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Cover Library Poetry A Hot January

Argentina in the mind and other poems

Margaret Wilmot
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink MapArgentina, Land of Fire
To Josefina Núñez Gonzales and Georgette Loubet
Only the rust-flecked rowel remains,
artifact of plains rich in dust
and space. It is a star-wheel, an iron sun.
Once it spun on a pin, long gone;
gone the spur, the gaucho heel, the mare
which moved under skies wide as love
or fear. By what grace did the rowel remain?
What is selected? what transformed?
Clear as memory light outlines
each iron ray against the pane;
the wheel’s silhouette redefines
the day beyond the window in a new way,
as memories, those artifacts of the mind,
select and transform amorphous time.
Argentina in the mind. How things fetch up,
flotsam along a coastline stretching
to a Land of Fire where one may find
glaciers, ice like glass, permafrost, snow.
The surreal is important because it is true.
Disparate things connect. Life is a palimpsest,
and lost images below show through.
Flat as a well-loved book the pampas rest
open to the rowel-sun, wind, Southern Cross: Look,
how the lad grows — maté gourd, godfather, horse, lasso...
The tale unwinds. For years. The force
upon the mind attests, of course,
that somehow it is our tale too.
Star-wheel, iron-sun, time flakes away.
You spin on a pin of light now.
Your weight in the window makes the day
around you bright: like awaking
to the artifact of a dream—
a cowbell, a thong,
a harness ring.
High windows
in a Buenos Aires flat look out across
the silver river to Uruguay. Friends gather
for a meal, chat, camaraderie; words flick and toss
like sparrows, fling, peck, flock together.
They talk till late— new books, trips abroad,
Latinity, maturity... Ideas accumulate.
The sparrow words take wing, fly about, alight.
Far below the river gleams in the pale city night.
All rivers are silver, all rivers gleam,
but the Rio de la Plata is silver twice,
named for a dream.
The rowel rolls beneath a lateral sky.
Each point pricks a tiny hole,
perforates a page; leaves flick, flap, fly away.
The book, the boy, youth take flight.
Think what the wind knows, the pampero, say,
as it journeys through endless night and light.
On the mind’s wind dreams blow
into memories, memories collide with fact,
fact dissolves into artifact:
how hard the letting-go.
What is truth
but seeing how things connect?
I weigh the rowel in my hand.
Truth is real.
Argentina is a real land.
Argentina in my mind is true.
Life is a palimpsest,
and lost images below show through.
Life: like practising.
Each moment drawn in, and across, time:
a bow, playing the notes always for the first time,
and the last,
and maybe the next moment will be miraculous.
One will hear the whole sound in all its fullness,
the harmony, and also the dissonance
without which the harmony would be thin indeed.
And this is the difference:
not Death, but
each moment’s small death
which frees the music of all dross.
Unquiet bird,
fluttering among the coloured wools
strung along your loom, unevenly textured, brilliant wools
which have coloured my impression of you now,
so that in death I think of you as an unquiet bird
of brilliant plumage, strangely still—
          You died in the fullness of spring.
The translucent ruffles on the plane trees along Cañada
had burgeoned, toughened, become thick green—
and within the green malignancy. Why? Why?
Nature is all a falling away, but in season.
Each day, each year, each moon, each wind
rolls along and also comes to rest, in its season.
Life has miscarried in Argentina.
One is enmeshed by a kind of familial fabric,
one is bourn along through a sequence of days,
one suffers, one loves in
one’s small, passionate, individual way,
but it is like living over a void with no earth
to catch and succour the drops of love as they spill.
Once upon a time you wove
a monastery with baroque towers, remote,
afloat in time, an island self-contained,
where the quinta’s green membrane of silence
excluded, almost, the diseased violence
wracking these raw and unamiable times.
One might retreat—but that does not sustain;
remove from these contaminating crimes—
but there is no quarantine.
Why do we die of cancer?
Is it a physical metaphor
for some greater wrongness of things?
Love lost, a land gone wildly astray...
In the beginning was the land:
the grass-green pampas waving wide and welcoming,
the southern flatlands, tenanted with space;
forested lakes, mountains,
and the dappled desert, red, gold, ochre-pink,
sloping down into the riverlands of the east.
In the beginning was this land, crowned in stars.
What went amiss?
silver word,
place of silver, reveal your hoard
like treasure buried countless years—
cups, coins, a dagger hilt, a bowl—
a ploughing farmer turns to light.
Like the dawn after blackest night
when an entire people in a civil war
of nightmares lost its soul.
Like love when we sustain a loss
and weep and weep adrift on grief
buoyed on tears about our life
until those tears have cleansed away all dross,
and only the silver of our love remains,
only love remains.
Needing company to fill
the void of his eternal leisure,
he came, scotch in hand,
seeking pleasure.
Abrupt bulletin—a coup,
could lead to revolution;
president’s absurd escape;
utter confusion.
And now—what? who?
try Chile—Uruguay should tell—
He switches dials madly, drinks
(evening spent well!)
That general would do—
of the right social class—
almost inarticulate,
he fills his glass.
Another night knocked off,
dead drunk he went,
companions asleep, coup past,
a new president.
Table of related information
Copyright ©Margaret Wilmot, 2001
By the same author RSS
Date of publicationSeptember 2004
Collection RSSA Hot January
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