two poems by julio cortázar

You Begin With Magic, You Are Its Furthest Nighttime Operation

The nation of the palm of your hand,
how I’ve hounded its rivers and been lost in its dunes
in search of the reddest fountain of mercury
that would summon with its ancient gong,
there above the moon of your lips, your rising smile.

Peloponnesus of ivory and bronze
your hand’s minute map,
a puddle for these lips that pursue
each timeline.

I smell the sand, I hear its jackals,
there are moorings and bonfires in your hand,
there are traps, lonely
midnight bars with exhausted pianists
and you, yourself, pulled close to your voice that tears through the darkness
a vague column of milk and vanilla.

Everything is born in your hand, saffron planisphere and aged rum,
and then it moves forth, climbs, deceives, and tempests,
pinkish navel, lips withdrawn, feeling,
suddenly it’s Sergio and his guitar, it is that wounded summer girl
that gave us that flower on a street corner with an aloof “I must.”

I’ll tell you of the trip, you, half awake,
I’ll lift up the Portolan chart, stealthily,
I’ll tell you in the fog that coos in your throat
of the games of chance that dragged us through backrooms
to drunken sailors, to girls just passing through,
who form the alphabet of this language, the gesture
with which you surrender, bending, murmuring a fountain among bell towers.

There, where at last I drink.
 
 
*

Don’t leave me alone in front of you,
don’t set me off to the bare night,
to the razor-edged moon of crossings,
to being nothing more than these lips that drink you.
I want to approach you from you yourself
with that movement that your body unleashes,
that it spreads beneath the wind like a black canvas.
I want to reach you from you yourself,
seeing you from your own eyes,
kissing you with that mouth that kisses me.
It cannot be that we are two, it cannot be
that we are
two.
 
 
Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) is one of the most important Argentine novelists and short story writers of the twentieth century. Most of his literary production occurred while he was living in exile in Paris. His poetry was not as well known and remains largely untranslated.

These poems originally appeared in the text Último Round, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1969.

Trans: Jacob Steinberg, 2011.

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