Translations from the Spanish


Roberto Manzano

Synergies 3

I like to see certain fruits grouped like petals on the table, where they
flood the eyes, so eager for living’s many colors;

but your seed-look, that pleases me, your hands in my hands, my
fingertips feeling the centered rhythm of your breasts;

feeling the rub of your belly’s beautiful fruit, curved and promising,
that amazing geode your waist offers;

equidistant from everything, radiating sweet architectures, world center,
Macchu Pichu of the sky;

invisible expeditions set out from there, foamy strands of grace,
passion’s fragrant phosphorous;

in your belly the spiral of your navel sings, well of Liliput, concave coin,
primary eye of life;

it closes around your middle, wraps your insides like a sash, it’s a hinge
of busy eloquence;

your belly skin is like a polished ring, a shell’s pink transparency, like
heaven’s palate;

what’s above is of a piece with it, two squint-eyed hills where the
anxious mouth hurries;

and below, your womb opens in the dark hive of the pubis, two coasts
where the lips linger;

your womb is a tender grower, everything widens and works together
toward this child building;

it swings to the planet, a liquid pendulum, turns on rapture’s rhythmic

your womb swells its sides with a will like a guava’s, with a comet’s

I put my ear to your stomach, under your gladiolus hands, to hear
tenderness the way an Indian hears the horizon bringing buffalo.

(Translated from the Spanish by Steven Reese)


Roberto Manzano

Synergies 4

Now I feel like letting go with a howl, O Munch, a great resonant
lament, like a booming wall of China;

O Munch, on the bridge joining the two towers I would brace myself
against the gray rail to send out this huge howl;

mirror of art, that preserves the rare moment like a perfect double, how
well you give your dark colors to what is colorless;

I would pour out a long rasp, freed from anguish’s clenched jaw, the
kind that exhales all the acid of pain in a single breath;

for I’m exhuming a huge pain, neither elegiac nor hymnal, not
impassive, not athletic, neither masculine nor feminine;

a pain, Vallejo, without flavor or record, lodged like a bad vertebrae in
living’s dismaying successions;

Munch, to resound like this, to unstop the soul’s pipes, the rail is there,
and the spirit’s weight against the rail;

when they sound you and label you and declare you beyond hope, as is
usual when sorrow’s honor runs out;

I would let go a cyclopean howl of outcrop rock, of thrown crystal, of
the crushed retina, of desert wind;

and it is not at all to commiserate or pardon or contribute or attack
that I ask now, this moment before the great howl;

I only want the pain to vacate me, like a death rattle that goes quickly,
separates, two visages facing each other;

then the mouth’s open crater remains and the air of silence returns in
one inspiration as long as a train;

it enters in sad, consoling rings, the color of a night ember, like a
small, private celebration;

the world’s immediate outlines dissolve, and the eyes, red still from
gasping, the eyes see the distance’s clear palms;

and the great kingfishers cross the air while the sun rises, convalescing,
over the polished waters of the ocean.

(Translated from the Spanish by Steven Reese)


Roberto Manzano

Synergies 10

Sometimes, with the last light of evening, the dark, ramshackle trains
depart slowly from the stations;

metallic, dirty, crammed with hurried riders who fall silent while the
whistle says farewell to the platforms;

and the last scraps of newspaper scurry over concrete, under shoes, and
fall to the shining rails;

then, in the evening’s slant light, its saffron and certain and sad-
smelling light, the last coaches vanish;

and I am the traveler, I am always the traveler, leaning, barely aboard
and lost in thought;

the traveler who has departed but never arrived, pursuing illusions in
train tunnels;

and then I tell everyone goodbye, and goodbye to myself, waving the
utopic handkerchief;

I have a long life behind, a great hope before, and a heart-sorrow that
sings and sings;

and sometimes I am new, always again that country boy who would
watch the small black trains of childhood;

and how is it that I am still that boy, that I have in me that same
journey of wounded nostalgia?;

in the unfolding of destinies these things are not good, a great grief in
preserving this fleeting sleep;

better to go from coach to coach joking with others wrapped in
thought, with one’s distracted fellows;

better to train the eyes on the countryside already written out like a
visual psalm, like the same old familiar verse;

or plunge them into the nearby fences that quickly go by, uniting their
flowering posts, their black stumps;

or to join with the soul, slow traveler, crossing the air with its
possessions, while sparks from the rails mimic first glimmers of Venus.

(Translated from the Spanish by Steven Reese)


Roberto Manzano

Returning in the Evening

Spread the tablecloths! The fragrant evening hour
has arrived, and in the dusty river of the street
the twilight faces are coming home.
Inside, over there, the kitchens are lit,
and from over there the clatter comes wafting,
the sweet tones of utensil and aroma.
A toast to taste, and long live the tablecloth choir!
Traces of the day’s to and fro
still on their shoulders, dust still on their step,
hair dried out by the heat,
but the coolness of the washtubs shines,
the towels flutter close,
earth-grimed shoes are left in corners,
and a trickle of delight grows and then unbraids
to float, aimless, under the lamps.
Unfold the tablecloths, the hour has arrived!
We have come back from the world-stuff,
from the spin of the compass, from the sweat
of our breath, the grease and the granite. Come back
from wood turned to pages, from sewing sacks,
from balancing papers, from forging souls.
We have come back along all the roads
talking briefly, stepping quickly across the dust
of our kingdom. We say goodbye in the side streets,
beneath trees wide with their red leaves,
against the red heavens,
and we go to our neighborhoods
like an army in the aftermath of victory.

(Translated from the Spanish by Steven Reese)


Roberto Manzano

The Thread

Through all things there runs a thread:
not of one color only, but of many,
and it unites everything in the mystery:
when you come to a halt, the thread stops,
and it joins you the moment you start again:
so through the flower, midday light,
through night, through time and the earth,
under your plants and over your brow,
the thread goes with you:
alone, at the very brink of death,
with others, toward the center of life,
crossing the crowded avenue
or standing on a shoreline crag,
it goes between leaves, the thread passes
through shoes by the thousands,
it passes from one thing to another, goes
from those things to you, from you to others
and then from those others again to you:
there is a thread and it travels this earth
suiting what happens to what’s hoped for,
the matter to the dream, the desire to the joy:
without pause the thread goes with you,
it follows without rest while you live
and right to your death-fall, when its color
brightens at the shadow’s edge.

(Translated from the Spanish by Steven Reese)


Roberto Manzano


When we hold each other, the old ones return,
the ones who loved in the distant past
between the wildflower and the cavern.
The lovers of that time, too, were joined fast.

Perhaps on the plains of some other day
Another crazed couple like me and you
Had their roll in the happy hay.
This sweet lunacy is old and new.

This fervor holding you is beyond history.
Here in my arms I gather an ancestry,
Like a seaswell, no boundaries to speak of.

From obscurity, passing to this embrace,
The others among whom we take our place—
Space, and time — all united here for love.

(Translated from the Spanish by Steven Reese)