Cristina Pérez Díaz
CATALOGUE OF THE BOATS
Cat was sick,
She said so she could miss my reading last night
Today morning, I replied here’s a recipe:
Two liters of water
One Emergen-C every four hours
Go to Yoga
Use a Neti Pot
What’s a Neti Pot, she asked
I said omg it will change your life
It’s a nose irrigator, thinking she is a rather delicate flower
I didn’t write that and the messaging came to an end
Even though I went as far as to suggest singing
I wanted to go on and get to the thick of it
I expected, after the banalities of the situation
Of our bodies today, a little ill, something would glow in the words
Like Cat would ask how did it go, the reading
And I’d tell her how exciting, a nightingale
Fluttered over my chest all night long
But as she didn’t respond to this sign, I too was silenced
Then I went out to the street, to Macy’s, to buy our wedding rings
Gonzalo and I got married last year
He was anxious about his status once Trump was in power
We didn’t get the rings back then, but now we are having the interview
And it’s gotta look real
Sitting down as the copy of our past couple, dinner last night was by far better
than the original
Five fried pork dumplings
One spicy ramen
One ramen, non-spicy
The waiter wrongly assumed the spicy one was for the man. We were too full for
but expanding the time of our encounter, I said I need to write a poem about stuff, a catalogue,
tonight, and as we named the objects on our table, pondering what to put on the list, he laughed.
Whether it was the words or his green eyes, something glowed.
I took the train back uptown, to my studio and meditated on this garden:
Ramos Otero’s roses;
Eliot’s lilacs and hyacinths;
Funny, I didn’t notice there were briers in Whitman;
And delaying on grass and the perfumes
I continued writing our Constitution, a little under the influence of it all:
“Our memories will grow in a garden,
Lulled by the presence of briers and lilacs,
Of hyacinths and grass.
Every morning we are to inscribe them
On the sand, right by the fountain of fresh waters.
We ought to memorialize those islands,
The destroyed ones,
As if surveying from a high tower
The camp where the troops prepare for battle,
Or as if we were counting the fleets,
We will take notice of each and every island, and write it down
For posterity to know, at least. Or,
Moved by desire that so often billows in our inside,
We will neglect the task even of memory.
And we will focus on getting right our smallest details,
Not feeling up to the task of gardening,
We will look at the roses,
As they continue to proliferate in our limbs.”
And now, it’s OK to inhabit these lonely regions,
(Isn’t it only a seventh floor, after all, I inhabit?)
I move my chair six inches to the right,
To use a different corner of the small desk,
Moved by necessity to write this epitaph:
“Muchos murieron en ese puerto,
Y no podemos honrarlos. Ni las listas.
Sería mentira decir que nuestros cuerpos,
Eléctricos, se expanden, para ser, en vida,
Su gran cementerio.”
I place this epitaph somewhere with intent:
On the door of the fridge?
As my I phone’s screen saver?
On my right arm as a tattoo?
And with this feeling of loss, I return to my body and to this poem.
And as I think about our country, I go back
To the image of a woman I love,
And I regain my perspective,
Focusing on the details, our two bodies,
So often they turn our gaze away
From the outside, indoors, microscopic:
Your hands, Josephine
Your fingers, Josephine,
Your arms, Josephine,
Your lips, Josephine,
Your kisses, Josephine,
Your eyes, Josephine,
Josephine, for my flesh-glass,
Josephine, a folk tune about boats
Dangling in the dockyard, my gray hair,
And my kisses and my lips,
And my shoulders and my arms,
And my fingers and my hands,
Poem and body sweated.
There are no verbs on Sundays,
But things do happen
Melting, for instance,
Slow or fast, it all depends on the seasons.
When it is not Sunday I eat
Other things and ice cream too,
The week happens so fast
There is no time for melting,
No licking just swallowing,
No bench in the park
But a shivering, transitive, sidewalk.
Even if the flavor is of bright pink strawberry
The color is not even bitter it’s imprecise.
It is precisely the lack of precision that bothers me
On Sundays, I take the matter of justice in my hands, I
Cut the day, sharp, with neat borders, I
Draw, strict lines, with my black, fine, point,
One can fold the edges of anything into something
else, prettier and softer in its definition,
Kind, slow, sweet.
