Juan Martínez (1933–2007)

Six Poems from 'Angel of Fire,' translated by Sergio Sarano


The void sways to the beat of primal rhythms
percussions filtered through timpani
overrunning your eyes with fleeting
will-o-wisps, bright as bassoon counterpoint
the dire anthill has blood-rage within,
pale ghosts sail across faces
beneath their crime’s glare
as yet untold, deep in vegetal conscience
failed virgins on the landing of their lunacy
all the more gravid by the surprise of dawn
dissolve into smoke-swirls
voices in grey matter recall their sex as an erotic idea
masturbation is implicit to free will;
O Pithecanthropus, bluffers have raided your cave
they’ve got nothing on you, and yet they ape you,
you were pure in your beastly veneer
these people are beastly impure in their evolved
appearance; make no attempt to return, remain glued to your island
like your thighs to tall goat-skin boots
like your heart to the whistling of fallows
like fervid madness in the sanity of some inner delight
remembering of tarragon or cherries
like your resurrection’s first night among the living. 


That deep and mighty voice
had already manifested itself through the charms of its revelation;
colts of untamed whiteness
knock at the golden gate of your dreams
the third heaven, enwreathed by faces of wrathful beauty,
opens its gates, allowing you to witness
fathomless thought-expanses
manifold forms of frozen energy,
tight, dynamic sidereal colony arrays
and beyond all bastard consideration
lie the judgements of form, there to settle your steps through immortal mazes
everything rests upon light-scaffolding
ultramarine & plumbago, gold & vermillion
musicking the habit of rhythm to cloud-flights,
huge songbirds stripped of their malice
tweak at the image of abstract reason
a content singular to all logical sources.
The parabolic configurations of your ramblings
when you, nostalgia-stricken, tried to access the past.
A boundless bazaar of unseen architectures,
surrendered, recaptured; dreams within the spirit,
where logbook entries show transhumant presences.
Obituaries lost to the relics of remembrance. 


And that slowly moving purple threat,
vast, unconscious communities, sleepless
at the rising stair of their reversible automatisms,
troubled by the science-glow of endless possibilities,
the victims ate of the dead gods
and the fire crackled, twisting their rage
their eyes became embers of awe
they sought shelter in wreckage, waveringly,
only the rustle of grasshoppers is on their trail, bile-tainted thoughts
sniffing through dunghills of chores past.



Blue atmosphere of scented ointment
seabirds kindling unknown senses with their shrieks

and in the silence of my afterthoughts
gorgeous dolphins plunge their chests
into the pursuit of their happiness
their passing by the clang of my heart,
rapt in vision,
awed at the rhythms of their deftness
washed in surf-weft I say to myself:
the sea is hereby confirmed in my presence
the sea is covered in the gentle satin of a god

fragrant frankincense in your inner-secret ducts
and that throbbing, panting god
like a hero scathed by his prowess
softly overcomes
the warm ivies climbing up my ankles
and the sun’s breath snuffs
at my tanned back, lynx-like;
twilight hour, vesper grays,
pale pinks mirrored underneath the waterflow

storks in search of meal along the ebbing tide
try out their skill, time & again
tangled up in constant neck-fugue
and, as if breaking off from their higher cognizance,

the wind sketches out their childhood dreams.




Slow, hard improvement in coexistence and progress

lines originating a point upon crossing,
centers replacing opposing signs
in magnificent states, refined sediments

in the history of eternity, anthropological ethnics
softly extend its magical surprises
over the passage of everyday life, affordable like a logical reasoning rose
but: surmising upon intuition with a lynx
trigonometric aroma by the riverside of differential
calculations in the malleability of my will.
Underground action at the planet-roots:
mute forms, aromas & colors transmute implicit tasks,
invisible universes interpret sidereal symphonies to perfection,
protons & electrons weave fine threads in a mystical language,
clean-design compositions fertilize microgenetic systems,
clearly intelligent plasma-sap
determines environmental contact conditions,
high-precision genders & specializations, creepers, sensitive slopes,
receptors detect solar communications,
multifarious breaths emanate their fleeing character
where the song of the Acrididae modifies its frequency by rubbing its antennae,

by way of soundwaves the message reaches the bobcat, the quail,
the owl, the hawk, the eagle, & the tiger,
in night’s silence they conjure a counsel.




Swathed crackles, leaf-storm whispers
mnemotechnic natural resources
glory-spirit hovering the atmosphere
the unspoken majesty of heaven extols herself in the dignity of thought

and so, behind dream-borders humans find solace

and chastity signifies pure form knowledge

creation reveals its magic powers
from a distance, light `draws in unassailable objects

closer to the human condition,
eager allure, praiseworthy performance
a murmur-winged blue ghost
is presided by its cosmic brainpower.


[The following commentary is taken from the gathering of North and South American poetry (“from origins to present”) that Javier Taboada and I are now preparing and that includes a different poem of Martínez’s, but Sarano’s attempt, as shown here, is the first at a broader range of translation. (J.R.)]

Let’s dance, madness, / joy of the word / master key / of this house. — Juan Martínez

In saying which, he emphasized his life as an outsider artist and poet, reflecting the world as he lived it on his own terms. Born in Tequila, Jalisco, within a traditional family, his path took him early on to Tijuana in Baja California and then to years of wanderings in and near Mexico City, where he constructed thousands of works-of-art “built,” as fellow poet Alberto Blanco describes them, “with aluminum foil, tin, cigarettes, and chocolate wrappers collected in the street, pressed with great force and consolidated with his strong hands to give them form.” And further: “He used to spend endless hours swimming in the icy waters of the Pacific and nights in the cafés of the central Revolución Avenue [in Tijuana]. There he devoted himself to rest at times, but, above all, to what he called ‘building’ … drawing, painting, writing.” In this “[he] made no distinction between ‘building’ by way of drawing or making sculptures, objects, writing poems, or doing many other activities.”

In all of this, his work and life resembled that of other “outside” artists and poets, and like many of them — or like avant-garde artists everywhere — he explored and broke the boundaries between the arts in new and often astonishing ways.

Juan Martínez: Correspondencia de la Virgen (1997)
Juan Martínez, Correspondencia de la Virgen (1997).