THREE POEMS by Álvaro Fausto Taruma trans. Grant Schutzman
CEMETERY OF THE DROWNED
To my shipwrecked brothers on the island of Inhaca
As your hymn hangs above the mouth of the castaway I call out your name, I call you with this tongue whose words are more than just a soft murmur, a sob, a liquid wound, a widow’s voice, an estranged orphanhood beyond words. I run the winds of September, the unburied mast of longing, the flower that is your unformed body and I write out the syllables of every tear, here, in this country that you departed and never left. So show me the corolla of waves, the whiteness of a tissue that only you know, an echo, say it to me now. Out here hands dig hollows in the insides of your absence: your mother, my mother, every mother is but one mother when the ship that carries every afternoon returns and an inexplicable rudder leads to a memory of your face. What substance does your body breathe beneath the waters, with what burst of gill? How do you adjust the clearness of the tide, the moss, the plankton, the flora of your exile? Ours is still a body made of flesh, blood and fear and debt growing in unpayable leaps and bounds (and so I write with the fatherland of knees with which one prays, searching for imaginary coins). Tell me of those winds that I have heard only the briefest rustle, of that city where death is a mirror, a spectacle that one paddles across, a shipwrecked dissent. A friend you departed and never were, tell me that the sun will make bloom again the fauna in your eyes (unerasable in the night like in the dreams of fish). Oh, how I too wish for this calmness, your home/ocean where you dream with open arms and set aside the flesh because after all, this is what life is: ephemeral circumstance! So tell me your little lies because here the truth is a revolt held down: fear’s weight on the back of the world, above the books, above the tables worn away by hunger, above the life you chose on that submerged edge of cloud: the stronghold of liquid things.
FACTORY OF SILENT THINGS
Just as the teacher gleans from time his essential tool, I manufacture silence, this loom of words unheard, with the same fire that weaves together the angst of an unfinished life; and yes, from silence we come and to silence we shall return, its fretful whisper soaks my body, and the tree of childhood shadows me with its parched leaves, or the dead landscape of some unnamable season, the September winds sweeping away the summer. Silence, the substance we mine within forgotten verses, how it reminds me of that woman split between farm and phallus, the dewskin above the back of each morning. Like a stone, a graph-paper line, I sharpen silence, I tune silence, and the voices sizzle between its burning blood, calling forth this animal that cannot be slaughtered, the bull slowly chewing its root, I mean, its rage, and they both flow back to its mouth like a blade, a metal whose fire only he knows.
On your back you bear the distance that separates you from your own birth! What voices do you bring, oh recital of time? The flesh burns – animal of space and water – it beheads thirst in public squares of glittering metal. There is no cure for the gangrene in this season of moons and udders, not the blank slate of oblivion, nor the translucent fruit of forgetting. We vibrate in the craters our hearts remake, serpents of wind for hands, gloomy and transfixed, surrendered to Goya’s ashen rifles. Blood condenses where love condemns us – this is the body’s hard burden.
Grant Schutzman is a poet and translator. He is fascinated by multilingual writing and that which has been deemed the untranslateable. His poetry and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Rust + Moth, The Inflectionist Review, The Shore, Modern Poetry in Translation, Asymptote, The Offing, Your Impossible Voice, and Exchanges.