The year’s doors open like those of language

Happy 2015, readers. Let’s usher in the new year (a day late!) with the incredible Octavio Paz (1914-1998); “El Primero de Enero” can be found in its original Spanish here.

“January First”

The year’s doors open
like those of language,
toward the unknown.
Last night you told me: tomorrow
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
once more,
the reality of this world.

I opened my eyes late.
For a second of a second
I felt what the Aztec felt,
on the crest of the promontory,
lying in wait
for the time’s uncertain return
through cracks in the horizon.

But no, the year had returned.
It filled all the room
and my look almost touched it.
Time, with no help from us,
had placed
in exactly the same order as yesterday
houses in the empty street,
snow on the houses,
silence on the snow.

You were beside me,
still asleep.
The day had invented you
but you hadn’t yet accepted
being invented by the day.
––Nor possibly by being invented, either.
You were in another day.

You were beside me
and I saw you, like the snow,
asleep among appearances.
Time, with no help from us,
invents houses, streets, trees
and sleeping women.

When you open your eyes
we’ll walk, once more,
among the hours and their inventions.
We’ll walk among appearances
and bear witness to time and its conjugations.
Perhaps we’ll open the day’s doors.
And then we shall enter the unknown.

translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bishop


Lose something every day.

Many of you are probably already familiar with this classic Elizabeth Bishop poem, but I felt like sharing it tonight anyways..

“One Art”

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

— Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

it will deposit you like a seed

If you are at all intrigued by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) , check out her book of uncollected poems, drafts and fragments: Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box, a lovely supplement to the 101 poems she published during her lifetime.

a picture of the book Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box by Elizabeth Bishop


You are leaving the earth
but only a little distance
a hairsbreadth, your flight–
or a short /curly/ hair of your head
laid on the earth, would describe it–
but just that much is so hard to do,
it has cost other people centuries of effort
and is costing us centuries of grief.
In the hot, crowded terminal
we both look smaller, older,
your gabardine suit looks shabbier.
Have a martini. The great effort is yet to begin.
Our eyes bleary & /      /
slightly tearful
we made lists on half-wet paper napkin–
What are we, in this mob,
in this noisy restaurant–
just at the misty window
the /slick/ heavy wings slow
it waits to /negotiate/
it will deposit you like a seed–
hold on
hold on, as I lose you.