In the glowing of the hours
I am the seated scribe
And wait for the day to leave behind
On my tablet
A diagonal line, or disciple’s face,
A little blood or spice,
Or wormwood scent,
Magnetic legs of a dancing woman.
Useless for life,
I transcribe what is beyond me,
I fix in light strokes love and its leftovers,
The contraction of mouths in the bed or in battle,
May the gods forgive my renunciation
Of life’s full flow:
I allow the waters to run through my fingers
And my youth;
And as much as I throw away my minutes
I remember the stories of others,
I hoard other bodies
And to their precarious members give eternal form.
Perhaps one day in the future,
When time’s maw
Will have consumed my flesh,
And the worms of my flesh
Even unto the second generation,
Someone will brush the dust from my tablet
And in the burnt out glow of its signs
Will read me,
To realise that I was the disciple and the maiden,
The warrior’s helmet,
The wormwood root,
The cat’s thirst,
This is the last poem in the collection Livro das Devoracións by Pilar Pallarés (A Coruña: Espiral Maior, 2009). The poet was born in 1957 and has written studies of Rosalía de Castro, Luís Pimentel, Ricardo Carvalho Calero and Rafael Dieste, as well as numerous collections of poetry.
The collection is radically pessimistic in a way that is characteristic of Galician writing and it also echoes the Portuguese poet and novelist Fernando Pessoa (Book of Disquiet). Although this poem calls to mind the meditations of Philip Larkin on his future treatment by posterity, Pallarés does not have the sarcastic bite of the English poet and her verse steers clear of rhyme and conventional metrical forms. This does not detract from a whiff of classical learning in the way she develops her metaphorical ideas and structures her images in clear successions of comprehensible periods.
The book deserves to be read and studied as a whole. The images and ideas echo and reiterate while the literary connections feed backwards and forwards from images that seem almost casually drawn from real life. This is good poetry: it is the poetry of someone who reads and that gives it depth and resonance.
I shall translate another poem from the collection for these pages, because I think it merits it.