The reddish shadow of a female wolf o
Gerard Verges Â´
Translation of the verses of the book L’ombra rogenca de la lloba, awarded with the prestigious Carles Riba Prize 1981, published by Proa in 1982 as part of the “Els Llibres de l’ Ossa Menor”. T RANSLATED
E MIGDI S UBIRATS .
I’m named Romulus, a Roman one with tired, ironic, thoughtful gesture, whose face is minted in coins. Keen on Mahler, Mozart above all. And the silence of the stars. I’m a thousand. I’m not telling you the well-known story nor describing the landscape where I lived: that wide river, with flourished orange trees, and, up beyond, the hard red land, olive groves and vineyards, the sky of summer like a sharp blade of a sword. And beside the sea, the one I love so much. I know the land where I’ve lived. Look: Baneful is water for ripen wheat, baneful the gale for bushes, baneful for me the infuriated Gods. Sweet, instead, is arbutus for lambs, sweet the slow rain for crops and sweet for me your company is. I met you still in your teens with eyes like dark roses, like black gardens in half-light. (And I believed black was the colour of beauty.) Nobody knows the old swell, But the north wind hair mussed, Hair like snakes. Serpents on the bosoms. jv
Hurt am I of splintered glasses (glasses inside, but, love calls me). Hurt am I of words and silences, of torn clay, of chopped wood, of powerful desolated forests. The primitive gold was an injured flower and those truly green forests were cut down and are no more today.
(On getting new sorrows I agree to write verses. I’d have so much loved you, so slowly I’d have kissed your eyes and lips. — My black eyes: not like a lightning. — And my sweet lips: not like a sword.)
Swords might come later. Mugs of snow swept away the blooming, Stones broke the mirrors of water, Mist covered the face of the moon.
Pistols everywhere, Scared tricorns everywhere these and horses, at dawn, along wet meadows and paths of darkness. Green, red and white. Not British banners. If horses move, clouds will as well. And there is an ingenuous silence of poppies – naive herbs – whereas in squares young girls turn up, with bright eyes and elastic jeans on a thin waistline. v
Everything starts with funny air, Everything starts with a bit of hope As Green as the axes of woodcutters, As Red as the soutanes of priests, As White as the membranes of insects, Though man is frailer than a rose.
However – keep it in mind – my private life is no affected by the ancestral copulation of turtles, nor by gold stocks in Swiss banks. I choose the menu; mushrooms and beef; A Priorat wine and a tangerine juice. — What else does the Sir need? — Stillness. I’d like to die sweetly like the acacias that never come up in April. I’d like… (A kettle is boiling on a fire, so is hell)
The hell of Spanish whores who still work in old Jewish quarters in Istambul. Bacterium and treponemes. (I never wrote these letters. And that sonnet – green among greenness of boreal mints – where mint rhymed with your lips.) — I’ve dreamt of you tonight. (I’ve loved you so much, darling, at all times.) — I can never lie on the same side. (I wonder if you still believe in everlasting rest.) vj
— I used to harmonise ideas and words. (Good work is a pitcher which doesn’t leak) — I’ve always been a man with ideals. (Some canons used to be bells.) And, above all, grief, and suspicious headlines of papers, and cheeks of milk and strawberry, and the arched snow of the necks of swans, and the spiral of fire in metaphors, and the blonde pubis of Venus Afrodita, and my dead friends’ bones, and twilights of ashes and darkness, and Father God’s face, and prisons, and herons and orange blossom, and the clean shoes of a Sunday, and weak submarine shells, and the north wind cutting like a knife, and clocks that stopped moving at half to ten, and lists of synonyms and antonyms, and plastered saints with eyes of china, And the thread that leads us, good lads,to the bottom of a bizarre labyrinth. I’m not Teseu. Teseu, Teseu! Where did you lose the thread? We weave with it delicate tapestry And, with words, glittering poems; But at the back there is a secret, a bunch: Look at the hidden face of the moon And the small print of contracts. vjj
