Lunatic Tertulia by Julio Herrera y Reissig

BOMB 78 Winter 2002
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In a crypt of gold, a bit shot,

A cataleptic fakir
Quit mountaineering to break here
The unction of Nirvana, a bit shot …
Objectify an ill-wrought
Execution of thought,
And muffled rumor is begot
Like deaf remorse
From some extrorse
Diffusion of the music of a garrot.

Skies loosen their grimace, green,
And the disequilibrium
Of scorn’s satire hums,
Sick on absinthe, green …
Hypothetically, the sheen
In the moving horizon is spent,
And the pensive settlement,
They say is swarmed by a squall
As if, in the World’s thrall,
Everything were tenebrescent.

Already fireflies—witches
With jewels from Salambo—
Wink the “marche aux flambeaux”
Of a Sabbath of witches …
The velvet cypresses
Suggest a Carthusian ardor
Which wafts from your collar
In fragrant confidences,
Interjections of absences
And ring-eyed ritornellos of langor.

It’s all posthumous and abstract
And the spirit ideologues
Intimate monologues
Of the Unknowable Abstract …
The stupefied forest is ablaze
In an ecstasy of malaise,
And they light up that hirsute
Labyrinth of the proscenium
With a struck match from
The dark genie of the Absolute.

It all provokes the ennui
Of some psychophysical country
At the metaphysical extremity
Of silence and of ennui …
A whiff of rancid duration
Chronicles the extreme unction
And protracts, before uncontrol-
Lable logics of extension,
The materialization
Of the planetary soul.

From the unsonorous interior
Of my obscure ruins,
Drones, punctuated with omens,
The Babylonian interior …
A Pythagoristic horoscoper
From the ultra-night,
Meanwhile writes an accusation
Of ecstatic expiations,
And hieratic mummies take flight
From the Escorial of the Night.

Fatuous fires of exorcism
Illuminate my double sight,
Like someone juggling, as she might,
The rutilation of exorcism …
The Subconscious of this same
Grand All gives me chilblain;
And in that somber assembly
From the darkness grand and aphonic
Ferments a cosmogonic
Trumpet of prophecy.

So in a gothic rapture of snow
The chapel hones itself and,
Above, its hypnotic needle can
Thread the stars of snow …
A shadowy forest spurs on
Fantastic misfortunes
And in macabre ponderosas
A pastor suddenly brandishes
His cane as a layman extinguishes
Gloomy candelabras.

It sleeps, the ear in wait,
Like a wolf in the underbrush
Hidden, a suspicious hush
At the precipice, in wait …
Fallow fields harvest hate
Even as the bubbling sluice
Dissolves and refuses
Eskimo soliloquies
Of crystal garglings
And euphorias of cornemuses.

Its saddle hung up, the somnambulistic
Windmill metaphorizes that
A Don Quixote comes to combat,
On horseback and somnambulistic …
The smoke is vexed by an equilibrist,
Guignol of Kaleidoscope,
And unto the night of dope
Savants tear open a lens
Of the eye of the conscience,
How deep! of a spectroscope.

On the watchtower, enigmatical,
The owl with eyes of brimstone
Suffers its morbid hoot-moan
Like a muezzin, enigmatical …
Before the omen—lunatic
Captious, spectral, denuded,
Velvety and muted—
It descends in stirless dress
Like a spider of death:
The immense night of the Buddha …

Translated from the Spanish by Forrest Gander.

Forrest Gander is the author of several books of poetry, including Torn Awake and Science and Steepleflower, both from New Directions. The editor of an anthology of contemporary Mexican poetry, Mouth to Mouth: Poems by 12 Contemporary Mexican Women, Gander is also the translator of No Shelter: Selected Poems of Pura López Colomé (Graywolf Press) and contranslator (with Kent Johnson) of Immanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz(University of California Press), both forthcoming in 2002.

Uruguayan poet Julio Herrera y Reissig (1875–1910) retreated from his socially prominent family to an attic known to his bohemia followers as the Tower of the Panoramas. Traveling at an early age to Europe, where he was influenced by the French Sumbolists, Herrera y Reissig returned to become the Uruguayan leader of modernismo. His work is characterized by a sumptuous, almost baroque diction in which the erotic and the cosmological intertwine in elaborate formal structures. Because he died so young, most of his work, including his Obras completas (1911–1913), was published posthumously.

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Originally published in

BOMB 78, Winter 2002

Featuring interviews with Roberto Bolaño, Laura Restrepo, Miguel Leon-Portilla, Nancy Morejon, Graciela Sacco, Tunga, and Los Carpinteros. 

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