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Poetry

Onto Dust We Shall Come

By Manuel Ramos Otero
Translated from Spanish by Cristina Pérez Díaz
Cristina Pérez Diaz translates three poems by Manuel Ramos Otero, the first Puerto Rican writer to have openly turned his gayness into a literary trope.
Dramatic clouds over a mountain and ocean in Puerto Rico
Photo by Rick Lipsett on Unsplash

3

I sing again, leaving death behind,
to take part in the horrible tenderness of love,
that now arrives when life is late,
to be innocent of future wars.
I come again to the eternal night of expectation,
to the sacred prejudice of a unique man,
when I’ve made peace treaties
in the remote sunsets of solitude.
I return to the world as I depart,
having birthed another phantom,
a dweller of nebulous coasts,
a brief enemy of metaphors.
And you are here.
Promising love beyond this century.
Delivering the thirsty rains of summer.
The most accurate painter of human walls.
Animal of another space unbound.
So many clocks devoid of hours are enticing us,
such a great urge, unquenched, is pressing us,
so much hope is only an initiation
into the slow funeral of our perfect joy.
Our time is scant, and so our things:
a stained carpet, two glasses without memories,
a black telephone, a hiding place,
a key to light that locks in sadness
and a recent past that now rejects us.
Walking hand in hand and lost
we’re perplexed again that so much love exists.

4

I don’t love your body but the secret
it dwells in
the cave that covers me at night
only eases darkness.
I love your gaze more than your eyes
always opened when the mouth kisses
with humidity of sea my irregular island
of stormy coasts and jagged rocks.
And more than lies which every love promises
I love reality that gathers us in bed
wearing off our tongues with sea urchins,
growing daggers in the garden of our thighs,
every dead Sunday between our bodies.
When you depart without a flourish,
when I return to a different symphony’s silence,
when you are a man of paper,
a spirit trapped within the poem,
and I can’t define you again in words,
which now defy all nothingness,
we’ll remember things that never happened,
we’ll love each other as we never did,
we’ll search in tombs of sadness
until we find freedom unscathed,
so that time may repair what we have lost.

The Night

Uncommon love, what is night
but that stray body of desire,
but that cruising sweat that in bed
turns the flesh into a sponge of the mouth.
For memory, whatever happened
is now forgotten, only the shadow
is a still tongue, a blushed surprise in the saliva.
How noble is the impotence of the rose,
without a pistil it kisses its own petals,
without hands stripping itself off its own mirrors,
to die at night as it blooms in the word.
Bolts should be placed, that no one may release
the fleeting perfume of the gutters,
at times love must be made on shores
like cats dying in the cold.
I’m in your smile, though you don’t want it,
you’re hidden in my armpits,
dizziness rushes down our wounds.
Already night knows itself nighted.

© Manuel Ramos Otero. Translation © 2022 Cristina Pérez Diaz. All rights reserved.

English

3

I sing again, leaving death behind,
to take part in the horrible tenderness of love,
that now arrives when life is late,
to be innocent of future wars.
I come again to the eternal night of expectation,
to the sacred prejudice of a unique man,
when I’ve made peace treaties
in the remote sunsets of solitude.
I return to the world as I depart,
having birthed another phantom,
a dweller of nebulous coasts,
a brief enemy of metaphors.
And you are here.
Promising love beyond this century.
Delivering the thirsty rains of summer.
The most accurate painter of human walls.
Animal of another space unbound.
So many clocks devoid of hours are enticing us,
such a great urge, unquenched, is pressing us,
so much hope is only an initiation
into the slow funeral of our perfect joy.
Our time is scant, and so our things:
a stained carpet, two glasses without memories,
a black telephone, a hiding place,
a key to light that locks in sadness
and a recent past that now rejects us.
Walking hand in hand and lost
we’re perplexed again that so much love exists.

4

I don’t love your body but the secret
it dwells in
the cave that covers me at night
only eases darkness.
I love your gaze more than your eyes
always opened when the mouth kisses
with humidity of sea my irregular island
of stormy coasts and jagged rocks.
And more than lies which every love promises
I love reality that gathers us in bed
wearing off our tongues with sea urchins,
growing daggers in the garden of our thighs,
every dead Sunday between our bodies.
When you depart without a flourish,
when I return to a different symphony’s silence,
when you are a man of paper,
a spirit trapped within the poem,
and I can’t define you again in words,
which now defy all nothingness,
we’ll remember things that never happened,
we’ll love each other as we never did,
we’ll search in tombs of sadness
until we find freedom unscathed,
so that time may repair what we have lost.

The Night

Uncommon love, what is night
but that stray body of desire,
but that cruising sweat that in bed
turns the flesh into a sponge of the mouth.
For memory, whatever happened
is now forgotten, only the shadow
is a still tongue, a blushed surprise in the saliva.
How noble is the impotence of the rose,
without a pistil it kisses its own petals,
without hands stripping itself off its own mirrors,
to die at night as it blooms in the word.
Bolts should be placed, that no one may release
the fleeting perfume of the gutters,
at times love must be made on shores
like cats dying in the cold.
I’m in your smile, though you don’t want it,
you’re hidden in my armpits,
dizziness rushes down our wounds.
Already night knows itself nighted.

© Manuel Ramos Otero. Translation © 2022 Cristina Pérez Diaz. All rights reserved.

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