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Experience is always a useless oaf,
perhaps even more so since it loafs about in the memory,
and though one I is usually the most needed of an endorser,
I believe I can attest (in my humble —lonelier, trickier—
instance) that it isn’t, for I might be ignorant
of when that experience was, well —as adolescence
is one of the forgotten few burned into me—
it’s going to stop being certain that I wrote
more X-rays than anyone, shot
X-rays with parasols I mean,
circus rings, walls,
sometimes Tommy-guns.
I wrote or dreamed them and through my young summers
somehow embarked on life scribbling
several unfinished novels
which were crumpled up by October and dumped
on the rusty radiator
by my table.
I wrote or dreamed them, but I didn’t have me.
And for lack of a name perhaps
I laboured over the pages
to see me in one and be able
to mark into the margins in red ink
what life was denying me,
what this bugger of a life was losing on me.

But those times, of whose verities I’m unaware
dispel the other, hazy certainties
and now with great care I just, officially, seal off the telephones,
and browse away the hours in bars.
Now, over a telephone graveyard, I browse the hours and the bars,
catch a dim view of, and with the shine-off, non-suffering me,
and I haven’t even bothered to eke
out how far alcohol has widdled round me
and what I haven’t entertained at all
is the notion I had, from time to time,
about the queer sense the bar-crawl deep
sixes, which makes out —before it takes effect—
that ruination is an ethos.
And now that none of this troubles or takes up my time,
I just drink and I just don’t write while
life crusts over and slips off, while it goes soft
—filthy meringue that once was a girl?— and now’s nothing,
or while with a now, in the main accepted, ache, I learn
no homeland nor welcomes-home are left me
and that whoever is wishing and waiting will be another
in the dreamy moment when one pair of lips
might manage to impose, again, a modicum
of sense on the world,
here, in this forever, while
I just drink and I just don’t write.

The Follow-up:

Because nothing has got done and nothing’s
of the letters and the back-stabbing,
or hoofing it far and wide legging
because none of y’r nobodies took any interest
in editing y’r vacillating elegies, the shy sarcophagi
—lyric and vision-less, this small all
which —if only you could get a hold of— a little on account
of this and the silences too, you just drink, but it’s more likely
you’ll play along a bit, for in the back of your mind you can’t tell
if the poems way back then had a true music
shut up inside, which if —in any event— there was,
you can’t recall, and the intent to redeem it
throws you into a fit of lethargy (one must be sincer)
once, out of all the outlandishness, the style seize upon you
through which a soul was self-exploring
in and out of fear.


Santiago Montobbio
Translation by George McWhirter

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