While at home today, feeling under the weather, while listening to the weather—pouring rain and loud, booming thunder from the remnants of a hurricane—-I reached for some poetry on my shelves. The selections from Ugly Duckling Presse never disappoint. From their “Lost Literature Series”, Defense of the Idol, first published in 1934, is the only collection ever written by Chilean poet Omar Caceres (1904-1943). Due to typos in the original printing, he tried to burn every copy of his only book. It is translated for the first time in English by Monica de la Torre.
I share two poems that are favorites, so far, in the collection. His imagery, his language, his emotions, somehow controlled—not overwrought—struck a nerve:
Angel of Silence
I will remember her grand story,
her anguished panting that pulls cities apart.
Days pass by blindly like sleepwalkers,
like large propellers drunk on resolutions,
but time sings in a drop of water then…
I know she’s as far away as I want her to be mine.
Speed, then, leapt past the hidden horizon of things,
its uniform distance
on the trapezes of my scream.
So as to avoid crying, I remember, rain, your message
your great book I’d read without opening,
near the window whiplashing down
and crucifying my eyes on its black scars
The wind lurches forward with the sea, smoothing out its wrinkles
a gust of blue muscles, it gathers its perfumed ashes.
There I wait for her, alone
like the useless portraits,
multiplying the shadow’s waves
and her song won’t leave my window anymore.
Now, as I remember my former self, the places that I’ve inhabited,
that continue displaying my sacred thoughts,
I understand that sense, the plea with which all alien solitude surprises us,
is nothing but the proof of human sadness that remains.
Or, also, the light of the one who smashes his security, his
to feel how, upon returning, his entire being explodes within a great number
and to know that he “still” exists, “still” encourages and impoverishes
steps on the earth,
although he’s there engrossed, selfsame, directionless,
alone like a mountain saying the word then:
so that no one can console the one who suffers like this:
what’e seeks, those for whom he grieves,
what he loves, it’s all gone far away too, reaching itself!
The poet himself provides a description of his poems as an afterword in this edition. It is equally as beautiful, and enlightening, as the language of his poems:
This is how I have lived.
My attitude, however, is not that of a nihilist, a narcissist, or someone who dehumanizes…
It is the attitude of one who went too far into the heart of man and into his own heart; of one who is proud of his conceited hopes and who, all of a sudden, believing that he has the whole universe at his disposal in an unsurpassed enumeration, instead trips on the torn ubiquity of his I, while an index of revelations points to that stillness with its individual fire.
Hence my dreadful problem.
Those who have loved much, and who have reflected on the WHY of their suffering upon losing the objects of their love forever, they ought to understand me.
This, I didn’t write, as I said to a poet one day, “guided by the desire to WRITE LITERATURE,” such a common affectation in this land, but rather following irresistible urges: the need to define, by expressing them, my inner states of being and the TRUE situation of my I in space and time…