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Antonio Cisneros

Two on My Marriage #1

Translated by Michael L. Smith


"Once the frigate was moored at the dock,
Ursula descended and following her were
more than 11000 girls that hadn't known a man either."
And I bumped into you, Recent Arrival.


I built a house on the highest rock of Ayacucho1, the hardest of
[  Placeholder  ] them all,
guarded by a puma and a hawk and sheltered/a fire round and
[  Placeholder  ] yellow.
But little remained to be won: It was just the end of that happiness
[  Placeholder  ] stored away and frayed through the years
— and seven summers ago for example,
glorious and tangled near the great waves and far from the eyes of
[  Placeholder  ] your tribe.
But any screech—a wounded pelican, a gull—could send you
[  Placeholder  ] back to the old fear,
and then/you again crossed the walls of your tribe though the
[  Placeholder  ] front door
—the hair and ears/were all the sand on the beach.
And it's that fear that never left you, like the underwear and the
[  Placeholder  ] good manners.
What was that about getting married at a church "in the colonial
[  Placeholder  ] baroque style of the 17th century in Old Magdalena."
— but architecture doesn't save us.
It's true that way we got a pair of mixers, a dissected parrot,
[  Placeholder  ] appliances for 18 offices, 6 vases of Bohemian crystal and 8
[  Placeholder  ] sets of tea with scenes of pastoral love (which you exchanged
[  Placeholder  ] for a hairdryer and other things that no one had given you).
Thus, beautiful child, you crossed the threshold (under the stone
[  Placeholder  ] puma, the stone hawk,
the fire that lit both sides of the Huamanga valley—flags that
[  Placeholder  ] before long turned into shit).
Now I don't even remember the things that you said—that is if you
spoke, the things that made you laugh—that is if you laughed,
and I can't even praise your cooking.
You were a fortress built by fear (medieval image) that I didn't
[  Placeholder  ] know how to scale or I couldn't.
But now I don't even remember if you were a fortress built by fear
[  Placeholder  ] (medieval image)
nor if I knew how to scale it or if I could.

Writing this poem grants me copyright to the original.

Like a Figtree in a Gold Course, 1972


1Ayacucho: a central Sierra town with a prominent university, later made infamous by the Shining Path insurgency. The house where the poet lived with "the stone puma, the stone hawk" later became the home of Shinging Path leader Abimael Guzman while he taught at the university from 1965 to 1978.