Rafael Courtoisie

Translated from the Spanish by Anna Rosenwong

MUSIC FOR THE DEAF

Music for the deaf, combs for rocks.
It’s good to think up impossible things.
It’s enough that a tree doesn’t exist for it to grow.

***

A deaf man bought a mare.
“It’s my guitar,” he said.
The mane was the strings.

***

Errors of a substance
that seems like head
and is rock.

***

A well fell into a man.
A day is a waterless river
a year the ocean.

***

Legs that move backwards
feet and shoes that return.
Sounds forget the ear.
Words come back to the tongue.

***

Anacahuita, heart blood, hyenas’ sesame plant.
Sadness: tiger fruit, dead lion sap.
Monkeys’ carress, fingers of silence.
Peaches in syrup. Sirens in brine.

***

Grey elephant apple
pulp of promises.
However much larger weaker.

***

A man sees a photo.
He touches his head.
“It hurts to remember.”

***

Meat of memory
time’s slow industry:
light sheds its tegument.

***

Cowardly heros, beautiful traitors
violent kindness and humanity’s
secret muttering
heard in the center of the bone.

***

He touches the harp and is maimed
hisses and lost his tongue
a glass mallet
a wooden scalpel.

***

To peel an egg in boxing gloves.
Snail’s speed.
Hare’s slowness.
Obese man’s agility.

***

Toads of equality, weeds of violence
equestrian flies, lithium thread
minute birds of death
the tenderness of statues, heat of ice
serenity’s eyes, sick horses
minutia and antennas, fire of bricks
sinister miracle, ode to the blaze
opportunity’s path up the steppe
the sky’s spittle, perfect quail.

nothing takes root in sadness.

***

Umbrellas for the fish
amulets of scent
cows of air, letters
forks and knives
spoons that make
incandescent sounds
the wrinkles of old age
when it comes.

***

A child falls from a tree.
The ground rises toward him.
He hits it and it hurts.

***

Subconscious bread
flour of reproaches
rancorous bread
hard, dry.
God gives food
to those with no teeth.

***

A blouse cries without sleeves
a pair of slacks walks in the dark
a snakeskin belt holds them up.

***

The naked and the blind have no clothes on their bodies.
The jealous have dandruff in their heads.
The wind carries off the thieves.
The pallid await the body’s resurrection.
The dark however do not wait.
Women are not turtles.
Men are built from sand.
Grass screams on the lawn
the rooster on the roost
and below the earth’s cloak
worms recite poems.

***

Art of the deaf, hen that kills her eggs
demented hen. Hen that pecks
hen on the left, hen on the right
political hen,
epileptic.

***

Drinking dry water.
Bathing yourself in sand.
Falling in love with fear.
Eating discreet watermelons
going out inside without blood
weighing without body.

***

House that forgets its walls
heart that abandons the chest
soul of a snail
house of ideas.

***

Wolf that loses its teeth
fierce sheep, good wolf
perverse lamb.

***

The sleeper’s fury
and the planets’ hunger.
Serenade of things, milk of the wind.
Sick men’s health, heart’s sap
black wire.

Black wire, poets’ hair, rain’s salt, body’s sound
Black wire, zebras die of life.
Black wire, with your thread darn the umbilical cords of dead children.
Black wire. Tow’s light, grass’s ferocity.
Song of the fish.

We’re off to comb the rocks. We’ll comb rocks. We’ll sing our ideas to the deaf.
We’ll sing to the deaf with eyes that do not think themselves.
We’ll sing.
Emotion’s empty toads, innocence’s beautiful larva.

***

Comb rocks. Bite your elbow. Eat with no mouth.
The mulberry bush worms turn to silk
other worms to butterflies, chiffon souls.
Cherubs, insects.

***

Rocks don’t have hair, the deaf cry through their ears.
A chair you can’t sit in, a kiss without lips or tongue.

***

A thought without a head.
Cluster of moments. Stairway of unconsciousness
climbs the chest’s tower.

***

The pigs grow thin, the snow boils.
Dusk jumps over the winter.
To sing for the deaf.

***

Flavor’s kettledrum, tongue’s argument.
Chili pepper’s voice, melody of garlic and pepper.
Dulce de leche.

***

Coffee and tea are deaf, black words
coffee and tea shape death’s light
the dry jug’s announcement.

***

Morning is somewhere else’s afternoon.
Night dawn for antipodes.
“No” another place’s “yes.”

***

Wagons of ill-fated milk, honey of obstinate vinegar
beauty marks, warts on the buttocks of darkness
scarabs, horns, and kisses.

***

Windmills of fear
bleary arms
meadow of violence.

***

Blind man’s cane, deaf man’s cane, mute man’s cane
the entire universe’s walking sticks, truncheons
staffs, governments’ cruel cudgels
police weapons, billy clubs, substitutes

bruising objects: disappear.

***

A year lasts for days
a minute stretches into centuries
and in the drop of unscathed summer
light is eternal.

***

Waves of day, fall silent.
Sewing threads, turn yourselves loose.
Never again obey the soldiers.
Don’t play with the dead.
Stay clear of black magic.
Duck when they throw rocks.
Remember the angels of silence.
Sing again.
Eat the freshest fruit.

***

The sugar snow does not melt.
Salt’s eyelid is different.
Laughter’s colors cut deep.

***

One man leaves, another dies.
One man is born, another returns.
One man is the voice of a rock
of an ancient egg whose shell
broke open too late.

***

The deaf man loves the most beautiful rocks
their hard, earless cheeks
and the spirit of their bodies.

***

Raging waters of the manifest sun, waters of light grief
elements of solace and the stars
substances of fury in saliva
thunderclaps of calm, downpours of drought
centimeter’s storms, ant’s cries
dog’s oration, snake’s symphony.

***

The clearest sound takes off.
The light goes out.
The wind licks at all the faces.
The wind licks at all the rocks.
Nothing is heard and nothing seen.

***

Music for the deaf, rocks with long hair.



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A portion of this translation first appeared in Faultline.






Rafael Courtoisie Beyhaut is one of Uruguay’s leading writers, with work published around the world. The author of three novels, sixteen volumes of poetry, and many essays, Courtoisie has won Uruguay’s National Prizes in both Narrative and Poetry. He teaches screenwriting at the Escuela de Cine del Uruguay in Montevideo.

Anna Rosenwong is a translator, poet, editor, and educator. Her book-length publications include Roció Cerón’s Diorama, José Eugenio Sánchez’s Suite Prelude a/H1N1, and an original collection of poetry, By Way of Explanation. She is the translation editor of Drunken Boat. Her literary and scholarly work has been featured in World Literature Today, The Kenyon Review, Translation Studies, The St Petersburg Review, Pool, and elsewhere.

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