Geographies by Mario Benedetti

Eponine Howarth

Inventory One: The Complete Poetry of Mario Benedetti (1950-1985)
translation by Eponine Howarth

Two Poems from GEOGRAPHIES (1982-1984)


 and the silence of the sea, and the silence of his life


The silence of the sea
roars an infinite judgement
more concentrated than that of a pitcher
more relentless than two drops

whether it brings the horizon closer or gives us
the blue death of the jellyfish
our suspicions won’t let it
the sea listens like a deaf man
it is insensitive like a god
and outlives the survivors

I'll never know what I expect from it
nor what spell it leaves on my ankles
but when these eyes get fed up with tiles
and wait among the plain and the hills
or in streets that close into more streets
then I do feel shipwrecked
and only the sea can save me


There was a time when we looked at the dry leaves
on the ash wall and the bare night
and the pale moon of so many destructions
and so we gambled on melancholy
unconscious that this was not yet our mishap
there were still seasons of systematic poverty
private labyrinths and half-hearted sorrows

the ordeal was alien and far away
the size of the grief was as modest as the delight
our hungry teeth and our burning tongues
worked without haste but they worked

the springs were slipping through our hands
we looked at the horizon without knowing what to ask of it
the twilight was full of blue roosters
and the air was as enigmatic as an old wise man

but one early morning they forced the doors
they raided our attic and our memory
decided for us in the midst of doubt
they took away our ghosts and our papers
erected a trap of words
and a corral of fear to abandon ourselves

they suspended our right to warmth
they erased the omens with hatred
they stripped us of the green rain
and free silence and sifted love
they cut us in two with a winter axe

in such a murky way it was revealed to us
that in reality we had not toiled through boredom
but were inadvertently happy
not splendidly but passably eager
of shelter beds solitudes forgiveness

in that unseemly way we had been told
that any other affliction was less than this scourge
and tunnels and masks and traps
had to appear for us to miss the daily lethargy
the veins of the trees the horse against the light

will we have learned the catechism of resentment
or will the rage fall off like scales?
will we always remember not to forget
or will the strips of anger rot away?
will we store up for ever the abhorrent
and will we drive them out of Troy with pardons?

it is clear that neither the lightning nor the dew are in a hurry
evictions and welcomes await their turn
for some reason we are ready to start from scratch
and no one kneels over the fallen branches

we will deserve every inch of augury
we will open paths to the survivors without garlands but with answers
flamboyant and accessible
let's replenish what we lost
let's make the most of what little we have left

Eponine Howarth

Eponine Howarth is co-editor-in-chief of La Piccioletta Barca.

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