Two Poems from Spain

August 1, 2023
translated by Amy Olen
A digital illustration of a humanoid figure dotted with stars against a dark background
Photo by h heyerlein / Unsplash

Field at Night

On a night without you I descend into hell
streetlamps become enemies
Solitary I walk the salt mines
my footprints are salt
measuring fate salt
like the fires of Sodom
and in the middle of the burning street
in the market where the whole world’s for sale
tiny amulets with your name
seashells with your sound
mirror necklaces
from when you were close

And I invoke the power in its hiding place

A night without you becomes hell
sleeping thorns that awaken
and crowns of pain in my kingdom

I send the Black Host to find you:

They’ve seen the castle’s secrets
In the moon they found the scales
of a slippery crocodile
In the forest they found the hats
they later lost in battle
But they have not seen Beatrice
They have not seen Beatrice
They have not seen you no matter how they forced their gaze upward
and to the corners of the wilderness
and the shopwindows partitioning mountain caves

They have not seen you at night, in the night, or in lightless sites

And so I call on the most ancient sleeping powers
In stones
In grasses
In fox eyes
Sage turtle shell and dragon dens
The wolves’ hunted shelters

I invoke sound-asleep ancient powers,
on a night without you

“You move in me like a wave”

You move in me like a wave swayed toward the star that corrects us
That corrects the shadow and fills it with light
It’s a full moon and a while ago it was Schubert’s music
that wraps you around my neck like a stole-score
In eyes I have Beethoven looking for you
in the ears of the avenues
Schumann in each toe
trying to walk on your music
Notes fall from the sky over the water
like the droplets of a vanishing word
The music of so much love in names

Living is an act of witnessing

I believe in other dimensions
I’ve seen them in tin cans
I’ve seen them in dark matter
I’ve seen them in the illusion of windows
when they reflect my face without you

Looking is an act of witnessing
And closing your eyes is the act of seeing

Sleeping is finding yourself in sea swells
and the transparent stillness of dreams

as if a feather

Dying is a town square
I sing and dance in the town square
The moon falls under our feet in the dance
We dance on the round mirror of death
We dance scratching the shining surface of not being

You move in me like a wave moves in you
Love is a Möbius strip
It pulls you back, returning like a boomerang

Translations from the Spanish

Editorial note: From Siete caminos para Beatriz (2014) and Lance (2021).

Photo by JEOSM

Ernesto Pérez Zúñiga (b. 1971, Madrid) is a Spanish poet and author. His books of poetry—Calles para un pez luna, Cuadernos del hábito oscuro, Siete caminos para Beatriz, and Lance—are all part of his anthology Escalas (2023). As a novelist, he has published the trilogy Santo diablo, No cantaremos en tierra de extraños, and Escarcha. The recipient of several literary awards in Spain, his works have been translated into several languages.

Amy Olen is assistant professor of translation and interpreting studies at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Her research interests include Latin American literature, literary translation, and interpreting studies. She is a contributing translator for the journal Latin American Literature Today and translator of the bilingual edition Luisa Capetillo: escalando la tribuna (Editora Educación Emergente, 2022).