This garden,
planted a few feet from the river,
served as a shawl, against the raining wind,
for this sick owl,
cowering in the mud like a saboteur.
And that mimosa branch, with the yellow flower,
and the hidden thorn,
tore the udder of the old cow,
and the palm tree, split by lightning,
turns black in the underwater of the stream.
So does life weave its crowns, laurel and tin,
crouched like a seamstress over reality,
blending the dark and the dazzling fragments.
In that way—in no other—
do cathedrals and marriages come about:
blood of the wasted, blood of the betrothed.
Just by opening your eyes
you find an abominable beauty exists,
in the very landscape.


They can be photographed
beside a rosebush
in an Etruscan garden
in front of a colonnade in the Pantheon
with huge sunhats
among cacti in Mexico
wearing fashion colors
and berets on one side like conspirators:
they will not change
they will not stop being the same
the chin raised watchfully
the oval face
and the eyes filled with a persistent helplessness
but what thoughts
are stirring under the hair, curling
or limp,
of these girls who adorn
the fashion magazines?
Almost all of them are pale
and they seem tired
The lines in their hands are narrow and melancholy
Every six weeks they change
dresses shoes hairstyles hats
and always I discover
a phantom curl
under the bright red wave
No matter if they cover themselves with mink
or wear vinyl boots
leather skirts
or new wigs:
I always recognize them
under whatever disguise
just as I do a spy
they pursue me in trains or airplanes
mostly at night
they take advantage of dark
they walk in threes
behind me
   beside me
   in front of me
Two of them climb trees
camera in hand
another strays under a plane
with the glassy eye of the dying
and they observe and measure my reactions
to find out if I tremble or weep before death
That I suffer
   am hungry or desire them
   is nothing to them
Their task
is not to make love but to illustrate it

This Issue

November 23, 1978