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I Don’t Know For Certain
by Will Hubbard
Before beginning a 50-year career that cemented his place as Mexico’s preeminent contemporary poet, Jaime Sabines (1926-1999) studied to be a doctor. Abandoning medicine for a post-graduate degree in Spanish literature at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Sabines began chronicling everyday life in the streets, hospitals, brothels, and cinemas of both Mexico City and his native Tuxtla, Chiapas. In the 1970′s and 80′s, Sabines held various governmental positions in both Chiapas and Mexico City’s Distrito Federal.
The following translations are by Will Hubbard.
“Seeing themselves naked they know everything”
I Don’t Know for Certain
by Jaime Sabines
I don’t know for certain, but I suppose
that a woman and a man
one day begin loving
and little by little come to be alone,
something in each heart says so.
Alone on earth they enter each other,
they go on killing each other.
All of it happens in silence. Like
light breaking in the eye.
Love unites bodies.
In silence they go on filling each other up.
One day they awake above their arms;
from then on they think they know wholly.
Seeing themselves naked they know everything.
(I don’t know for certain. I suppose it.)
by Jaime Sabines
A closet, a mirror, a chair,
not one star, my room, its window;
the night as usual finds me
without hunger for food
but for what a mouth might touch.
Outside, men everywhere, and
beyond them fog, then morning.
Trees iced-over, dried-up soil,
fish indistinct from the water,
nests asleep under a dove’s slight warmth.
Here, no woman. I wish there were.
For days I have been restless to calm
under some sensation, a soft word
unlike ‘the night’. On the wall opposite
shadows of dead friends crawl
without my help. That woman’s veins
ran into my veins, her skin
covered my bones, and my eyes
were source and object of her sight.
Many times we died
that the morning might walk again.
by remembering your name
your lips, the dress I could see through.
You carry a hidden sweetness in the cavity
your ribs make, and one travels a long way
between nodes of your simple form,
a hundred lips and an hour
from nipple to nipple, a heart
between pupils, two tears.
There is no depth of you I do not desire,
and until the last wing carries
its little flesh homeward, my soul will remain
I imagine the poem taking place here
Desire should be precise. I know this already.
I want your body, its tautness, warmth,
and simple directions.
I need this night.
A violin comes to my bed from the street below.
Yesterday I watched two boys stand before
naked mannequins in a store window
and comb their hair.
The train’s call worried me for three years.
Now I know it is a machine.
No goodbye better than that of day’s light
to every thing that rises from the ground
and transfers heat through its body
More and more unused blood,
nights of only smoking
that turn the bed-sheets yellow.
One leaves one place for another.
And so my hand returns to me,
that writes as much as it speaks.
Will Hubbard is the contributing editor to This Recording. He lives in Williamsburg. He tumbls here.
WHAT A DAY FOR A DAYDREAMING BOY
“Broken Bird” – John Cale (mp3)
“If You Were Still Around” – John Cale (mp3)
“Changes Made” – John Cale (mp3)
CONSUMMATE THE FURY OF READING WEEK
Molly visits Edith Wharton’s estate
Will Hubbard on the Alphabet
Summer Reading Part One
Brittany Julious on Kazuo Ishiguro
Summer Reading Part Two
Tao Lin on K-Mart Realism
Summer Reading Part Three
Good Will Syllabusing
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Some songs are deceptively simple.
The genius of Ed Koch.
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