Thursday Poem

Before saying Any of the Great Words

We already know: First we must agree
on which they are; but let us acknowledge that they exist:

they resound in all their weight and gravity
down Nievsky’s Prospekt, in the muttering of Raskolnikov,

and Cortázar mocks them at every opportunity,
lightens them up, musses their hair, reconciles them

with the rest of the vocabulary so that they may rub benignly
against one another and liberty won’t do too much harm

with its tonnage of Greek marble
and its whiff of existentialism and its undeniable tragic greatness

to janitor, tenedor, bibelot—although the greatness of this
last one
is suspect, for which we have Mallarmé to blame,

there are also the short and decisive words: yes, no, now, never,
turbid love, clean death, rattled poetry,

other words that are like art for art’s sake: sandalwood,
for instance, and words like deoxyribonucleic, telescopic

and possessing an undeniably scientific elegance, a diffuse,
intense, and labyrinthine character, all at once, linked

to that other word, life, and of course there are the combinations,

your mouth, this letter, dozens of verbal objects
that are only important for inexplicable reasons,

spoken at night or during the day, said

or held in silence, in the velvety net
of memory, in the transparent and energetic fortress

of forgetting, that body or fabric from which
are also made the great words, time, so many things.

by David Huerta
from
Narrative Magazine
translation: Mark Schafer

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