Cold of Limits

[…] symbol that is reality, reality that turns

into a symbol before the face of death.


LIKE bile in the liver blind words hide in themselves. There are

black knots in your tongue. There’s

no hope nor sound.


IT brushes lichens and bones abandoned to the dew, then it reaches the houses and penetrates in filaments of caustic soda. Later it comes to your hands like a luminous tongue and slips into fatty cells. It bubbles like the softest ants and your hands are immobilized with happiness.

When the sun returns to its bowl of sorrow

you look at your hands abandoned by the light.


THE SOUND of dawn never enters the penumbra of the ear. Silence lows in hidden vaults and slips over your membranes. Birds whistle and your passion is deaf.

You are no longer you in your ears.


THEY flee wounded by dawn, they flutter upon the water and their whiteness opens in you: lapwings.

They voyage from the visible to the invisible. Now

there is only winter in the immobile branches.


THE ORANGE in your hands, its brilliance, is it forever?

Near the water and the knife, an orange in the hollow of eternity?

Fruit of disappearance. Its excess of reality burns between your hands.


IT SWIMS in your spirit, it pierces arterial gloom, hisses in the white fistula of your heart.

It has neither face nor memory in you


YOU HEAR the destruction of wood (the blind termites in its veins), you see needles and wardrobes full of shadow.

It is the mortal nap. So much childhood under the eyelids!

Like the sad horsefly of summer, you take from your face, your mother’s black serge. You’re going to

awaken in oblivion.


YOU SMELL the damp linens, your acids. This remains of you, a living density.

You see the mirror without mercury. It is only glass submerged in shadow and within it is your face. So

are you within yourself.


THE SOBBING animal licks your skin, you see big infectious numbers and in the extremity of indifference, you turn sleepless, musical, facing the final grief.

They come, stretch

cold sheets over your heart.


THOSE that are big in your childhood: they smell of bleach and love.

Those that rest in yours, soft in their cartilage, charred.

Those that drop into rectal shadow, those that are cold on the blue grids of eyelids.


THEY stretch sterile towels, pour liquids on the diseased ivory.

An animal of light swells underneath your skin. Under the cannulae

steel simmers, blue.


DAWN approaches. Night still covers your wounds.

Now the knives of day arrive. Don’t

undress in the light, close your eyes.


YOU BURN beneath carnal tunics.

The black suture has not helped:

there is no water in you. All streams flow in a different age

and the purity of the empty glass maddens you.


SNAKES scream in the cells of air. Intoxication rises from feminine thighs and you put your lips in their liquids.

Seize the flower of agony. Still

there’s moisture in the ashes that you love.


BLUE oil on your tongue, black seeds in your veins. In the last symbols, you see purity without meaning.

It is the intoxication of old age: light in the light. Alcohol

without hope.


IT IS his corporeal moan, it is his breathing in hollow rooms.

How much sweetness still weighs upon your lips, in dying!


HE SUCKS the bile of doves, he groans on scorched roofs and, in the rooms of shadow, he burns in yellow spheres.

You smell his silent urine, you feel

a whisper of fingernails in eternity.


LOVE weighs upon the physical wood, the past simmers in your heart.

Compassion (mortal rose) still descends into sacred moisture.


IS IT light this substance that birds traverse?

In the quaking of silica are deposited quartz and splinters polished by vertigo. You feel

the moan of the ocean. Later,

cold of limits.


IT ENTERS your body and your tiredness is filled with petals. In you happy animals tremble: music on the edge of the abyss.

It is death throes and serenity. You still feel life like a fragrance.

This pleasure without hope, what finally does it mean in you?

Is the music also about to stop?


Antonio Gamoneda

Antonio Gamoneda was born in 1931. He is one of the most widely read contemporary Spanish poets. His most successful early work, Blues castellano, dates to the period 1961-66. He then entered a long period of self-protective censorship, from which he emerged upon the death of Franco with the publication of Description of the Lie (León 1977). In 1986, with the publication of the first five sections of Book of the Cold // Libro del frío, he became recognized for the originality of his language and the way in which it enacts psychological processes of personal loss and responds to the conflicted emotions needed for survival. Book of the Cold // Libro del frío is considered to be most vital and innovative volume in Antonio Gamoneda's body of work. In 1992, a new edition of Libro del frío appeared, including the major poem featured here, "Cold of Limits," inspired by and written in collaboration with the painter Antoni Tapies. In 2006, Gamoneda received the Cervantes Prize, an honor bestowed annually upon a distinguished Spanish-language author.

Donald Wellman

Poet and translator Donald Wellman lives in Weare, NH. His books of poetry include The Cranberry Island Series (Dos Madres, 2012), A North Atlantic Wall (Dos Madres, 2010), Prolog Pages (Ahadada, 2009), and Fields (Light and Dust, 1995). Originally a medievalist, he has written on the poetry associated with both Black Mountain College and with emergent contemporary practices. For several years, he edited O.ARS, a series of anthologies devoted to topics bearing on postmodern poetics, including volumes entitled Coherence, Perception and Translations: Experiments in Reading. His translation of Enclosed Garden by Emilio Prados is now available from Lavender Ink/Diálogos. His translation of Antonio Gamoneda's Gravestones is available from the University of New Orleans Press. His translation of Gamoneda's Description of the Lie is forthcoming from Talisman House Press.

Frío de límites. Copyright (c) Antonio Gamoneda, 1992. English translation copyright (c) Donald Wellman, 2013.