Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mirta Rosenberg / An Elegy

Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1905

By Mirta Rosenberg
Translated by Julie Ward

An Elegy
In my mother’s day
women were provable.
My mother sat next to my grandmother
and both were completely of flesh and bone.

I am barely a stable outcome
of that surplus of reality.

And in the anxiety of the indefinite past,
in the durative aspect of electing,
I write now: an elegy.

In my mother’s day
women were abiding,
completely bone and flesh.
My mother put on the necklace
of silver and turquoise stones
my father had brought her from Sweden
and sat at the table like some exotic spices,
so that everything would become larger than life
and any fiction possible.

In my mother’s day, women
were a crux: my mother told
my brother and me: ‘when I came out of school,
I went to where my father worked,
in Santa Fe, and his workmates told him she’s a biscuit,
your daughter’s a biscuit, and I never knew what they meant,
saying I was a biscuit’, a sponge cake when she was very sick,
exquisite porcelain for us still,
and my brother pressing her for more: ‘And?’

I don’t know what a biscuit is. Some exotic spice,
something, in any case, special? Perhaps
she roamed delicately round the house, brushing her eighties
as one brushes a wound
with a bit of gauze.

In my mother’s day
women were very visible.
My mother looked at herself in mirrors
and I never managed to take in
her image with my eyes. She was beyond me
and I intuited her from afar like something yearned for.

Like now,
an elegy.

To the adorable little girl
fixed in the remoteness of the photo,
who at eight already seemed
larger than life: I miss you,
although I did not know you. That was before
you gave me life
in a barely natural size.

All the same,
an elegy.

And to the other one of the photo that I hope
to conserve, the beautiful woman who holds
the book before her daughter aged one year
in the sham of reading:
I love you for what lasts, and it is sufficient
to read in the present, although your star’s
gone out.

For her,
an elegy.

Now I am the photograph
and you the developing fluid. Your death
turns me into myself: like an applied science,
I am cause and effect,
trial and error, this void
of nothingness that beats against the heart
like an empty husk.
An elegy,
more and more right each time.

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