translated by Edmund Keeley

“I went down to the St. James Infirmary.”

I got lost in the town.
The gardens are hidden by the hospital of Don Juan Tavera.
Advertisements wrapping up the streets.
Each man walks without knowing
whether he’s at a beginning or an end,
whether he’s going to his mother, his daughter, or his mistress
whether he’ll judge or be judged
whether he’ll escape, whether he’s escaped already;
he doesn’t know.
At every corner a gramophone shop
in every shop a hundred gramophones
for each gramophone a hundred records
on every record
someone living plays with someone dead.
Take the steel needle and separate them
if you can.

Now what poet? Do you remember what poet
tried out the steel needle
on the seams of man’s skull?

Do you remember his song that night?
I remember that he asked us for an asprin
his eyes moved inside black rings
he was pale, and two deep wrinkles
bound his forehead. Or was it you
maybe? Or me? Or was it maybe
silent Antigone with those shoulders
rounded over her breasts?
I kept her with me ten nights
and each dawn she would weep for her child.
I remember I was looking for a pharmacy. For whom, I don’t know.
they were all closed.

I got lost in the town
no one is going to remove the hospital
full of crippled children gesturing
at me or at others following me.
odors of medicine in the air
turn heavy, fall in love and mesh
with vapors from cars going off
to the country with pre-Raphaelite couples
thoroughly blond if somehow a bit evaporated.

In the spring of 1923, Livia Rimini,
the film star, died in her bath;
they found her dead amidst her perfume
and the water was not yet cold.
yet in the movies yesterday
she gazed at me with her useless eyes.