Imagine that you are in a dark nightclub and a Tiger is seated at the bar, observing you curiously. Something like this happened to Pedro Serrano in Cardiff a few years back. I know; I was there, and so was Bill. This poem was published in The Other Tiger – and is the only poem, as far as I know, to make its first ever appearance in that tome. The night spot has since closed down. The image above is from a painting by the Catalan artist Lluís Peñaranda.
The tiger leaps
from a cloud of smoke into transience.
Falls on the devastating corral with an idleness
corresponding to the haste of his victims,
not to his elasticity.
He brushes past the bars of his cage
swinging his tail, rattling, tac, tac, tac, tac.
Crackling, he licks the circus sands
and raises ripples of dust,
traces of an approaching wake.
The motive for his observation
journeys in the smooth rhythm of his stomach,
velvety, gluttonous, elastic.
He turns circles before the spectators,
ears cocked, instincts fixed
on the excitement in the air.
He walks by the tables, propitious,
exudes substance and style.
The head sinks between the shoulders,
swells in the rail that encircles him.
The claws are extended
in the animal body that awaits him.
In the mirror of midday
the night’s end was taking shape,
(Translated by Richard Gwyn)
El tigre salta
de la humareda a la fugacidad
y cae en el corral aplastante con una pereza
que alude a la prisa de sus victimas,
no a su elasticidad.
Pasa rozando las rejas de su jaula
una vuelta y otra.
Restallante lame las arenas del circo
y levanta espejuelas de polvo,
huellas de una estela aproximándose.
Meneando la cola, golpeteando.
La razón de su observación
viaja en el suave ritmo de su vientre.
Da vueltas a los espectadores,
las orejas prestas, su olfato
en la agitación que se respira.
Pasa propicio por sus mesas,
Afelpado y glotón,
sume la cabeza entre los hombros.
Crece en el riel que lo circunda
y cae con las uñas puestas
en el cuerpo animal que lo acecha.
Queda un muñeco de goma
desde el espejo del mediodía
se apunta la noche.
Pedro Serrano, born in Montreal in 1957, is a poet and professor at UNAM in México DF. He was until recently Director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre in Canada. His translations include the anthology La generación del cordero (containing many of the most prominent British poets of the 1980s), Shakespeare’s King John and the poetry of Edward Hirsch. He recently published DefenßaS, a book on poetry and other wanderings. La construcción del poeta moderno, based on this doctoral thesis, is an extended essay on T.S. Eliot and Octavio Paz, and was published 1n 2012. He was for many years the editor of the online poetry monthly Periódico de Poesía. A book of his selected poems, Peatlands, translated by Anna Crowe, was published by Arc in 2014.
Ricardo, A poem for staying at home. Use as you see fit. best
they come for relief from the wind
that whips over these hills
stirring up small tornadoes of dust and leaves and wrappers
in the streets of the city
over which I stand.
they come to escape the sun
that bakes the streets, concrete sidewalks and terracotta roofs of this city
to replace it with my shaded earth, dark pathways and cool hidden hollows.
they come to replace the smell of diesel fumes
and dumpsters reeking of the bones of tuesdays chicken,
with the scent of pine, forsythia, lilac and fig.
they come to barter the rush and hum of traffic
which flows constantly, heavily
at my foot,
for the chirp of birds and the rustle of a breeze in a treetop
they come to trade a sprawl on a sticky black leather sofa, a view of a digital screen
for a seat on cool hard granite and a patch of purple flowers,
the stem of each
by a fingernail sized shining black ant.
they come to forget the death toll, the masks, the rules, the uncertain future
to feel instead a bead of perspiration rolling down a ribcage, a heartbeat pounding in a skull
up they climb, boots and walking poles tickling my skin as they climb the pitch of my torso. Up my rough, veined paths rutted and sinewy from the last downpour.
dogs crisscrossing the arteries and quadrupling the distance covered by their human friends.
emerging at my grassy head, dotted with the yellow of forsythia dancing in the light,
they look out over the brow of my little canyon at the city;
stripped of its smells, its heat, its noise, its rush,
a visual shell of the material world,
only as a foreground
to the blue sky
stretching across the horizon
pressed against the supine sea
to where the dirt and the dust loosened by their steps
will wash at the next rain,
step by step, drop by drop, layer by layer, year by year,
the sea, carrying bits of me along its tentacles to every shore
it permits itself to touch.
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