of

time – 

 

the indelible marks on the skin that i call on since

then

when on violent days i search for the comfort of

ceremony

 

that you are

 

i am summoning you, i summon you 

like the absence of pain that you were one day

 

and this means that i speak without speaking and only

formulate a prayer

that reduces itself to your name

 

i say

your name

 

and i try to remember all the bodies that i know,

i try

to compose a mosaic of bodies that touch each other and that in

their touch generate beauty

 

– beauty is a helpless body, intimacy

that brutal defenselessness –

 

they are slippery bodies, mobile, flexible,

they are brittle bodies that overlap without eradicating themselves,

and it is in this call that i pronounce where

my most primitive will is born

 

the most human

desire

that i have, my artifice

against solitude

is this desire of bodies that want to transcend themselves

 

against themselves

 

and i surrender myself to them desperately, i surrender

to this looking without harming, to this searching, calling and

refusing any trace of pain, to requiring you

 

like i require you

 

without forcing you to come

only summoning you

 

in a voice so low it makes you tremble

in the depths of delicacy

 

not in the walker but rather in the swimmer who draws near

making way to the earth

 

to the solid shore of the body

 

that, before you, will cede of its own free will

that will surrender itself to you without claiming itself, without leaving

me, occupying

miraculously


exactly the same space i occupy)

 

***

 

because you are like water, like everything

that is already fading

 

like smoke

when you leave and only a trace of you remains

in the air

 

i watch you as one witnesses a thawing

 

i watch you detach yourself

from something i cannot touch

but i can recognize

when you are distant

 

when you don’t occupy

(like water doesn’t occupy)

the calmness of the earth’s surface

 

when i inhale

and your emptiness is a filter of my memory







(this river is yours, yours,

too, is this body)

 

***

 

i watch you

when i’m not present

 

in the intimacy where i don’t exist, i contemplate you

 

i ask myself if you exist,

if you are present in my absence

or if you exist only in my gaze

 

within me

 

(required blindness, then

the touch happens and you,

definitive and solid,

molded by my hands,

you happen again)







(a withdrawal, a

recovery)

 

(a solace)



Original ↓

decidí escribirte una carta, aunque

supongo que empiezo a descubrir que todo

lo que escribo son cartas

 

que a veces no llegan

 

que casi nunca

 

llegan

 

pero que nacen, como toda escritura, de la

urgencia

y del silencio

 

y eso eres tú también: 

una urgencia

un silencio

 

***

 

no sé si es posible salvar el abismo entre dos

mundos,

entre dos cuerpos

 

al frío que sube como un insecto por el cuerpo

 

entre dos bocas que se mueven sin emitir

ningún sonido, no sé

si es posible hacerle frente al frío de los pies

descalzos sobre las baldosas

 

(el cuerpo

se mueve

sin emitir ningún sonido)

 

la piel contra la piel como si hubiese guerra

 

como si te mirara y en mi mirada ya te estuviera deformando

 

y no sé si es posible salvar el abismo

entre dos ojos que se oponen







(tocándote, tocándome, el cuerpo era lo único

recíproco)

 

***

 

(dijiste vamos y yo te dije que sí,

y nos retiramos despacio

 

– llévame a ti

por caminos que nadie más conoce –

 

te recuerdo como fuiste esa noche,

pura levedad, espacio

indoloro en el jardín sin árboles

 

me moldeabas sin romperme, me moldeabas

sin deformarme,

sin incidir en mí, y me tocabas

casi sin tocar

 

como el soplido que sin embargo mueve las copas de los

árboles

 

pero aún así llevo conmigo una cicatriz

 

– todo cuerpo es una cicatriz sobre la planicie del

tiempo – 

 

las marcas imborrables de la piel que llamo desde

entonces

cuando en los días violentos busco el consuelo de la

ceremonia

 

que eres tú

 

te estoy convocando, te convoco

como la ausencia de dolor que fuiste un día

 

y esto quiere decir que hablo sin hablar y solamente

formulo una plegaria

que se reduce a tu nombre

 

digo

tu nombre

 

e intento recordar todos los cuerpos que conozco,

intento

componer un mosaico de cuerpos que se tocan y que en

su tacto generan la belleza

 

– la belleza es un cuerpo desvalido, la intimidad

esta brutal desprotección – 

 

son cuerpos resbaladizos, móviles, flexibles

son cuerpos quebradizos que se solapan sin erradicarse,

y es en esta llamada que pronuncio donde nace

mi más primitiva voluntad

 

el deseo

más humano que tengo, mi artificio

contra la soledad

es este deseo de cuerpos que buscan trascenderse

 

a contracorriente de sí mismos

 

y me entrego a ellos con desesperación, me entrego

a este mirar sin hacer daño, a este buscar, llamar y

rechazar cualquier atisbo de dolor, a requerirte

 

como yo te requiero

 

sin forzarte a venir

convocándote solo

 

en voz tan baja que te haga estremecer

en las profundidades de la delicadeza

 

no en el caminante sino en el nadador que se aproxima

abriéndose paso hasta la tierra

 

hasta la orilla sólida del cuerpo

 

que ante ti cederá por voluntad propia

que a ti se entregará sin reclamarse, sin apartarse de

mí, ocupando

milagrosamente


exactamente el mismo espacio que yo ocupo)

 

***

 

porque eres como el agua, como todo

lo que está ya desvaneciéndose

 

como el humo

cuando te marchas y de ti queda sólo una huella

en el aire

 

te miro como quien asiste a un deshielo

 

te miro desprenderte

de algo que no puedo tocar

pero sí reconocer

cuando estás lejos

 

cuando no ocupas

(como no ocupa el agua)

la quietud de la superficie terrestre

 

cuando aspiro

y el vacío de ti es una filtración en mi memoria







(tuyo es este río, tuyo

es también este cuerpo)

 

***

 

te miro

cuando no estoy presente

 

en la intimidad donde no existo te contemplo

 

me pregunto si existes,

si es que estás en mi ausencia

o si eres solamente en mi mirada

 

dentro de mí

 

(ceguera requerida, luego

acontece el tacto y tú,

definitivo y sólido,

creado por mis manos que moldean,

aconteces de nuevo)







(una renuncia, una

recuperación)

 

(un consuelo)

Translator's Note

I first approached Claudia with the idea of translating some of her work into English in January 2020. After some discussion about the process of collaborating (which took place primarily via email and Whatsapp, since she has gone back to Barcelona and I remain in Bloomington), I sent her a first draft filled with question marks and loose ends. Her poetry is one that embraces the ambiguity involved in presence – proximity, looks, feelings, silence, accompaniment – and resides in a space that marks the true impossibility of full presence. Among the many questions I had for her after my initial draft of these poems was regarding the title itself, te miro como quien asiste a un deshielo. The primary difficulty was the verb asistir, and my desire to render the weight of that verb as faithfully as possible in the context of Claudia’s work. In many speech situations, asistir (to attend) is an active verb, something one does, perhaps attending a class or meeting. But, throughout this collection of poems, the poetic voice is more invested in withdrawal – witnessing as the non-active presence of someone who cannot (or will not) act.

It was through careful and deliberate dialogue that Claudia and I were able to come to agreement on this and other challenges. It was a unique joy to work with a friend and colleague who is also an excellent English speaker, because the mutual exchange between languages led to a translation that I likely would not have achieved on my own.


Daniel Runnels

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