Nine Years Later - A Poem Dated

by David Huerta

I appeared in bloodstained October, my hands heavy with
         silence
and my eyes lashed to the dark.

If I spoke, my voice felt dislodged,
my bones were drenched with cold,
my legs, fluent with time, were carrying me out of the
         square
in a direction with no direction: to rebirth
in a hall of mirrors, the maze of streets.

The city razed by silence
was cut like quartz, shafts of light portioned
the corners, the speechless bodies crushed against their
         lives,
but other bodies were there, there were other bodies.

I speak with my entire blood and from my own memories.
         And I am alive.

I asked myself, how are our eyes, our hands, our bones
         and our brain
after I left the square? Everything was solid, spacious and in
         flux,
after I left the square.

The air was telling me everything is still, is waiting.

I moved out of the square, my mouth scorched with
         memories,
and my blood fresh, shining like a ring continuously
coursing through my body, fully alive. So I was moving
out of the square, intact and breathing.

I breathed in images, and since then all those images come
         to me in dreams,
shattering everything, like wild horses.

Amid the turmoil of the day stood the mirror of death.
And a word from my life clung to the edge of infinity.

I do not wish to speak of the scale of that afternoon,
nor place here adverbs, shouts or laments.

But I would like, yes, a flash of anger
to mark the mirror of death.
Where could I place my life, my words,
nine years later, but in that cold fury,
in that animal of rage that stirs, enamelling my dreams,
with its cruel breath?

All my blood circulates though my life, complete, without
         question.
But then I heard how it halted, bound to my breathing,
and beating, with the deaf call of its stillness, beating
my inner voices, the gestures of my human life,
the love I have been able to give and the death I will pass on.

Then fear came to my eyes to cover them with its frozen
         fingers.

All the silence of my body was unleashed
in front of the bodies laid waste, spat towards death by the
         zealous shrapnel:
those glistening bodies, bloody, silhouetted against
         the shredded light of late afternoon,
other bodies unlike mine, and even more different,
because they were uprooted, cleaved from human life
by a vertiginous fury, by the hands of a grievous force that
         cast itself, howling,
against those bodies, already fainter than the dusk,
yet more and more vivid in my waking dreams.

It is true I heard the shrapnel and now I write this,
it is true my blood now flows again and still I dream
with a kind of dead doubt, and sometimes I see my body
         naked
like a slow food for the devouring mouth of love.

Where were the bonds of my life,
my mirrors and my days, when afternoon fell on the square?

If I take a piece, a thread of my body and place it against the
         memory of that afternoon in the square,
I retreat to my life, frightened, as though the feather-light
         fingers of ghosts struck me in the mouth.

I speak about these weighty memories because I must do it 
         sometime, this way or another.

I left the square, a living stupor in my mouth and my eyes,
yet I felt my spit and my blood, still living.
It was a cool night, surrendered to time.
But in the streets, on the corners, in the bedrooms,
there were bodies, crushed and shut off from their lives by
         bitter fear.
A ring of fear was closing in on the city,
like a strange dream without end, without waking.

It was the mirror of death.
But death itself had already passed over with its armour
         and its instruments
into every corner, through all the cancelled air of the square.
It was the mirror of death with its reflections of fear
that brought shade to a city that was this city.

And in the street you could see how a hand was closing,
how an eye was blinking, how feet slid, in thick silence,
looking for an escape,
but there was no escape: only
a huge door open onto the kingdoms of fear.

October, 1977

The literal translation of this poem was made by Tom Boll

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

Notes

The poem recalls the Matanza de Tlatelolco of 2 October 1968 when the Mexican military opened fire on students staging an anti-government protest in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, Mexico City. You can find out more about the massacre on this page in Wikipedia

It is taken from Versión [Version] (1st edn, 1978; repr. México: Ediciones Era, 2005).

It took us three workshops to complete the translation of this extremely powerful poem, and we're very pleased with the results. Do send us your comments.

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