8 Poems by Gastón Baquero

By | 1 September 2013
Poppies on the road from Toledo

The word Toledo tastes of stone,
of the millennia of memory,
of Jewish tenacity,
of ghosts.

To see the city’s
to understand it doesn’t exist,
has never existed,
is no more than a crazy prophet’s dream,
the imagining of some emissary from the other world
who forgot the way back.

On the towers of Toledo
the warriors of the year 1200 fall asleep,
the ones who went off to find the Holy Grail
and were left as corpses before Jerusalem’s walls
till the Great River brought them to Toledo’s battlements.

Inside these walls
there are old stone fish, enigmas
no one wants to hear,
the most ancient weeping turned to stone, and prayers
that instead of going to Heaven
fall like imprecations on the devil’s knees.

In the silence of night
Toledo offers rest to those dead
who can’t sleep,
and to angels endlessly thrown back out of Paradise,
to the creatures God doesn’t pardon
who must live invisible forever 
in Toledo’s saddest alleys.

I have seen all this: I, a blind man, have seen more:
a skylark tasting the bitterness of incense,
the tassel fallen from a gothic sepulchre,
the red candle burning in the cardinal’s tomb,
the butterfly sharing a secret with San Cristobal,
a rabbi’s bones hidden under the armour of the Count of Orgaz.

I, blind, have seen all this but must be silent,
for Death signals me to stay silent
and my bones tremble inside me.
Suddenly I understand why there,
on the outskirts of Toledo,
the red poppies offer their sign
to the innocence of men.

Joseíto Juaí plays his violin in the Versailles of Matanzas. When the child Joseito Juaí played his violin in the patio, the little fighting cock and the Filipino and the Valencian roosters would arch their necks and sing the kikiriki of the great feast days, thinking midday had come. On and on, without tiring, the boy, ecstatic, went in and out of the melodies, light-footed as a ragamuffin dressed in red dashing here and there in the forest, humming madrigals from Shakespeare’s times, cutting merry capers to celebrate the sun, because it lives so entirely off light, off whatever’s diaphanous, and, more than anything, loves the light summoned by this boy’s violin. When Joseito Juaí played his violin, there in the Versailles of Matanzas, butterflies stopped in their flight to listen, as did bees, blackbirds, buglers, mockingbirds, a shy finch, and doves, always the doves!, all-white ones and grey ones, with that neck they have, its iridescence so carefully captured by Giotto’s brush. When the boy played his violin, sunset stretched out slowly, savouring each moment. The sun, the Lord of Midday, wouldn’t hear of missing a single sound and only agreed to drop below the horizon when the boy’s mother took him by the hand and said: “That’s enough study for now; you’ll catch cold from the night dew; leave your violin for today; tomorrow we can live again in the kingdom of       light, and the little fighting cock will once more sing his kikiriki of glory.”
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