|Alice | Tin.it | Foto album | Disco remoto | Community|
"Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams; Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round." -- W.B.Yeats
Letter to Italy
...there was not any spell Bidding him whether cower or rejoice. --John Crowe Ransome You are planning to come to see me, I hear, crossing Atlantean depths of time and water from a city the stuff my dreams are made on. Why on earth, after more than twenty years? I'm only a light-year or two from Heaven. When you wrote me of your lover's death and life, the letter filled me in on more than grief. You, too, are now the survivor of your losses. After you left with my replacement, I spent twelve years learning to cope with your steadfast duplicity. Someone's death would have been simpler. I was in the middle ages, sloping toward a fen. You, a garland in a Ghirlandaio -- clever, you thought, and admirably bad -- feared to dissipate those huge cloudy symbols by settling precipitately on just me. It will be strange trying to match the young to the present you -- the age I was when you showed up that afternoon, scared and pale, in fluent tears over your ravaged hanky-panky, to tell me you were gone for good and hoped I wouldn't do anything drastic. Now I'm not far from resignation, and you're no gallina livornese yourself. I doubt we can now be friends, who were all those years ago merely lovers. Robbed by death, confused by middle-age, are you coming for a hug (nothing bad ever happened), some encrusted affection you hope to dredge up from the sea-floor a quarter-century down? Look! Of its bones are my laurels made. Don't expect much from a cold-comfort poet. I have nothing that counts to offer you, least of all a luxury the likes of friendship. It's time, Poor Baby, for you to negotiate the shoals of your very own climacteric. Don't wave for me to throw out the lifeline. You still can't cross the Atlantic by train. The great ocean liners have been sold for scrap. My landing strip's all deep ruts and weeds. You can't, as the poet says, get here from there. For myself, through a dry-ice mist I see a flat, gray pond -- no currents, no tides, the stringent shoreline yielding scant room even for a one-man Fiberglass canoe. When you're on vacation, send me a postcard: "Cari saluti da Parigi" or "Con molto affetto." Mildly pleased, I'll extract it from the mailbox; then, floating low and dry, fishing without bait, will keep it all day in a pocket near my groin. If you come after all and can't land, be warned: no one splashed down that depth has surfaced yet to report the detritus on the silted floor-- the gleam through mud of solid gold artifacts, the skulls and eels and ancient trash. But if you are daring me, I accept. Dismiss the past, even the lines above. Every day I learn how to count my life. It goes: this breath...this breath... If you are nerved to make a leap of doubting faith, I'll meet you in mid-air above the pond. This letter will not, of course, be mailed. It used to be phone conversations in my head. Now I write to tell you off and urge you on. When you arrive we'll meet for dinner twice-- my treat, then yours -- and I'll suggest what the conscientious visitor does and sees. I've learned by now, at astounding cost, not to fall for love, have renounced old tricks, and won't be writing like this again to a foreign tourist with a round-trip ticket, who has no taste for the risks of travel. Make reservations. Learn the numbers and the money. Don't take on faith, from anyone, anything you're told.© Carl Selph, 1999
(a translation of "Castilla" by Manuel Machado)The blind sun is starred in the sharp angles of the armor, pierces with light the breastplates and gorgets and flames on the points of the lances. The blind sun, and the hard going over the terrible barren Castilian plain: Into exile, with twelve of his men --dust, sweat and iron--El Cid rides. The inn of stone and mud is shut.... Nobody comes. To the sword hilt and the pike butt the peep-hold yields.... The sun burns through the scorching air. To the terrible hammerings, their harsh echo, a voice, pure, of silver and crystal, replies.... There is a girl, very weak and very pale on the threshold. She is all blue eyes, and in the eyes tears. What a wan nimbus her white, scared little face. "Good Cid, move on.... The king will kill us, will ruin the house, and will sow the poor field with salt where my father works.... Go on. Heaven filled you with daring.... You would gain nothing by harming us." The girl stops and silently weeps.... A child-like sob sweeps through the squad of fierce fighters. And an unyielding voice shouts: "March!" The blind sun, thirst and the hard going over the terrible Castilian plain: Into exile, with twelve of his men --dust, sweat and iron--El Cid rides.Translation © Carl Selph, 1999
All text on this page is copyrighted by Carl Selph and appears here by permission. All rights reserved. It may not be archived beyond one personal electronic copy for offline reading; such a copy must include the entire text of the present notice and the author's name. It may not be printed, posted on a web-site, distributed publicly or privately, used or quoted in whole or in part, or published in any manner or form whatsoever without the author's explicit permission. E-mail Wordreign to contact Carl Selph and your request will be promptly forwarded.
Carl Selph Poetry Index Original Writing Page
Images from Myst © 1993 Cyan, Inc. and Riven © 1997 Cyan, Inc. All rights reserved. Myst® and Riven® are registered trademarks of Cyan, Inc. Used by permission.