Antoni Clapés

Matter Made of Shadows

From The Calligrapher's Labyrinth

Translated from the Catalan by
Matthew Tree and William Truini

¿Son almas o son cuerpos ?
Son lo que no se sabe .

("Are they souls or bodies ?
They are that which is not known

Vicente Aleixandre

With quite voice, like windless day,
I trace and follow this labyrinth
which the new calligrapher is creating
from sings and images in skillful play

Mirages foil me up along the way,
I take turnings. I try, by weaving,
an opened space, for a new viewing
-from rugged Montsec to glimpsed beaches far away

where dreams can be abandoned
and the nature of this prophet's offer, understood.
Possibly knowledge is what I will gain in the end,

since the labyrinth is unsaying itself to say,
the pretext of the text is to convey
penetration into the fullest silence

I read the labyrinth.
I try to interpret it, to retrace it.
And along the journey, I rewrite it.


None of those to whom the spectacle was addressed
understood that they themselves were its protagonists.
On the stage they saw only fabulation,
without noticing the mirror planted
squarely in the centre.


It was made of gold, the silence, a
/nightfall, with the arrival of time:
/lights and objects embraced each
delightedly on the visual horizon.


As many raindrops fall on the flagstones of the square
as tears rise in eyes filled with longing.


I cut down paths, I test new routes in this journey
full of traps and false appearances, ephemeral as fire
of jewel and straw.
I unsay what I say.
Ithaca -- I realize then -- is within me.


Why say anything about what we know, or about
chimerical desires?
By the foliage of the birches, at the river's
/edge, I have stopped
to listen to the silence.
And I have heard the silence speak.


Hunt down the hours that flee over the golden crags
of Montsec, over the farmhouses; over this plain sown with
vegetable calligraphy. Hunt them down.
Ashes, rips, poems which retain the fear
of the gesture.

Antoni Clapés

(Sabadell, 1948) is a poet and essayist on poetics and the experimental arts. His work has been published in ten books and numerous anthologies and periodicals, and he has read, performed, and lectured throughout Europe and Latin America. His most recent publications are A Frec (1994) and Matèria d'ombres (1995). He is editor and publisher of Cafè Central of Barcelona.