URIBE, Kirmen:
Meanwhile Take My Hand

The River

There was a time a river ran through here,
there where the benches and the paving start.
A dozen rivers more underlie the city
if you believe the oldest citizens.
Now it's a square in the workers' quarter,
that's all, three poplars the only sign
the river underneath keeps running,

In everyone here is a hidden river that brings floods.
If they are not fears, they're contritions.
If they are not doubts, inabilities.

The west wind has been shaking the poplars,
people barely make their way along on foot.
From her fourth-floor window an older woman
is throwing articles of clothing.
She's hurled a black shirt, a plaid skirt,
the yellow silk scarf and the stockings
and the black-and-white patent-leather shoes
she wore the winter day she came in from her town.
In the snow they looked like frozen lapwings.

Children have gone racing after the clothing.
The wedding dress exited last,
has been clumsy and perched on a branch,
too heavy a bird.

We've heard a loud noise. The passersby have been startled.
The wind has lifted a poplar out by its roots.
They could be an older woman's hand
awaiting any other hand?s caressing.

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





The Island

So this is happiness,
that journeyman.

Anne Sexton

It's Sunday on the beach for all people of good desires.
You can hear the faraway noise of it from the island.

We go into the water naked,
We see anemones, red mullets, sea thistle on the bay floor.
Look--like the wind the wheat the water moves the sand.
I go under and behold you from underneath.
I like the slow movement of your hands and legs.
I like your underbelly's taking the form of seaweed.

We go up on dry land. It's hot and the pines make shadow.
Your arms are salty, your chest salty, belly salty.
The same power that joins the moon with the sea
[has joined us, too.
Centuries become a second and seconds centuries.
Our bodies, peeled pears.

We see anemones, red mullets, sea thistle on the bay floor.
It's Sunday on the beach for all people of good desires.

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





Visit

Heroin had been as sweet as sex
she used to say, at one time.

The doctors have been saying now she won't get worse,
to go day by day, take things easy.
It's been a month since she failed to wake up
after the last operation.

Still and all, we go every day to visit her
in Cublicle Six of the Intensive Care Unit.
Today we found the patient in the bed besides hers
in tears, no one had come to visit, he'd said to the nurse.

An entire month and we haven?t heard a word from my sister.
I don't see my whole life stretching before me the way I did,
she used to tell us.
I don't want promises, I don't want repentance,
just some sign of love is all.

Our mother and I are the ones who talk to her.
Our brother, with her, never said too much,
and here doesn't make an appearance.
Our father hangs back in the doorway, silent.

I don't sleep at night, she used to tell us,
I'm afraid to go to sleep, afraid of the bad dreams.
The needles hurt me and I'm cold,
the serum sends the cold through every one of my veins.
If I could only escape from this rotten body.

Meanwhile take my hand, she implored us,
I don't want promises, I don't want repentance,
just some sign of love is all.

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





Technology

My grandfather didn't know how to read,
he didn't know how to write. He was, however,

a storyteller famous in the village. It was he who lit,
surrounded by children, the Midsummer bonfires.

My father's handwriting was cursive, spruce.
He meticulously interlaced the paper,

as if he were engraving slate.
On my desk is a postcard he sent from the service:

"Yo bien, tú bien,
mándame cien."

("I well, you well,
send a few bills.")

In these times of ours, e-mails
are what we send each other.

In three generations, true,
we've traveled the long history of writing.

Nonetheless, worries, fears
are the same as ever, and will be:

"Yo bien, tú bien..."

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





Evil Spirits

I'm remembering my mother's grandmother.
She had knowledge of wandering souls.
Mornings she knew, having considered the ashes in the grate,
whether evil or good souls had walked by night.

Once, coming home from a dance,
Mother and her sisters found her outdoors.
"Don't go in," she commanded,
in only her nightdress, candle in hand:
one of the evil kind was loose in there.

This morning I consider the sheets on my bed.
Your smell rises from them, they show signs of you.
Traces of your soul.

Whether it was evil or good I don't know.
And so, repeating the olden rites with care,
I put on the music we heard last night
and slip by slow degrees into bed.
I hug the sheets to myself,
stroke their finish,
and bring fresh to mind, one by one,
every single movement of this past night.

