They were right to call it wild.
Even here, the houses of this
wind-beaten city grow taciturn,
and in their huddles,
speak only in hushed tones,
seem poised on tip toes,
and feel like stiff tourists,
or those who don’t stay long.
For there is still something
it commands in us,
as with the uneasiness of children
in the matriarch’s cloying room.
Here, we learn of limits,
and find again
the muteness of our steps.
And what do we know
of its quarrel with the sea,
which has left deep scars
in these cliffs,
or of the burden of salt
which it carries?
We are a passing of seabirds,
a foam of scattered centuries,
while it carves us
beneath a weight of solitude.
Between the waves
that breach like whales,
it remains the last
untranslatable, wild word,
a shoulder of wind.
The sea is a radiance
of flying fish.
And the clouds too
crowd and play
in their own deep ocean.
Here the hills spread out
like a banquet of goodbye,
and in the voices of others,
the migrant joy of salt.
Crossing the strait,
the seabirds already send me,
like a message,
to the unwritten shore.
open like an unreachable bud
in the still blue skin of the
Pale, silent, saying nothing,
yet somewhere once
a fierce energy,
a nebula of music,
which through the
that it took islands, diamonds,
oceans to rise up and die,
through all this,
you reach us only now.
Still, you reveal nothing to us,
while we chew ourselves
into mouthfuls of
hate and love and fragrance.
Now and then, some of us flare up,
some, just now, petering out,
for we too
revolve around our own
You, slow burning, linger long
until red death comes.
Do you envy us,
our short and brittle fuse,
the heat of our precocious days,
our exquisite elaboration
on a theme of life,
our insatiate coming and going,
while you only remain?
I crest the hill of this salt swept morning,
to a sky of violence.
And the wind,
that marauder of trees,
upsetter of crisp clothes lines,
that Attila of the ferocious sea,
brings me angry messages from afar.
It will not let you remain, you know,
forever and forever, like a stone ornament
sunk in the phlegmatic moss.
Even if you want rest, you can’t have it.
Even if you want to be silent, you can’t.
Everything in the city moves
like an earthquake of air.
The wind peels the paint from the windowsill,
and tosses dogs out of doors,
and the city evaporates
with a flock of dispersed seagulls.
You cannot hold this,
like a clutch of bills, a purse of longing,
for the wind brings an angry message from the sea,
brings a bruised fruit
that dropped from the already afflicted tree.
And I walk in this annihilating hour
with a lightened soul.
It was cold,
and the wind was piled high
with bad memories,
and walking was hard,
as if the street was a wound in my feet.
And to forget,
I crossed over
to the other side of the road,
where a cat flashed
like a fallen lamp,
and the swift clouds
grazed the sky until I was raw,
and I couldn’t remember dates or years.
I walked on a street
where nobody knew me,
and not even the night
held a candle,
and the lamp posts
no longer recalled your name,
and the stars were like the clarity
of a life wiped clean.
Some people can see the path laid out, smooth,
paved with marble lobbies and licorice sex.
Even better if someone has already laid it out for them.
Me, sometimes I only see streets
with well-manicured flowerbed roundabouts,
and those same self-satisfied birds that wait at the verge
for the man with the fabulous toupee to come,
throw them scraps of stale bread.
I’ve heard that there are radiant highways
that lead away from the sea,
that immense end to all our conversations.
Turn your back on it, go up,
up toward the smiling towers, the places with lawns
where there are no more thought terrorists,
where corn on the cob aprons smother impotent fear,
where there’s a pill for every night-intruder.
I’ve heard that in those places nothing can blow your mind.
If that’s the case, I’ll take the next exit south, back to the beach.
There, the foam is taking pains,
is deconstructing parades of plastic animals,
and paring flawless wives to their bones.
There, the sea, with a single thunder of salt,
carries off the porcelain and the closets and the perfected hedges,
and I watch them all sailing by in pools with grey-green kelp
and bright little crabs that think of nothing at all.
And I feel calm and collected,
and I know where all the roads eventually lead.
I do not know how the others can take it.
Every day, the sky that pretends to return,
the awful houses that hurl deathly flowers to the pavement,
the things that outlive us,
the poles and the wires that were already here long before us,
that glower on every street corner
like grandfathers disapproving of our fashion.
I do not know how they put up with
smiles on girls, dynasties of red lipstick sinking beneath parking lots,
rusted trolleys silently leading tramps
down dingy lanes that want only to die from an assault of lice,
the brains of rats that go off like grenades in fashionable cafes,
and of course the birds,
the pigeons that reek of ammonia, watching us,
while we pretend not to notice an offspring of dust
that collects behind our genitals and ruins our best laid plans.
We, who pretend to know equations of infinity,
perfect roses, poems of love and heroic laughter.
But the heart of the matter is this:
we live in the worn-out grooves that dead tycoons,
hideous philanthropists, and insects of lust once left for us.
There are dogs that play on a wreckage of beach
with a new owner every day.
There are couples that follow each other off the same old piers,
into the same green sea, that is neither sad nor alive,
and a sky that returns and returns and returns.
I do not know how the others tolerate
these corners piled with assassinated leaves.