lunes, 3 de octubre de 2016

STEVE KOWIT [19.198]

Steve Kowit

30 de junio de 1938, Brooklyn, Nueva York, Estados Unidos - 2 de abril de 2015, Potrero, California, Estados Unidos.
Educación: College de Brooklyn de la Universidad de la Ciudad de Nueva York.
Steve Kowit fue el autor de In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop y siete poemarios. 
Un poeta aclamado por la crítica, que murió en abril de 2015 a la edad de setenta y seis.


Esta tarde, los resistentes Levis
Que usé a diario durante tantos años,
Y que parecían en perfectas condiciones, hasta el final,
De repente se rompieron.
Cómo o por qué eso no lo sé,
Pero pasó – un enorme desgarrón en la entrepierna.
Hace un mes, mi amigo Nick,
Salía de una cancha de tenis,
Después de vestirse con su ropa de calle,
Y en mitad del camino hacia su casa, se derrumbó y murió.
Presten atención a esto mis lectores,
Y caigan de rodillas enseguida
Como el poeta Christophen Smart y besen la tierra,
Y sean felices y aprovechen el tiempo,
Y sean amables con todo el mundo,
Aún con aquellos que no lo merecen.
Porque aunque no crean que esto va a sucederles,
Ustedes también algún día se irán.
Yo, a quien se le desgarraron los Levis en la entrepierna
Sin ninguna razón,
Aseguro que esto es así.

Rueden la noticia.

Traducción:  Bernardo Gómez


Cuando él estrechó sus labios contra mi boca
El nudo se deshizo por sí mismo.
Cuando él estrechó sus labios contra mi garganta,
El vestido se deslizó hasta mis pies.
Es tanto lo que sé—pero
Cuando sus labios tocaron mi pecho
Todo, lo juro
Por su mismo nombre,
Se volvió tan confuso,
Que todavía soy, amigos,
Incapaz de expresar
(como me gustaría)
Qué delicias y, por quién
Enseguida me fueron otorgadas.

Traducción:  Bernardo Gómez

A few of Steve Kowit’s poems

Lurid Confessions

One fine morning they move in for the pinch
& snap on the cuffs— just like that.
Turns out they’ve known all about you for years,
have a file the length of a paddy-wagon
with everything- tapes, prints, film …
the whole shmear.  Don’t ask me how but
they’ve managed to plug a mike into one of your molars
& know every felonious move & transgression
back to the very beginning, with ektachromes
of your least indiscretion & peccadillo.
Needless to say, you are thrilled,
tho sitting there in the docket
you bogart it, tough as an old tooth—
your jaw set, your sleeves rolled
& three days of stubble … Only,
when they play it back it looks different:
a life common & loathsome as gum stuck to a chair. 
Tedious hours of you picking your nose,
scratching, eating, clipping your toenails …
Alone, you look stupid; in public, your rapier
wit is slimy & limp as an old bandaid.
They have thousands of pictures of people around you
stifling yawns. As for sex—a bit
of pathetic groping among the unlovely & luckless:
a dance with everyone making steamy love in the dark
& you alone in a corner eating a pretzel.
You leap to your feet protesting
that’s not how it was, they have it all wrong. 
But nobody hears you. The bailiff
is snoring, the judge is cleaning his teeth,
the jurors are all wearing glasses with eyes painted open.
The flies have folded their wings & stopped buzzing.
in the end, after huge doses of coffee,
the jury is polled. One after another
they manage to rise to their feet
like narcoleptics in August, sealing your fate:
Innocent… innocent… innocent… Right down the line.
You are carried out screaming.


In a downtown San Jose hotel,
exhausted & uptight & almost broke,
we blew 16 colones & got stewed on rum.
You lounged in bed
reading Hermelinda Linda comics
while I stumbled drunk around the room
& reciting poems out of an old anthology.
I read that Easter elegy of Yeats’
which moved you,
bringing back that friend of yours,
Bob Fishman, who was dead.
You wept. I felt terrible.
We killed the bottle, made a blithered
kind of love & fell asleep.
Out in the Costa Rican night
the weasels of the dark held a fiesta
celebrating our safe arrival in their city
& our sound sleep.
We found our Ford Econoline next
morning where we’d left it,
on a side street, but ripped
apart like a piñata,
like a tortured bird, wing
window busted in, a door
sprung open on its pins like an astonished beak.
Beloved, everything we lost— our old blues
tapes, the telephoto lens, the Mayan priest,
that ancient Royal Portable I loved,
awoke me to how tentative & delicate
& brief & precious it all is, & was
for that a sort of aphrodisiac— tho bitter
to swallow. That evening,
drunk on loss, I loved you
wildly, with a crazy passion, knowing
as I did, at last, the secret
of your own quietly voluptuous heart— you
who have loved always with a desperation
born as much of sorrow as of lust,
being, I suppose, at once unluckier,
& that much wiser to begin with.