I've had knowledge of your soul.
It's one of the evil kind, doubtless.

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





Apples

Homer used a single word for body and skin.
Sappho slept on the breasts of her friends.
Etxepare dreamt of stark-naked women.

All of them silent for ages now.

Today it seems we have to be perfect in bed, too,
like those red apples in the supermarket,
too perfect.
We're asking too much ourselves,
and what we hope for
from any of us, nearest neighbors,
almost never happens.
The laws are different when bodies tangle.

Homer used a single word for body and skin.
Sappho slept on the breasts of her friends.
Etxepare dreamt of stark-naked women.

Still I have in my mind
that epoch when we slept holding each other,
scared tiger cubs in our vigil.

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





Travel Notes: Bhutan

The tourists reached the shanty exhausted.
The long road through the mountains had been rugged.
The householder set out a hot supper for them all.
The full moon in the window, the white Himalayan peaks.

One of the tourists to another:
"It could be they don't even know yet
a man has been on the moon."
He told the householder of the conquest.

The Bhutanese became thoughtful. He did not, however,
show any sign of surprise or marveling.

He answered them mildly, wrinkling his brow:
"And how many sherpas did it take them
to get their water all the way up there?"

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





No Saying

No saying Liberty, no saying Equality,
no saying Fraternity--can't say it.
Not tree not stream not heart.
The ancienter law has been forgotten.

The flood's taken out the bridge from words to things.
Can't call what a tyrant thinks to decide death.
No saying when we're longing for somebody's presence,
when the smallest reminder empties the blood from a vein.

The language is unperfected, the signs worn down,
as old millstones--the action of action. That's how come

no saying Love, no saying Beauty,
no saying Solidarity--can't say it.
Not tree not stream not heart.
The ancienter law has been forgotten.

Though when I've heard "my love" from your mouth,
I confess it has thrilled my being--
whether it's true or if a lie.

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





The Gold Ring

Father lost his wedding ring in the ocean once. Like all the trawl-
ermen, he'd take it from his finger to put on a neck chain, not to lose
the finger as the net went out.
Several tides after that, our aunt, while cleaning some hake,
found a gold ring in the belly of one of the fish.
Once she'd washed it off, she examined the letters and numbers
engraved inside. Though it couldn't be true, the date and the initials
were those of our parents' wedding.
By all appearances, Father himself had caught the hake that had
swallowed the ring. In all of the wide blue sea.
Peaceable summer nights bring the inland wind, and the
memories.
I look at the sky, and it dawns that coincidences are the planets
with the amplest orbits.
Only every so often have they come round.
The ring's is far too great a coincidence. It would have been lost
and found in that same stone sink. But that doesn't matter. What's most important now is this: for years and years, the story of the ring
was entirely believable to our small, children's intelligence.

Nights, the ocean has the shimmer of hake.
The stars go leaping around like the scales.


© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.





May

Let me hook at thise eyes.
I want to know how you are.

Rainer W. Fassbinder

Look. May has come in.
It's strewn those blue eyes all over the harbor.
Come, I haven't had word of you in ages.
You're constantly terrified,
Like the kittens we drowned when we were little.
Come and we?ll talk over all the old same things,
The value of being pleasant,
The need to adjust to the doubts,
How to fill the holes we've got inside us.
Come, feel the morning reaching your face,
Whenever we're saddened everything looks dark,
When we're heartened, again, the world crumbles.
Every one of us keeps forever someone else's hidden side,
If it's a secret, if a mistake, if a gesture.
Come and we'll fly the winners,
Laughing at our self leapt off the bridgeway.
We'll watch the cranes at work in the port in silence,
The gift for being together in silence being
The principal proof of friendship.
Come with me, I want to change nations,
Change towns. Leave this body aside
And go into a shell with you,
With our smallness, like sea snails.
Come, I'm waiting for you,
We'll continue the story that ended a year ago,
As if inside the white birches next to the river
Not a single additional ring had grown.

© Uribe, Kirmen. Meanwhile Take My Hand. Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf P, 2007.




© Translation: Elizabeth Macklin