The Life of the Living Room
with my eyes closed
I aim at the centre of a moving target
at those beatles in the grooves
from the old days
at the stylus that stores and couples
in the dark heart of the record.
You were that face
your lunatic eyes at a loss
making the record skip
and on your other side
my harrowed ear
A shell - inside
a rippling tinny sound
like days churned up
that grew with us
from the steamer
aboard the ship of music
towards which country at which checkpoint
the border of age
Dusk on a turbulent day:
we have reached this point.
The room now broadcasts
its acoustic through the house
like a matriarch of horror
who in the long run
marks what has come to an end.
Our own private property of listening
thickly quilts us
the riveted married couple
plumping up the armchairs
who sunk in the resources of time
bore the weight of friends
lived their performances here
in the living room of this conversation.
They're no longer here but to evoke them
(do you remember what you used to say?)
fills a book with quotations
fills this moment to the brim with laughter;
writing about them is contagious
of haunted elation.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Gwen MacKeith
The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop
Tamara Kamenszain first published this poem in 1991, at the age of 44, and it is tinged with the nostalgia of those first approaching middle age for the lost excitement of youth.
She's particularly good at the way she uses music - specifically, the physical details of an LP - to evoke 'the old days': those 'beatles in the grooves' (we left the spelling at is is) who were of such importance to 'the kids from the steamer' (presumably the one that travels from Buenos Aires to Montevideo in Uruguay). This mood is beautifully contrasted with the suffocations of 'the riveted married couple / plumping up the armchairs' who've lost so many friends. And yet evoking them produces this beautifully subtle poem, and leaves the poet in a 'trance / of haunted elation.'
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2015