Ricardo Cázares: a fragment from a poem in progress, with a note by the author

Translation from Spanish by Joshua Edwards


And likewise they contend that animals / Wander about head downwards and cannot fall / Off from the earth into the sky below / Any more than our bodies of themselves can fly / Upwards into the regions of the sky; / That when they see the sun, the stars of night / Are what we see, and that they share the hours / Of the wide heavens alternately with us, / And pass nights corresponding to our days.


[...] That suddenly the ramparts of the world / Would burst asunder and like flying flames / Rush headlong scattered through the empty void, / And in like manner all the rest would follow, / The thundering realms of sky rush down from above, / Earth suddenly withdrawn beneath our feet, / And the whole world, its atoms all dissolved, / Amid the confused ruin of heaven and earth / Would vanish through the void of the abyss, / And in a moment not one scrap be left / But desert space and atoms invisible, / For at whatever point you first allow / Matter to fail, there stands the gate of death

                                                                                    Lucretius, On The Nature of Things





and was good

         in its way

              that light


                        sliding from gray

to the pure blue of young moss


            the eye was ours

to see

and we bled it


            we mixed the liquid with warm grease

and scented herbs

that mask sulfur’s stench


the light was good

            and we touched the golden edge

that shone


                        a sheet of particles and waves


                  intact in all things





            they came for stones

            for eating from woman

            for killing animals



            but the earth was ours

and we sank our arrows into moss

stirring that poisoned dust

in the plant’s vulva


            we shot

                                    and the wound made their gums blue

and their fingernails




                              at the first spring’s end

the strangers went mad


            scratching at their own faces with their fingernails

            tearing skin

            and sinking fingers

            into sores



the earth was ours


            and again we’d touch stone and salt

                                 coppery skin of pears

      the downy hair of thighs



            we touched without fear


                                    without thinking


there were few things in existence that

surprised us


our face could feel

every gesture and

reflection of light

and open a black groove in silhouettes


they were ours the shape

            the stuff of abundance


although we have renounced


the little tenderness that remains for us

is now a matter of atoms

and charges and valences





                                    here came things

                        that changed our form


                        “deeper than thought

                                                            much deeper”

and vaster than the sky



         still the world was good

            and it was cruel


                                                it was better to be a bird a

                                    crane once there was

                        once a harsh wind

            like the wind it was bitter

to be a crane once


                                                within reach


                                    but the air bit me half to death

                        and I mooed

                                             I mooed like cows moo

                                    to see if it was the sound it was the light

                                    that changed


I spread the mix on my body

to see if madness would subside


but then things got worse


            then truly

air and sun took bites


                                    eating our corneas

like moss

so everything was blue and mild and bland

            and ordered our shadow to roll

into spheres



            (so that the conjurer may speak



                        will bite into the sun


                                          will bite skin and stone

in thatthirstrisingsedimenttherehere


             until it would clearly sing the plain that/ divide by birth prairies and barren wastelands/ whitewashed with quicklime on earthly eyelids dissolving so the light/ white face on its horizon of burnt silhouettes/ its boiling pot heat snatching the



distance between its feet and/


                                                the fantasy of sand that empties the living form

of its body/                 of its journey/


basilisk for he who goes forth with a staff/ pursuing without hunting the few remaining beasts


                        (and they


that branches and roots

would detach

                        and the trees begin to     f  l  o  a  t


            like boats toward the sky

            like hills dragging the shell

until it sinks into the universal tide)





                        which is to say


we filled our head with vapors

of elusive heat

that do not seep through skin

like moss

or fig sap


but you must not believe that things

change so

that I can’t touch you


            still the world is good

            in its way


                                 good when biting with its millstone

                                                            if alarmed

                                                if spitting a stalk

                                                      battered onto stone


                        good are stones that bite

                                                            and lime

                                    the entire surface of the earth

melting with waves

like the sun

      because the pulp wants sea

                        wants to bathe

            so that the mouthful

doesn’t choke you



                        the clouds biting


                                    the sky spreads its legs

            to piss

                                    so that burnt poplars may drink

                                    that their bark thunders


                                    the earth spreads its legs

                                    because its depths thunder



                        “there planted is the dead,” says the lightning

            and the earth like fire

or tar

                     eats carbon

                                                eats alone


            and bites the beast the herded wind

                                    the weaning calf

that was molting

                        and now’s a woman’s mooing

            as ants dance about on its tongue as on a saint’s



                        bit the world


                                    and so you wouldn’t lose your realm


                                                I opened all of myself

            and passed a day in labor


arms open wide

and legs planted on the earth





            there was already

no difference

between the two


                        but still I pushed


                                                I bit my hair like crazy

            in order to hang on and so the air

                                    and earth would calm


                                                            so the roof of your house

                                             would not be battered by stars


                        I pushed to touch you


                                                I bit branches and roots

                                                and my fingers

                                                and toes

                                                until my teeth were gone


                                                until birth came into view



                                                a little moss and clay between my legs


and so the lump wouldn’t dry out

I got at it purely with tongue


and with my mouth printed

your body’s form

onto mine





the world is still good


            although cruel

                        although wounded the world

remains good

is good

            is good

                        is very good



author’s note

I began writing the long poem I call   in 2008. To this date the first two volumes (roughly five hundred pages) of the work have been published in Mexico. The poem has slowly taken shape as it’s been written. That is, the different strata that emerge (personal, historical, mythological, scientific, etc) are a direct result of a push towards an uncertain archeological and mythological consciousness which has slowly revealed itself among the long prose passages, compressed word segments, graphics, etc that seem to negotiate a space for themselves among what a reader might otherwise recognize as “verse.” The later sections of the poem delve deeper into this area, digging into the still ambiguous meaning of the two primitive masculine and feminine symbols that make up the title, and which I initially placed in contrast to each other by mere intuition. My hope is that by revealing the process of its writing, the poem will lay bare a particular movement within the fragments, in which there is both a sense of transformation, and of a struggle to reveal something which can only be exposed through the writing itself.


[Ricardo Cázares (Mexico City, 1978) is the author of several collections of poetry including DrivethruEs un decir, and the long poem simply titled . His work as a translator includes the first complete Spanish translation of Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems, Maleza de luz, Selected Poems of Ronald Johnson, Robert Creeley’s Pieces, John Taggart’s Peace On Earth,Truong Tran’s dust and conscience, James Laughlin’s Remembering William Carlos Williams, and a comprehensive anthology of the British Poetry Revival. He is an editor and founding member of Mangos de Hacha Press, and the editor for the poetry and arts journal Mula Blanca.]