Apparition in Hamburg
Translated from the Spanish
by Jonathan Cohen
1,000 people listening to my poetry
and 300 in the street, unable to fit in the place
— you know: the publicity
and the Nicaraguan cause —
all of the faces in the dark (for me)
the entire audience behind the spotlights,
a thundering, applauding shadow,
but then in the light, very close to me,
almost on stage, sharing the powerful lighting with me,
I saw you
short hair, messed up a little,
the girl with eyes the color of muscatel
or sometimes the ocean's color on the high seas
or somewhere in between green and soft blue
(and it was as if the sky were watching me),
the very same mouth,
mouth I drank in my mouth,
an 18-year-old girl again,
the same age as 30 years ago,
but German, I suppose, this time,
being able just to sneak looks at her now,
she beside me in my orbit of light,
in front of the blinding spotlights,
on a bench; behind her
some three other girlfriends half in the dark;
and so among something like 1,000 faces
hers was the only one I saw.
Who on earth would ever tell me that you had reappeared,
the one whom the One, capital O, pulled out of my arms,
the girl I let go to embrace the Invisible,
my pretty ex-cherub whom I kissed so much but never enough,
mouth I drank
now here again, 30 years later,
lips curled slightly
by a smile,
eyes troubled suddenly by an angelic
like that angel full of lust
more so by being made of flesh than by being an angel,
my pretty girl, urchin, whom I embraced
at "Las Piedrecitas" under the stars — do you remember? —
whom I hugged in a man's coat,
that coat of mine I lent you for the cold,
whom I left for God,
sold out for God — did I end up the loser?
I left you for sadness.
Applause for my verses
with chants in Spanish
and I being able just to sneak looks at her.
Skin like a pale apple's, like
the apple just picked from the tree
that I nibbled on later, that night, in my room at the
tart, sweet, light green, juicy, fleshy
but it was a fruit, and not the other thing.
It was as if I were losing her again
as if she were being given to me again and I were giving her up again.
A renunciation that had been hard
and was still hard, becoming an entire life,
and now the renunciation again,
so fleeting this time,
but nonetheless hard, painful,
amid the applause of the shadows,
the pain of feeling that you might be her again
and at the same time, maybe worse, the pain that you weren't.
A German girl, I suppose, who is unaware of all this
the other girl who once resembled you knows about,
my baby then 18 years old
(she knows these lines are for her)
on that gloomy Somoza night,
the lights of the dictator's palace
reflecting in the Tiscapa Lagoon.
The one who admired my black hair — do you remember? —
and once you called it "pitch black"!
in that restaurant.
The darkness applauded
"their battle hymn was a love song
and I meanwhile so much like our war cripples
peacefully sitting in their wheelchairs.
But there wasn't any bomb.
There was an anonymous call about a bomb
that the police didn't believe.
We might have died together, my love,
I, a short-lived bit of news in the paper,
like that short-lived flower of the cortez trees
"when the golden cortezes flowered"
simply a German girl (I suppose)
with any name.
But the girl who made me give up again the one from before
young and fresh this time just like before
while they were taking up a collection among the crowd,
burlap bags filled with heavy coins and bills;
and some 15,000 marks were raised for the Nicaraguan people