for Paco Ibañez

I have enquired after myself in every glance.
I have enquired after the sea. The gulls hover
as before, but they seem higher and sadder.
The days so little used and already they are the past.
Where is the student who came from an island
with the light of the Atlantic? And night’s scent
in the blackish merchant ship with red funnels?
It glided slowly over the water of the port
as far as the iron stanchions. Awake in my cabin,
I had to wait until daybreak to go out into the murmur
of morning, to the wet pavements of the Rambla.

Somewhere, there is still our city
with the protective shade of those plane-trees.
The yellow marble-topped counters of the little bars, the woodwork
of the large cafés that are now gone. Secondhand bookshops,
that were silent and serious, like a corner in a church.
Leo Ferré sang Verlaine and Baudelaire:
Paco Ibañez, Alberti; Lucho Gatica the hot
boleros that in death we shall still dance to.

But, inside me is there space for so many buildings,
for the port and the din of streets and markets?
For the place where the broken-off conversation continues,
the chair facing the same twilight?
City with the poverty of a lost war
that compelled us to love the future furiously:
in the past you have windows that at evening blaze out
like docile animals. Windows that remember
all our triumphs—poor ephemeral triumphs—
ablaze in the streets. I have been faithful to you, city:
in one or other language I have always spoken of you.

 

Translated from the Catalan by Anna Crowe