Years ago we owned two cats who hated each other.
When I said we had better give one away
you wouldn’t hear of it— you
were adamant, outraged …
relenting only weeks later when it was clear
they were going to tear each other to shreds.
 I remember the speech you made:
if it came to that we would give away Sluggo,
our loveable calico,
who could purr his way into anyone’s heart.
For in less tolerant hands, Mphahlele,
our difficult, misanthropic gray
might be abused, or abandoned … or worse— whereas
if he lived with us he would be loved always.
& of course you were right,
tho God knows you have paid dearly
for a compassion as absolute
& unyielding
as the copper sheet of the Mexican sky
rising each morning over that house
high in the hills of Chiapas
that you loved so
with its eleven rooms,
those great hanging bells of datura,
that courtyard, tangle
of wild vines
that you would never let me weed
to begin a garden,
insisting in that quiet way of yours
that every creature
had as much right to live as we had,
& that it was a garden.


A young man, told to die for his country,
politely declines,
preferring, he mutters, to suck his toes
in his own room.
The civil guard, delighted to practice,
take him outside & shoot him.
His hat blows over the wall.
A piece of his head is found in the brush
centuries later
by entomologists looking for beetles.
Scrubbed down at the local museum
it is stuffed in a jar & labeled:
fragment of ancient skull
culture unknown
But not a word about the fate of his calico,
or the anguish of his father,
or the whereabouts of his hat.


I am translating a poem by Domingo Alfonso
called Crossing the River.
When I lift my head from the page it is night.
I walk thru the rooms aware of the shapes
that loom in the silence.
In the bedroom Mary has fallen asleep.
I stand in the doorway & watch her breathing
& wonder what it will be like
when one of us dies.
In 8 years
we have not been apart for more than a few days.
The cat drops to my feet & sashays past me.
I open the side door. Outside
there is no sound whatsoever. If things
call to each other at this hour of night
I do not hear them. Vega alone
gleams overhead, thousands of light years
off in the region of Lyra.
The great harp is still.


I hiked out to the end of Sunset Cliffs
& climbed the breakwater,
sneakers strung over my shoulder
& a small collection of zen
poems in my fist.
A minnow
that had sloshed out of someone’s baitbucket,
& that I came within an inch of stepping on,
convulsed in agony.
Delighted to assist,
I tossed it back into its ocean:
swirling eddies sucked about the rocks,
white pythagorean sailboats
in the middle distance.
Kids raced the surf,
a labrador brought down a frisbee,
& the sun sank pendulously
over the Pacific shelf.
I shivered & descended,
slipping the unopened book
into my pocket
& walked south
along the southern California coastline—
all the hills of Ocean Beach
in the rouged light
of midwinter sunset.
Even now
it pleases me to think
that somewhere
in the western coastal waters off America
that minnow is still swimming.


If I am ever
unlucky enough to die
(God forbid!)
I would like to be propped up
in my orange overstuffed chair
with my legs crossed
dressed in a cashmere sweater & jeans
& embalmed
in a permanent glaze
like a donut
or Lenin
a small bronze plaque
on the door of my study
showing the dates
of my incarnation & death.
& leave the room as it was!
Let nothing be touched in the house!
My underpants stuck on the doorknob
just where I left them.
My dental floss
lying on top of the Bhagavad Gita
next to my socks.
Let the whole of Ebers Street
be roped off
& planted with yews
from Narragansett to Cape May
& left as a monument to my passing.
The street?
No— the city itself?
Let it be known
as the Steve M. Kowit
Memorial Park & Museum.
Better yet
if the thing can be done
without too much fuss
put the whole planet to sleep.
Let the pigeons & busses
& lawyers & ladies
hanging out wash
freeze in their tracks.
Let the whole thing
be preserved under ice
just as it looked
when the last bit of drool
trickled over my chin.
Let the last of the galaxies
sizzle out
like a match in the wind
& the cosmic balloon
shrink down to a noodle
& screech to a halt.
Let time clot
like a pinprick of blood
& the great solar flame
flicker down
to the size of a yertzite candle
leaving the universe dark
but for one tiny spotlight
trained on the figure of me
propped in my chair—
for after my death
what possible reason could life
in any form
care to exist?
—Don’t you see
it would be utterly pointless!
I would be gone!
Look, try to conceive it,
a world without me! Me
entirely absent—
nobody here with these eyes,
this name,
these teeth!
Nothing but vacant space
a dry sucking wind
where I walked
where I sat— where
you used to see me
you would see nothing at all—
I tell you
it dwarfs the imagination…
Oh yes, one last thing:
the right leg
is to be crossed over the left
— I prefer it that way —
& poised on the knee .
Prop the left elbow up
on the arm of the chair
with a pen
in my right hand—
let my left
be characteristically
scratching my skull
or pulling my hair.
If you wish
close the lids of my eyes
but whatever you do
the mouth must remain open
just as it was in life—
open forever!
On that I absolutely insist!


