Thursday, April 25, 2024

"Friends on the Road"

Then I arrived at the capital, vaguely saturated
with fog and rain. What streets were those?
The garments of 1921 were breeding
in an ugly smell of gas, coffee, and bricks.
I walked among the students without understanding,
pulling the walls inside me, searching
each day into my poor poetry for the branches,
the drops of rain, and the moon, that had been lost.
I went deep into it for help, sinking
each evening into its waters, grasping
energies I could not touch, the seagulls of a deserted sea,
until I closed my eyes and was shipwrecked in the middle
of my own body.
Were these things dark shadows,
were they only hidden damp leaves stirred up from the soil?
What was the wounded substance from which death was pouring out
until it touched my arms and legs, controlled my smile,
and dug a well of pain in the streets?

I went out into life: I grew and was hardened,
I walked through the hideous back-alleys
without compassion, singing out on the frontiers
of delirium. The walls filled with faces:
eyes that did not look at light, twisted waters
lit up by a crime, legacies
of solitary pride, holes
filled with hearts that had been condemned and torn down.
I walked with them: it was only in that chorus
that my voice refound the solitudes
where it was born.

I finally became a man
singing among the flames, accepted
by friends who find their place in the night,
who sang with me in the taverns,
and who gave me more than a single kindness,
something they had defended with their fighting hands,
which was more than a spring,
a fire unknown elsewhere, the natural foliage
of the places slowly falling down at the city’s edge.

—Translated by James Wright and Robert Bly

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