Vicente Huidobro

 

 

(Chile)

 

 

 
ALTAZOR

 

PREFACE

 

I was born at the age of 33 on the day Christ died; I was born at the

Equinox, under the hydrangeas and the airplanes in the heat.

I had the soulful gaze of a pigeon, a tunnel, a sentimental motorcar. I

heaved sighs like an acrobat.

My father was blind and his hands were more wonderful than the night.

I love the night, the hat of every day.

The night, the night of day, from one day to the next.

My mother spoke like the dawn, like blimps about to fall. Her hair was

the color of a flag and her eyes were full of far-off ships.

One day, I gathered up my parachute and said: “Between two swallows

and a star.” Here death is coming closer like the earth to a falling balloon.

My mother embroidered abandoned tears on the first rainbows.

And now my parachute drops from dream to dream through the spaces

of death.

On the first day I met an unknown bird who said: “If I were a camel I’d

know no thirst. What time is it?” It drank the dewdrops in my hair, threw me

3½ glances and went off waving “Goodbye” with its pompous handkerchief.

At around two that afternoon, I met a charming airplane, full of

fishscales and shells. It was searching for some corner of the sky to take

shelter from the rain.

There, far off, all the boats were anchored in the ink of dawn. One by

one they came loose from their moorings, dragging pennants of indisputable

dawn like the national colors.

As the last ones drifted off, dawn disappeared behind some immoderately

swollen waves.

Then I heard the voice of the Creator, who is nameless, who is a simple

hollow in space, lovely as a navel.

“I created a great crashing sound and that sound formed the oceans and

the ocean waves.

“That sound will be stuck forever to the waves of the sea and the waves of

the sea will be stuck forever to that sound, like stamps to a postcard.

“Then I braided a great cord of luminous rays to stitch each day to the

next; the days with their original or reconstructed, yet undeniable laws.

“Then I etched the geography of the earth and the lines of the hand.

“Then I drank a little cognac (for hydrographic reasons).

“Then I created the mouth, and the lips of the mouth to confine ambiguous

smiles, and the teeth of the mouth to guard against the improprieties that

come to our mouths.

“I created the tongue of the mouth which man diverted from its role

to make it learn to speak… to her, to her, the beautiful swimmer, forever

diverted from her aquatic and purely sensual role.”

My parachute began to dizzyingly drop. Such is the force of the attraction

of death, of the open grave.

Better believe it, the tomb has more power than a lover’s eyes. The open

tomb with all its charms. And I say it even to you, you whose smile inspires

thoughts of the origin of the world.

My parachute caught on a burnt-out star conscientiously continuing its

orbit, as if it didn’t know the uselessness of such efforts.

And taking advantage of this well-earned rest, I began to fill the little

squares of my chessboard with deep thoughts:

“True poems are fires. Poetry is propagating everywhere, its conquests lit

with shivers of pleasure or pain.

“One should write in a language that is not the mother tongue.

“The four cardinal points are three: South and North.

“A poem is something that will be.

“A poem is something that never is, but ought to be.

“A poem is something that never has been, that never can be.

“Flee from the external sublime, if you don’t want to die flattened by the

wind.

“If I didn’t do something crazy at least once a year I’d go crazy.”

Grabbing my parachute, I leap from the edge of my speeding star into the

stratosphere of the last sigh.

I wheel endlessly over the cliffs of dreams, I wheel through clouds of

death.

I meet the Virgin, seated on the rose, who says:

“Look at my hands, as transparent as light bulbs. Do you see the filaments

where the blood of my pure light flows?

“Look at my halo. It has a few cracks in it, a proof of my antiquity.

“I am the Virgin, the Virgin without human stain, there’s nothing halfway

about me, and I am the captain of the other eleven thousand – who were, in

fact, excessively restored.

“I speak in a language that fills the heart according to the laws of the

communicant clouds.

“I always say goodbye, and stay.

“Love me, my child, for I adore your poetry and I will teach you aerial

prowess.

“I have a need for tenderness, kiss my hair, I washed it this morning

in clouds of dawn, and now I want to sleep on the mattress of occasional

drizzle.

“My glances are a wire on the horizon where swallows rest.

“Love me.”

I got down on my knees in that circular space and the Virgin rose and sat

on my parachute.