At the Paso Picacho Campground just after dusk, I walk past a big Mexican
family picnic: everyone chatting & laughing around a long plank table littered
with paper plates & plastic cups & half-empty bottles of Fanta.
Two little girls off to one side collecting the prettiest stones,
& a slew of bigger kids racing around playing tag, wrestling & giggling;
& farther away, in a world of her own, a white-haired grandma
in a long green skirt is dancing ecstatically by herself, barefoot under
the stars, dancing with that invisible someone, her wide hips rocking
to music from an old Chevrolet’s staticky speakers, the driver’s door swung
open — the Dixie Chicks: If I could only hold you now . . . Is it stupid
to guess she is dancing again as they danced when he was alive & both
of them young, that husband of hers, gone now, what — twenty, thirty years?
I walk through the campground toward where my own car is parked
this early November evening, the Pleiades gleaming above us, Stonewall Peak
darkening to the northeast, & a sliver of moon through the pines.
The others, chatting & laughing, pay her no mind as she sways there, eyes shut,
barefoot, lost in that old dream: a girl in her twenties, dancing again here in
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, in her long green beautiful skirt,
with that boy whom she loves still, that boy she is going to marry.

Taedong River Bridge

In memory of Jerry Greenberg

Retreating, Walker’s 8th Army torched whatever lay in its path, 
battered Pyongyang with rockets & mortars till the whole 
besieged city crumbled in flame. Blew up the granaries, too, 
& the bridges & roads, so that those who didn’t freeze to death 
would be sure to die of starvation — vengeance against the Chinese
Red Army & the peasant armies of North Korea for pushing them 
back to Inchon. The U.S. command shelling that city till nothing 
remained but that one standing bridge: tangle of girders with hardly 
a place to find footing & nothing to grasp as it swayed in the wind-
driven sleet over those waters — Taedong River Bridge, the only 
way left, short of death, to cross out of Pyongyang. Ten 
thousand terrified souls swarming over its splintered ribs. 
On their backs, in their arms, whatever they owned or could carry. 
Women cradled their infants. Men strapped what they could 
to their shoulders. The crippled & dying & blind inching their way, 
for to slip — & hundreds of those fleeing slipped — was to vanish 
into the icy hell of that river. Then the ones who watched, horrified, 
would clutch one another & wail in that other language of theirs 
while they kept moving. What else could they do? For what 
it was worth, those who fell through saved the lives of those 
inching behind them, letting them know where not to step next. 
                                       Jerry, you saved my life
in much the same way. Now & again, in my mind, that awful black limo 
pulls up at the curb in front of our house back in Flatbush, 
& Henrietta, your mother, steps out, gaunt as death in that black 
cotton shawl, while I watch from an upstairs window. At which moment
my own beloved mother slips into the room, lays a hand on my arm, 
& tells me quietly, lest I say the wrong thing when her dearest friend 
steps through the door, what she had hoped never 
to have to tell me at all: that you had been killed at the front. 
I was twelve. Forty years later I remain stunned. Now & again, 
something triggers it back & I drift out to Kelly Park 
& watch you fast-break downcourt — that long, floating jump 
from the corner. The swish of the net.

                                       Jerry, I don’t know you’d care, 
but when my number came up for the next imperial blood bath, 
I gave my draft board the finger — for us both. And for every last 
terrified soul on both sides. I can’t tell you how grieved I am still 
that you’re gone. Or thank you enough for the warning: your death 
letting me know where I stand, who my real enemies are, 
what the heavy money had in store for me too. 
In a way, then, I owe you my life: more than anyone else, you 
were the one who showed me where not to step next 
— the one up ahead, in the bitter wind of the past, who fell through.


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