When Christmas come notaries send cards full of purpurin and snow. When Christmas come, wolves are fed by the wind. We were hungry, and then, kind was a female wolf. I reckon of the eight breast of hers, I reckon of the nourishing breath of hers, I reckon of the reddish shadow of hers. For all this (and much more I keep inside) I drop her off those herds of lambs Which graze among vineyards beside the river. I drop the bishopric of Hipona off my books, (Without fighting Iâ€™d have never won) And a woman in love my garden. To the unstable Gods I drop thousand sextercis off As an offer of snowy lilies and wax. I drop worms off my heart, and also my wrath. I drop the wind off my vanity And the sea my bitterness. My friends I drop them off for good my faithfulness. Now I remember Flebas, the Phoenician, Who died only a few days ago. Suddenly, When the marine currents were drifting him away, He forgot the cry of seagulls. So Well built and young was Flebas, the Phoenician. Why can lying voices be heard And a sailor, beyond waves, Is staring fertile islands, if all is a lie? vjjj
If others, luckier ones, have cut seas through And founded kingdoms, built empires, And seen the round breast of sirens, They should record superb alexandrine verses On marble or bronze or their memory. Years went by, the millennial stones Will have split. Tiny cypresses Will be surrounding demolished walls; The sea will be an oil stain (where will the blown sails of vessels be?) and the air will be yellow. — Because of honey? — Because of sulphur! I swear it on behalf of the pallid moon. — Don’t swear on its behalf as it’s changeable. (The moon was shining.) And the wolf man felt his fright grow, the nails, the hair. (The moon was shining.) And a wise man reckoned of an ancient proverb which claimed that humans may only be a dream of shadows. (The moon was shining.) And wizards were seeking heads of scorpions, flowers of aphrodisiac herbs, the silver medulla of cinnabar. The moon was like a white rose, And lovers’ hugs used to be Long and sweet and terrible. Moon. — Among all, the cherry skin Like a red stream of clotted blood; The one out of ripen grapes, as transparent jx
As the reflection of glass in cups; The tender velvet skin of peach; And the skin of pear, coloured With old copper and autumn bronzes. — Among all, your sweetest skin For the nights of love, your skin Warmer and more desirable than all Fruits on earth is. (We were happy.) My friends, you should learn all this happened Decades, millenniums, ages, eras ago; Nowadays the only truth Is the absolute sinfulness of Gods. And I hope never to return here. I no longer wish anything, not even the waste, Of unrepeatable time that disappears Like water between hands. (I don’t care.) I do care this moment next to you, Not memory, fair paradise. “I still remember that enjoyable time”: Sol-fa and verses, music and worries. “Time, without time, you spent like time”: Never believe in complex sophisms. Ah, brains are stuffing around me With keen Aristotle’s syllogisms. Let’s say, summing up, thought x
Is only thought of thought, Soul is the shape of shapes. (And, in the golden silence, Kantâ€™s bird widened the sky flapping the wings.) Spring is tender like a lip. Rainy and sunny. Midday of a summer. Through the window gets in the scent Of flourished lemon trees and fennel. Iâ€™ll lean my head on your chest And will let pure time go. The rest is only smoke. (Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills prophets) Who says prophets, says presages. Cocks. The obscene blood of cocks on altars. Cocks with an implacable beak hoisting flags. Dark-feathered cocks between corpses. Frenetic cocks kidnapping the Sabines. Cocks and illogic adjectives. And what a game a little wickedness can create! A poet in a plaster and a distinguished foot, A God of plums and an Olympic basket, A wise horse and a golden pastor A soup of light and a beam of fish, A tank of verses and an armoured volume, A girl of glass and a virgin eye A collector of flowers and a bunch of taxes, A romantic hangman and a sinister sky, xj
A field of athletes and a team of wheat, A comfortable monk and a poor bed, A twelve-year love and an everlasting whisky.
We aren’t supposed to play with words. Neither to believe in promises Nor in the lies of evil Spaniards: Our daily fight, oh Lord, And, how dare we look at the fields That sow our language with gargling and salt, And our people are nipped in the bud?
