lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2016

Welwitschia mirabilis, Namib Desert
The heart is a caldera of ash encircled
by two wind-whipped leaves: what begins

banner-broad as Miss Landmine’s sash ends
in a pageant of feather-fray spiraling the stem’s

terminal groove, tar-gray lips
spongy as hot asphalt crowning what bore

and bears it, a wind field’s drift
of sand. With distance, they’re great hulking spiders

hunching a limbless horizon, wind-raked debris, stacks
of tattered carcasses, not what felled Welwitsch

awestruck to his knees: mirabilis,
miracle, this circle of siblings born

five hundred years ago of a single freakish
week of rain. Not bushes, but trees

driven underground, five, ten, twenty
sentient centuries they thrive

off collision—morning’s fog belt an alchemy
divined of desiccation and a current’s

icy rise to a sabered coast rattling
its outsized pearls, sea-smoothed stones

and the knobby wreck of oysters
pried open, clean

as kneecaps.


Survival means living

always in reverse: night-opening
stomata, trunk a taproot

plunging toward core, that interred star
centering a planet warmed not by light

but decay: U238, forty-five hundred
million years a half life ghosting the age

of Earth where surfacing terminates
as discovery, as drilling

fuses, No Entry’s freshly dug
perimeter of signs jutting the park’s own

rusting signage warning tourists
against trespass, curiosity which killed

a lichen field laboring centuries
toward this very absence, the poise

of ore trucks straight-lining horizon paused
until the unearthing word—


What survives is made visible
most for what scars it, field

history endures as ox wagon tracks neatly
scoring it still. A lichen’s fragility

its strength: that it exists
only as fusion, scaffold of fungus

an alga feeds. But nothing’s
singular; lop off either leaf, a welwitschia

will never sprout a third, will remain
always the flawed schism

it never lost faith with. Welwitschia:
in Nama, !kharos; in Herero,

 onyanga: desert onion. Because it isn’t landscape
that starves.

Lebensraum, just a little
elbow room
Konzentrationslager, a little space

to disappear in. Nama.
Herero. A little space

for forgetting, century
we were born to

born here
in genocide, all exits blocked

but to thorn, waterholes
poisoned, survivors

strung into plots
of barbed wire, narrative

enthralling the young Hitler
a halved world


Whether influence
or confluence, inspire

or conspire, like
leads to like, desert by desert. Namib,

Kalahari. Nothing
singular. Nothing true

twinned: Race hygiene. Bastard
Operations overt

and covert, wars civil
and cold: history a spectral arc

so deeply dug, the desert’s pronged
with sand-shrouded tiaras, the antlered plates

of bounding mines; with blast mines
forged to the span of the human

palm, of baby carriage wheels
ground puck-smooth, scattered

like shattered spines, disks
of some fossil species more

or less human. But nothing’s fossil
but the living here—Darwin’s term, living

fossil, for the welwitschia, for what stalls
at origin. What changes only

circles: seasons clocked by arrival, fetal fists
of cones unfurling. Pollination

by flies. 

Like butterfly feelers, the narrow shoots
the cones top; like delicate antennae

tuning the static hum of the world’s latest
mined harbor. The human body

needs no acoustic signature. Is
both trigger and crutch.

Despite his urging a local name, the Academy ambered
Welwitsch in Latin: welwitschia since conserved

by military occupation, by colonial
proclamation, by the serendipitous sowing of mines

unharvested still.

Phantom by phantom, the desert unscrolls
dualed leaves rind-thick and corrugated

as the zinc roof held down by stones
of a house a woman one morning

walks away from, into a field suddenly
percussive with light.

To survive, the body
will seal at the thigh, heal

to a single bruise
of air—a tenderness that lies

only in the missing.

Primera parte (traducción)

El corazón es una caldera de ceniza rodeado
por dos hojas azotadas por el viento: que comienza

en ancha franja como faja de Señorita en Campo de Minas
final en un desfile de plumas en espiral de tallos

surco terminal, labios de alquitrán gris
esponjoso de asfalto caliente coronado de luz

y la lleva, a la deriva en un campo ventoso
de arena. Con la distancia, grandes moles de arañas

encorvándose como horizonte sin extremidades, restos de viento-rastrillado,
apilados jirones de carcasas, la no talada Welwitscia

asombrado de rodillas: mirabilis,
milagro, este círculo de hermanos nacidos

quinientos años atrás en una única anormal
semana de lluvia. No arbustos, sino árboles

en la clandestinidad, cinco, diez, veinte
siglos sensibles que prosperan

de la colisión del cinturón de niebla de la mañana una alquimia
de divina desecación y una corriente

helada se levanta de una agitada costa
sus perlas de gran tamaño, piedras moldeadas por el mar

y el naufragio de restos de ostras
quedan abiertos, blancos

como rótulas.


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