You Begin With Magic

The nation of the palm of your hand,
how I’ve hounded its rivers and been lost in its dunes
in search of the reddest fountain of mercury
that would summon with its ancient gong,
there above the moon of your lips, your rising smile.

Peloponnesus of ivory and bronze
your hand’s minute map,
a puddle for these lips that pursue
each timeline.

I smell the sand, I hear its jackals,
there are moorings and bonfires in your hand,
there are traps, lonely
midnight bars with exhausted pianists
and you, yourself, pulled close to your voice that tears through the darkness
a vague column of milk and vanilla.

Everything is born in your hand, saffron planisphere and aged rum,
and then it moves forth, climbs, deceives, and tempests,
pinkish navel, lips withdrawn, feeling,
suddenly it’s Sergio and his guitar, it is that wounded summer girl
that gave us that flower on a street corner with an aloof “I must.”

I’ll tell you of the trip, you, half awake,
I’ll lift up the Portolan chart, stealthily,
I’ll tell you in the fog that coos in your throat
of the games of chance that dragged us through backrooms
to drunken sailors, to girls just passing through,
who form the alphabet of this language, the gesture
with which you surrender, bending, murmuring a fountain among bell towers.

There, where at last I drink.

-Julio Cortázar

This originally appeared in the text Último Round, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1969.

Trans: Jacob Steinberg, 2011.

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