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Prism

by Pura López Colomé
Translated from Spanish by
Forrest Gander
Issue 7 Online Exclusive

Those coveting health—
I saw them making their way along the worn path,
the one trailing from the city
to the far flung parts of the world,
part of my own wounded humanity,
a sweet apparition for whomever awaits me,
living within but apart from me,
in my thirst, my shifting
moments of tribulation and peace.
I was that. They were me.

They ascend toward Chalma, the pilgrims. Knowing that, on the way, their dry branch will break into blossom. Most are young. They carry water, a sleeping pallet, their daily lives. A few elders. Children on their shoulders. The sanctuary off in search of its premises.

At once, with a single question,
their antiquity awoke.
For what do they petition
the Lord they worship,

a Lord whose body
is mortified by today’s exhaustion
and yesterday’s misery?
To go on crying in fury or impotence,
to sicken and sicken,
to testify to, to endure the absence of . . .
at the very core of the horn of plenty,
to be able to forget, yes,
the seven or eight year old ghost
impetuously flying without the tail or string
by which it might be tugged back to earth,
to forget the future history,
the missing relinquishments to love.
That?
Oh, body, love and Lord,
show me a tree made in your image,
synagogues, shrines, mosques,
filled out with your being.

They’ve made camp. Night. Groups of men over here, mixed groups over there, women with babies and children farther off. Around the campfires, standing, squatting. They share neither food nor coffee, each bringing out their own dinner, without making excuse for . . . and celebrating by sitting on the hard ground, letting rocks bruise their thighs, nursing the baby in front of strangers. The warmth whelms from the nearness of arms, backs, necks, breasts; not from fire. From blood. There are those falling asleep, those about to, and those keeping vigil. None need a roof.

We are all destined
to the measure of breath
by which the stars are singing.
A communion of luminous bodies,
I prayed in terror, in envy,
a particular rotation,
a particular translation,
the joy of the indispensable.
Nothing more.

The next morning, full of admiration and rapture, I returned to those places, hoping to breathe in the last smells of what was dreamed and shared. Going back as though to touch the votive stone, the feet or hands of the worn image of some miraculous saint:

I found nothing but garbage.
The Lord’s mouth agape,
stinking breath.

Born in Mexico City in 1952, Pura López Colomé is a literary critic, poet, and the author of several books, including El sueño del cazador, Un Cristol en Otro, Aurora, and Intemperie. She is also the translator into Spanish of works by Samuel Beckett, H. D., Seamus Heaney, Gertrude Stein, and others.
Translator
Forrest Gander was born in the Mojave Desert and grew up, for the most part, in Virginia. Trenchant periods of his life were spent in San Francisco, Dolores Hidalgo (Mexico), and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. With degrees in both geology and English literature, Gander is the author of numerous books of poetry, translation, fiction, and essays. He’s the A.K. Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literature at Brown University. A U.S. Artists Rockefeller fellow, Gander has been recipient of grants from the NEA, the Guggenheim, Howard, Witter Bynner and Whiting foundations. His 2011 collection Core Samples from the World was an NBCC and Pulitzer Prize finalist for poetry, and his 2018 collection Be With won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and was longlisted for the National Book Award.