Clean the spittoons, boy. Detroit, Chicago, Atlantic City, Palm Beach. Clean the spittoons. The steam in hotel kitchens, And the smoke in hotel lobbies, And the slime in hotel spittoons: Part of my life. Hey, boy! A nickel, A dime, A dollar, Two dollars a day. Hey, boy! A nickel, A dime, A dollar, Two dollars Buy shoes for the baby. House rent to pay. Gin on Saturday, Church on Sunday. My God! Babies and gin and church And women and Sunday All mixed with dimes and Dollars and clean spittoons And house rent to pay. Hey, boy! A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord. Bright polished brass like the cymbals Of King David’s dancers, Like the wine cups of Solomon. Hey, boy! A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord. A clean bright spittoon all newly polished— At least I can offer that. Com’mere, boy!
The older we get the stranger my husband becomes, and the less certain I am that I know him. We used to lie eye to eye, breathing together in the immensity of each moment. Lithe and starry-eyed, we could leap fences even with babies on our backs.
His eyes still dream off toward something in the distance I can’t see; but now he gazes more zealously, and leaps into battle with a more certain voice over politics, religion, or art, and some old friends won’t come to dinner.
The molecules of our bodies spiral off into the stars on winds of change and chance, as we welcome the unknown, the incalculable, the spirit and heart of everything we named and knew so well— and never truly named, or knew, but only loved, at last.
This is how the wind shifts: Like the thoughts of an old human, Who still thinks eagerly And despairingly. The wind shifts like this: Like a human without illusions, Who still feels irrational things within her. The wind shifts like this: Like humans approaching proudly, Like humans approaching angrily. This is how the wind shifts: Like a human, heavy and heavy, Who does not care.
I’ve been a bit scattered with posting the past few weeks–thanks for understanding! Although I’m a few hours late tonight, I thought this poem beautiful and unusual and I look forward to reading more by this poet.
By Octavio Paz
Translated By Eliot Weinberger
for Roger Caillois
Water hollows stone, wind scatters water, stone stops the wind. Water, wind, stone.
Wind carves stone, stone’s a cup of water, water escapes and is wind. Stone, wind, water.
Wind sings in its whirling, water murmurs going by, unmoving stone keeps still. Wind, water, stone.
Each is another and no other: crossing and vanishing through their empty names: water, stone, wind.
London, my beautiful, it is not the sunset nor the pale green sky shimmering through the curtain of the silver birch, nor the quietness; it is not the hopping of birds upon the lawn, nor the darkness stealing over all things that moves me.
But as the moon creeps slowly over the tree-tops among the stars, I think of her and the glow her passing sheds on the men.
London, my beautiful, I will climb into the branches to the moonlit tree-tops, that my blood may be cooled by the wind.
Remember the sky that you were born under, know each of the star’s stories. Remember the moon, know who she is. Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the strongest point of time. Remember sundown and the giving away to night. Remember your birth, how your mother struggled to give you form and breath. You are evidence of her life, and her mother’s, and hers. Remember your father. He is your life, also. Remember the earth whose skin you are: red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth brown earth, we are earth. Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them, listen to them. They are alive poems. Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the origin of this universe. Remember you are all people and all people are you. Remember you are this universe and this universe is you. Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you. Remember language comes from this. Remember the dance language is, that life is. Remember.