Verbal Countries (Reprise)

[Après la lettre, and for Eileen, who is learning Spanish]

and I wonder,
in what language
am I supposed
to express this

(what is the pre-position
needed for this question?)

because if we
use lower letters
except of course
for the first person,
is it because we dread

magnitudes, the
grand eloquence of
conquerors and pirates?
it goes without saying
that we no longer know,

no longer know what
language we are speaking,
like wee hours banter,
drunken conversations
with strangers.

“where are you
from originally?”
we learn to ask,
here, visa stamped
on green paper skin.

no Book of English As a Foreign
Language teaches you
the meaning of Coming
From Originally
, nor the
tactful fear of offending.

where I was from
people ask de dónde eres,
and those who left forever
dream with coming back or
endlessly talk about the smells

of kitchens and the stories
of grandmothers whose skies
were bluer and of course their gardens
greener, but for some reason
they (we?) are now here, a mix of accents,

skin colors, hair styles and expectations.
But being all together does not mean
we are equal, united, sympathetic.
we rub against each other like
shaken atoms, excited and displaced.

we are concerned with explosions.

in what language
do I dream about this
laboratory of human interaction,
in what language does the
bleeding heart remember to forget?

¿con qué lengua puedo hacer
estas preguntas?

what is the pre-position
needed for this question?

Bhut Jolokia (Press Release)

(Mashing up something I read in the newspaper).

A chili’s spiciness
scientifically measured
calculating content of capsaicin.
A pepper’s piquancy
is experienced in
Scoville heat units.
Imagine the American chemist Wilbur Scoville,
(who invented the method in 1912)
cleverly devising the Scoville organoleptic test
using a panel of tasters
all given chili extract
diluted in sugar water.
There is a final heat unit.
It is based on the proportion of dilution
required to render the chili’s heat
(completely, I imagine) undetectable.
Of course, we are told,
a Scoville rating is relatively inaccurate:
there is, in fact, a subjective human element
and it is a fact not all chili species
have had the same growing conditions.
(La infancia del chile es su destino:
dicen que hay quienes son picosos desde infantes.)
I am haunted though by what I’ve learnt
is known as the Ghost Chili:
the Bhut Jolokia, the world’s hottest.
Pure capsaicin, with a rating three times higher
than police-grade pepper spray–
most people are reduced to tears.


[The personal computer…] that ultimate manifestation of the intimate machine… -John Naughton


Computers used to be rooms
where you could walk into.
Now they are little boxes
that get into you.

You used to go to them.
Now they come with us.
Something hasn’t changed:
we still live in them.

My personal computer
is an intimate machine.
It goes to sleep with me.

If you could see into my hard drive
you would find him I think I am.

Esta mañana

Induced hypothermia allows for temporary death, followed by resurrection. The procedure could suspend your cellular function without ending it.

-Mikel Jollet, “The Big Chill”, Men’s Health, June 2007


Esta mañana amanezco
con un velo sobre el ojo.
El otro sigue aún dormido,
se mueve en sonámbulo aríem
mientras el cuerpo intenta levantarse.

Esta mañana la rodilla
-la de la pierna izquierda-
protesta por el esfuerzo
que nunca hizo por dejarlo
todo a la derecha. El sol

es más débil hoy y las cortinas
-que son persianas- semejan
el parpadeo con que intento
enfocar mi caminar a la ventana.

(Hay unas rosas en la taza azul
que antes servía café y día a día
desde hace poco me río de su muerte.

Una de ellas sigue más viva que las otras,
se habrá tomado todo sin dejarles nada.)

El paso de los días nos erosiona:
el movimiento nos hace polvo, morona, sal.
Como cuando te da la madrugada y
no has dormido, el mar un olor cercano
abajo de tus ojos. La espuma es lo que ciega.

Esta mañana amanezco pero el sueño
todavía se pasea por mi cuerpo,
como agua salina por la vena femoral
(la sangre sin oxígeno, que se detiene
atelerida ante uno de los atrios).

Esta mañana amanezco y el escalofrío
es el reflejo natural a este enfriamiento.
Una muerte temporal por hipotermia:
al despertar esta mañana fui un resucitado.


A cut-out frame
opens up the microscopic
universe to the point
of bacteria and then

it’s all about the flow of oxygen
coffee-grinding time,
drop after drop
dilluted into a black spot.

Why would anyone
use paper scissors
to slit open an old page:
a moist yellowed paperback,

unread, like the ocean
of hair at the end
of a long day at the barber’s shop.
It’s all about the square

figure of these doors,
a single other poor soul
doing the same thing
you do everyday

which is the same thing
he does everyday and
then the breeze comes in
from waters not here;

maybe a sign that gods
do indeed exist.

What happens when
someone crosses
that door unknowingly
of all those dead?

The frame has no border:
it is itself the border.

Come on, step on it and feel the edge.

The world is suddenly
not inside, not outside

the world exists because
we stand.

Coney Island

Over the photograph of the whole beach
(the abandoned amusement park behind),
a lonely bird.

The next photograph shows the bird,
white and black,
flying, spread wings,
such a seabird,
a postcard of a living creature.

My friend shows me the photograph,
one he took knowing I’d see it,
knowing I’d know what the bird,

its colours, the closed beak mean,
its shape cut against the grey sky,
all the bloody melancholy we do share.

Added in a postscript

Gloomy day. Ceaseless rain.
Walk like a blue ghost,
covered in a poncho:
it makes you look like a tired,

retired superhero.
The rabbits must be all
hiding underground:
they know better.

I go from one concrete building
to the other, change titillating
screens a million times.

The post office makes me wait
and 68p go away on a piece of paper
with the face of a future king.

The red totem is there,
still, opening its mouth.
It devours. We walk back
with printed words on paper

in the bag. The words are there.
The more I read them the more I feel
like walking like a blue ghost
under the rain. The rain stops

for a moment.
Absolute peace.
Only the sound of
a computer, breathing.

Day Barry White Died

I wonder if everytime
someone dies
there are minimal,
hyper-brief instants
of micro-sadness
in all the nights of the world.
Most of the times, of course,
we don’t even realize,
but some other times,
the next morning,
we may be able
to understand that
little unexplained sigh,
that unseen flashing in the sky
the night before.