And the total sum of the many-folded object
Is an ongoing aria,
–for which the word in Greek is the synonym of law,
But there are no laws on Sundays–
I sing, only
To sing is not a verb but an adjective of voice
Or it is movement contained in a noun:
I like only reality and so I only like
This day of preparations,
Preparation takes time to enter into time,
It remains aloof from motion and sequences and goodbyes.
On Sundays I know just to say a fair “hi”
With a strange punctuation, rather vertical and not final
THE SUNDAY BEFORE THE FIRST EXPEDITION SAILS, I SPOT JOSEPHINE
And I notice a loud instance of laughter.
It comes out of the expanded lungs of a tall, corpulent man,
He is standing on the sidewalk opposite to me,
I notice in me the arrival of envy.
Like it rose.
Like the roses.
Full of red.
And then–it’s only natural as I go upstairs–I notice the two rings:
They are still here.
Untouched. Unmoved. Unrequited.
And they bring myself back to myself.
And they bring my body back to the situation of my body.
A little ill.
And they bring my soul to the grassy meadow of my soul,
As it is, unaccompanied by birds.
This very mute moment of realization:
The wedding rings here,
Their tiny black boxes.
And the voice on the margins comments: “This could have been our paradise.”
I take note in my heart of the song that spontaneously bursts in my computer.
It’s always that song, ha, I always sing it when it comes up to that,
To singing, to one part of myself, to History.
And the voice on the margins comments: “This past is now here.”
And though I look at the rings with full intent of gaze, it is impossible for me to see
I see they’re circular and golden and, I assume,
Beautiful, as I abstract myself from the rings.
But when I come back to the rings,
I see my husband
And I see myself.
Entrapped in the movement
And nimble citizenships.
And I move on to a new task,
To organize the whole,
To break free from the circle.
That is all I can do, after all,
I put order in a different sequence.
And then I spot Josephine in the crowd, so naturally!
She is running to me–running!
At the park on this nice evening at the very beginning of the fall,
It is perfect.
I should not forget this moment,
I should never forget how
How it is all grounded on itself, tightly
Finished by the delicate brush of Josephine
When she stops to say hi
Sitting down on the bench like no athlete,
I accidentally drop all my instruments on the ground,
So crisp is the whole.
She says sorry like it was her fault.
It’s the moment, I thought, it’s the moments’ crispy fault!
How it all falls.
And the voice on the margins comments: “The mute undivided present.”
And the moment suddenly closes onto itself and it’s over.
And with it over, there is nothing left,
The unknown quantity of my feelings runs away with her,
Away, away, away, away down the tree-lined pathway
With its withering leaves
Riding on the soft-yellow back of the sinking sun.
And there will be time for sleeping
To rest our exhausted bodies
And receive the visitations
That come only at night in deep shadows
With low voices, glimmering
They muster and mutter and babble
And we stop gnashing our teeth
Surrounded by much water
–This battle to wake up will be over
There will be time for sleeping
It is not possible to remain awake
How am I supposed to take it all in
–How much breath can I offer–
Give me a wide margin to pass out
And comment slightly on the sides of newspapers
How–I am deeply embarrassed–am I supposed to read
Them So many So often So crowded I edit
I trace with red ink a better version
Let me sleep!
I’ll take sunset to bed
For coming back from dreams, we encounter objects
In strange places just as Archilochus
Left his shield lying next to a bush
And said later I’ll found another one
I now take
Hold of something that is not in the Greek
Only in English can the word bush shield me
With that part of your body
But this thickness of air, these overcrowded spaces
A pace so inwrought, packed, chopped, and time does not
Become longer, no, it stays thin, thinner as I too
Wither and decay, and can’t
Take it all in. I
Measure myself with an obsession
More similar to the act of diving
But you and I, we will find time for sleeping
Camping on the far edges of our land
We’ll claim our sovereign right to slumber
Cristina Pérez Díaz (Trujillo Alto, 1985) publica semanalmente la columna Miel que me das, con traducciones de poesía antigua griega y notas al pie, en la edición en línea del suplemento cultural En Rojo del periódico Claridad. Es editora fundadora de la revista impresa Puerto Rico Review; su primer
libro, una traducción al inglés de la Antígona de José Watanabe, saldrá en el 2022 con Routledge; poemas suyos aparecen en diversas revistas en línea. Estos poemas forman la segunda parte del poemario inédito From the Founding of the Country.(IG @limitedvocabulary, Twitter @liricaantiguaes)