I slept, and then recited my most beautiful poems.

The flames of my poetry dried the Virgin’s hair. She thanked me and went

off, seated on her soft rose.

And here I am, alone, like the little orphan of anonymous shipwrecks.

Oh how beautiful… how beautiful.

I can see mountains, rivers, forests, the sea, boats, flowers, seashells.

I can see night and day and the axis where they meet.

Oh yes I am Altazor, the great poet, without a horse that eats birdseed

or warms its throat with moonbeams, with only my little parachute like a

parasol over the planets.

From each bead of sweat on my forehead I give birth to stars, which I

leave you the task of baptizing like a watered-down bottle of wine.

I can see it all, my mind is forged in the tongues of prophets.

The mountain is the sigh of God, rising in its swelling thermometer till it

touches the feet of the beloved.

He who has seen it all, who knows all the secrets without being Walt

Whitman, for I’ve never had a beard as white as beautiful nurses and frozen

steams.

He who hears in the night the hammers of the counterfeiters of coins,

who are only diligent astronomers.

He who drinks the warm glass of knowledge after the flood, obedient to

the doves, and who knows the way of weariness, the boiling wake the ships

leave behind.

He who knows the storehouses of memories, of beautiful forgotten

seasons.

He, shepherd of airplanes, guide to the unmatched poles for mislaid

nights and experienced west winds.

His whimpering is a blinking net of unwitnessed aerolites.

The day rises in his heart and he lowers his eyelids to create the night of

agricultural rest.

He washes his hands in the glances of God, and combs his hair like the

light, like the harvest of those thin grains of satisfied rain.

Shouts wander off like a flock over the hills when the stars sleep after a

night of continual labor.

The beautiful hunter faces the cosmic waterhole for heartless birds.

Be sad, like gazelles before the infinite and the meteors, like deserts

without mirages.

Until the appearance of a mouth swollen with kisses for the vintage of

exile.

Be sad, for she awaits you in a corner of this passing year.

Perhaps she’s at the end of your next song, and she’ll be as beautiful as a

free-falling waterfall and rich as the equatorial line.

Be sad, sadder than the rose, that beautiful cage for glances and

inexperienced bees.

Life is a parachute voyage and not what you’d like to think it is.

So let’s fall, falling from our heights to our depths, let’s leave the air

stained with blood, so that those who breathe it tomorrow will be poisoned.

Inside yourself, outside yourself, you’ll fall from high to low, for that is

your fate, your miserable fate. And the greater the height from which you

fall, the higher you’ll rebound, the longer you’ll remain in the memory of

stone.

We have leapt from the belly of our mother, or from the edge of a star,

and we’re falling.

Oh my parachute, the only perfumed rose of the stratosphere, the rose of

death, cascading through the stars of death.

Have you heard it? The sinister sound of closed chests.

Open the gate of your soul and get out and breathe. With a sigh you can

open the gate it took a hurricane to close.

Here’s your parachute, Man, wonderful as vertigo.

Here’s your parachute, Poet, wonderful as the charms of the chasm.

Here’s your parachute, Magician, which one word of yours can transform

into a parashoot, wonderful as the lighting bolt that tries to blind the creator.

What are you waiting for?

But here is the secret of the Gloom that forgot how to smile.

The parachute waits tied to the gate like the endlessly runaway horse.

 

 

Translated by Eliot Weinberger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BIO

 

Vicente Huidobro (Chile, 1893 – 1948). Father of Creationism and one of the most important authors of the Hispano-American poetry of the 20th century. Very early he traveled to Paris where he came into contact with the vanguards. He became friends with artists such as Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Pierre Reverdy, among others. His poems include: Adán (Adam, 1916), El espejo de agua (The mirror of water, 1916), Horizonte cuadrado (Square horizon, 1917), Ecuatorial (Equatorial, 1918), Poemas árticos (Arctic poems, 1918), Altazor (1931), Temblor de cielo (Trembling of heaven, 1931), Ver y palpar (See and palpate, 1941), El ciudadano del olvido (The citizen of oblivion, 1941) and Últimos poemas (Last poems, 1948). His poetry has aroused a special attraction among young audiences and has been permanently studied.

 

 

 

 

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