back toJacket2

Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |    

Pura López-Colomé


Translated by Forrest Gander

Those coveting health —
I saw them making their way along the worn path,
the one trailing away from the city,
a part of the world,
a part of my own wounded humanity,
a sweet apparition for whomever awaits
me, living within but apart from me,
in my thirst, in my shifting
moments of trouble and peace.
I was them. I was myself.

They ascend toward Chalma, the pilgrims. Knowing that, on the way, their dry branch will break into blossom. Most are young. They carry water, a sleeping pallet, their daily lives. A few elders. Children on their shoulders. The sanctuary in search of its premises.

At once, with a single question,
their old age woke up in them.
For what do they petition
the Lord they worship,
a Lord whose body
is mortified by today’s exhaustion
and yesterday’s misery?
To be able to go on crying in fury or impotence,

to be able to sicken or to go beyond sickness,
to be able to testify to, to endure the terrifying absence of . . .
at the very core of the horn of plenty,
to be able to forget, yes,
the seven or eight year old ghost
impetuously flying without tail or string
by which it might be tugged back to earth,
to forget the future history,
the missing relinquishments to love.
Oh, body, Lord and Master,
show me a tree made in your image,
synagogues, shrines, mosques,
filled out with your being.

They’ve made camp. Night. Groups of men over here, mixed groups over there, women with babies and children farther off. Around the campfires, standing, squatting. They share neither food nor coffee, each bringing out their own dinner, without making excuse for... and celebrating by sitting on the hard ground, letting the rocks bruise their thighs, nursing the baby in front of strangers. The warmth whelms from the nearness of arms, backs, necks, breasts; not from fire. From blood. There are those falling asleep, those about to, and those keeping vigil. None needs a roof.

All our fates
are measured out as breath
in the songs of stars.
A communion of luminous bodies,
I prayed in terror or envy,
a particular sequence,
a particular translation,
the joy of the indispensable.
Nothing more.

The next morning, full of admiration and rapture, I returned to those places, hoping to breathe in the last smells of what had been dreamt and shared. Going back as though to touch the votive stone, the feet or hands of the worn image of some miraculous saint:

I found nothing but garbage.
The Lord’s mouth agape,
his stinking breath.

Photo of Pura Lopez-Colome, Berlin, 2001

Pura López-Colomé lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico. This poem was first published by Duration Press, then appeared in Two Lines magazine in the Fall of 2000. It will appear in No Shelter: Selected Poems of Pura López-Colomé, forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2002.
Born in Mexico City in 1952, Pura López-Colomé studied literature at UNAM. She published literary criticism, poems, and translations in a regular column for the newspaper Unomásuno. The author of several important books, including El sueño del cazador, Un Cristal en Otro, Aurora, and Intemperie, she is also the translator into Spanish of works by Samuel Beckett, H. D., Seamus Heaney, Gertrude Stein, and others.

Photo of Pura López-Colomé, Berlin, 2001,
by John Tranter

Jacket 16 — March 2002  Contents page
Select other issues of the magazine from the | Jacket catalog | read about Jacket |
Other links: | top | homepage | bookstores | literary links | internet design |
Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that this material is copyright. It is made available here without charge for personal use only. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose

This material is copyright © Pura López-Colomé and Jacket magazine 2002
The URL address of this page is