Troubadours didn’t find easy To sing the tangible limits of our land. It may have been easy to talk about women, About the wild aroma of their hair And the humid meat of their lips. They found easy to talk about water birds Along banks of freshness, between tallest poplars. They found easy to talk about powdered black eyes And breast like cupules of snow. Let’s leave the troubadours in courts of love – Taste of verses and mead – let’s leave sailors in open sea – Taste of salt, of seaweeds on lips – . Destiny is always untying things. And, when needed, every land takes its way. Your hands are dirty. Hammers of rage Crack noses, cripple penis and tits. And the noble marble crashes. xjj
Barbarians come back, so do medusas From the jelly bottom of waves. Pragmatic of fire. Lots of fury. And thus, we are getting poorer. Cathedrals had become – that gothic flourished of splendid vine – market stalls. Ramon Llull danced Charleston with a black woman of combative buttocks like piranhas; Goethe read the sportive papers, Neron grew roses in his garden; And Voltaire hieroglyphs solved On Afrodita’s naked back. Rubens painted yellowy women, With icteric dry yellow, like the skin Of lizards, like withered bushes; Saint Vincent Ferrer talked to the beocis – chosen ignorant audience – about a new flag with a blue line. (Birds were fleeing. The Wind. The Wind. Birds of fury came, dark falcons, And a cold wind stripped the magnolias off.) In the middle of the path of life We need to stop some day and look back. Because, passed the time, it’ll get an hour That we’ll find bitter wine in glasses And an inevitable taste of ash on lips. We’ve buried parents and friends, xjjj
Every day we bury our wildest dreams. And it seems human destiny To bury what is most loved. And we’ll die tomorrow (who knows how?) We might do in the worst way, Without dignity, like farm animals, (Be what it be, death always has A sour smell of faded chrysanthemum.) Though we walk along shaded spots, There are instead some blessed mortals. Dante, for instance, got in heaven. (We will never do). And he had suffered from coldness and exile, He saw God, he saw Beatrix. You’ll say – I know – those were dark times, in the year1300 people were different, they quarrelled about crucial themes – about love that moves the sun and the stars – and about the insecure sex of the angels. (Angels were flying in high sky of a firmament crowded by nightingales. The sea was inhabited by dolphins And unicorns ran along meadows. — Ah – said to me a lazy one – imitate the Gods And, don’t let your studies bother you, Love Juliana and her sister, The benign beauty of her tits, Ecce florescunt lilia. (And it was true. xjv
A green tender grew between fallen leaves. On the table, glasses, fruits, flowers. Eyes and glowing cheeks are shining, And from the golden twilight music is heard) I threw the fortune cards violently to the ground. Here we have Secret XVIII, the Moon. I looked at it: The Moon was crying tears of fire. Two dogs were barking at it. A crab Was swimming in musical blue water. Towers are the door to hell. And when’s the rainbow due to appear? Solideus coloured of buguenvil·lea, Nightshirts coloured of iris, And blouses coloured of campanulaceae. Proud adventurers stare the stars; Bearded bastards touched empty intestines; Shall sing songs like stones; Devoted servants give tips; Hopes bury slaves Fires gave smoke; fig trees, figs. Greedy cats drink frozen gin. There are horrible honourable homicides. Shall ignore insults and ironies (Tired as I am, I’ll stop here the ABC.) I’m exhausted, even my eyelashes are a burden. And, above all, I’m weighed down by my sins. xv
Let’s say, my vertebrae are a burden, Let’s say, the fright of the seagulls, Boats that wreck in Straits, Golden rain of pollen on the water, Ivory worked by ancient hands, Erudite quotations of Romans, Honourable announcements of death, Myths we believed in, lies, Smooth comfortable snow of posters, Sticks and ropes and canes, Mineral hardness of oblivion…
Oblivion that ratifies doors and windows On empty places, closed rooms. All is silence: cloisters without crosses, Docks without vessels. It won’t remain A remote scent from us all.
And even so, me, Romulus, son of Mart, I’ve still written these verses. (Maybe with little faith and trust.) But you should know that these things Were first written on my heart.
This leaflet, composed as a Baskerville, has been published due to the homage to poet Gerard VergÂ´es organised by the Roquetes Library on 25th April, 2008.
J AUME L LAMBRICH .
Catalan Poem by Gerard Vergés, translation by Emigdi Subirats