Poems by Antonio Santamaría Solís



The hand writes stairways

stairs, my steps are guided in the half-light by the very nature of
its construction; the succession of its planes leads me, skirting a
narrow emptiness, toward its hidden heart.

The poem is a submerged building.

The steps seek out my feet. The spiral inspires my steps.
There is no effective ascent or descent, only an exasperated
wandering along the abyss’s black periphery.


Sometimes my eyes, unastonished, read numbers written on the
wall, their intermittent progression empties them of meaning.
I’ve lost their semantic key: the only thread keeping me tied to
sanity is knowing that I am dreamed.

I brush the trembling handrail. My fingers grope the darkness

The poem is a submerged building, concatenation of bare rooms
that the light just barely penetrates. The stairway, like the tunnel’s
vault, like the viscera that joins one darkness with another, a tract
that leads nowhere.

Panic threatens to shatter the dream. Plunged in a spasm of
blackness, dragging with it dead leaves, knowledge, lived
The viscera expels its incomprehensible fluid, hoping for
light fed by shadows. My hands receive silent prayers:
I touch the words, I can seize their shapes, now viscous, now

No sound evokes in my heart the perfect sound.
The most beautiful vowel, the most intense vibration:

Echoes of an ancient geography, of archaic animals crawling on
the forest floor, a bird’s call stifled by the thick silence. The rain
strikes, a caustic odor emanates from the undergrowth. A tangible

I’ll say it again:

the poem is a submerged building. Wind, rocks, trees,
marine light surround its architecture. The handrail vanishes,
becomes shadow.
The poem is an open parenthesis before the plunge.

Revelation of flight.


Crown >Stem >Roots



you were dying >we reorganized
life >they cut
the poplar grove by the river
stacked the wood
in the ditch > so many years

growing for nothing



you slowly burned the ring
of snow had grown
none of us knew

one after another the large
stones had fallen away

you gravid > your branches
scored the earth
the scar cuts through us

we’re left with the smoke
in our voices > feeble chorus
only smoke we sing

we couldn’t understand > smoke
drowned without recourse

since childhood your face
had burned > solemn flame
your hands fulfilled the silence

until now the fire
is yours >the smoke
remains blind within us

only smoke we sing




you live too
stooped >dangerous for
a man >rain has shaped you
mud grounds you > ice
introduces a cry >wind
your children fall > impotent
mutilated you can’t redeem them >your hands
in cinders kiss your forehead goodbye goodbye

they fall before your feet
too far from the arch
traced by your arms



a slight trembling an absence of

has begun

an emptiness fearful of

a convulsed propensity to

shuddering with

to the rear of

vibration previous to

terrifying dread of

the first drops have fallen
summoning dust to dust




your body always smells
fresh after the felling
redeemed of the years of pain
never suffered >confronted
beneath your skin the larva
another life in another place
in you but so far away

extreme dimensions are
crown >stem >roots



systole sonata your fingers
a C sharp

C Ludwig forever
forever C Franz
C Johann

contrary to breath death
will be powerless

C Ludwig
C Franz

so deep in you >heart
his is buried

to drag it toward oblivion

forever C Johann
C Franz > death

will be powerless




around you > only
our clumsy footsteps
a childhood



I detach myself from the dream like an old skin,
open my eyes it’s another world
my eyes are others, my gaze
is no longer plunged within me,

it soars above me.

In the distance I see my hands

they form a hollow, they take water from my soul,
and drink.

My hands teach me to sing.
I’ve cured the wound in the dead body.

My hands teach me to sing.
I burn for entire nights, smoke rising
from my chest to envelop the walls
of my home

losing myself in the clouds in the sky.

The smoke obliterates the meaning of days.

I’ve seen my death through your eyes

animal, your claws my hands,
the heart intones its heartbeat,

we are a single root
it has pierced the joy in mystery.


Antonio Santamaría Solís

Antonio Santamaría Solís is a Spanish poet born in Madrid in 1963. Among his publications are Geografías (Cáceres, 1999), Hiena (Getafe, 2001), Génesis (Madrid, 2003), and Vértigo (Cáceres, 2005). He recently helped organize a tribute to the American poet Marc Penka at Madrid's oldest and most prestigious cultural center, the Ateneo. His translations of Wallace Stevens appeared recently in the journal Cuadernos del Matemático. A volume of his translations of 5 Poems by Marc Penka was published in Madrid in 2011. He frequently collaborates with visual artists, including most recently with the German painter Marion Thieme and video artist Johanna Speidel. He is also an acclaimed prose writer. In 1989, he won the Premio de Jóvenes Creadores (Spanish Young Poets Prize), and in 1996, he was awarded the Barcarola International Short Story Award. The featured poems "Tract" and "Crown Stem Roots" form part of Antonio Solís' unpublished collection of recent work, Tracto.

Terry Berne

Terry Berne (Carmel, California, 1955), is a writer, cultural critic, and translator based in Madrid, Spain. He is Senior Editor of the bilingual contemporary art magazine Art.es (Madrid). His articles, essays, and translations have appeared in  publications as diverse as Art in America, Contemporary (London), and Cuadernos del Matemático (Madrid).

Tracto. Copyright (c) Antonio Santamaría Solís, 2011. English translation copyright (c) Terry Berne, 2012.