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The visitor

David H. Rosenthal


When the train, the chugging train
that will take us to the teeming port
halts at midnight in a field
with one tile-roofed farmhouse, and
hesitates, pondering which
path to take
I leap down and anxiously
gulp the cold air, sniffing
a multitude of tiny lavender flowers.
Everything is still, yet in that farmhouse's
wallpapered bedrooms the rocky silence
is broken by rustling owls,
a far-off whistle, crickets, sigh
of a sleeping infant
just as my own wife dreams
within her cloud of black hair
and our little child, clutching his
rubber tomahawk, trustingly lays
his head in her lap.
Soon, wrapped in blankets, we'll
shiver on a prow. Never again
to take a number and line up at the bakery!
O darling mother,, who perhaps I shall never
see again, write to me, David Rosenthal, care of

To grow old and die-why,
it strains credulity!
Yet even shiny airplanes
don't fly on forever
and I've had friends who drank and chatted
and the next day they weren't around.
Wandering the blue alleys
of my protracted adolescence
(Rimbaud didn't really die;
he just lit out for the tropics)
armed with all kind of exotic vices
deep thoughts and artistic airs
-surely in this alleyway
Whose very existence has been questioned
I'm not likely to run across
That weird old blind man.

Perhaps he'd been ill for many years
or in jail, or in another country
whose earth still encrusted
the soles of his boots. In fur hat
and greatcoat, he shambled down muddy lanes,
gazed up at lit windows, tried to puzzle out
streetsigns: it was familiar yet not,
as though the very molecules in the air had changed.
He wept in the doorways, conversed with shadows,
tried to dodge specters, and then one day
he vanished! “As suddenly as he came,” people said.
Maybe he went back to that other place-
I mean the one he might have come from

I like to gape at the young
of both sexes… and if they let me
furtively stroke their skin, smooth
as fresh-cut flowers.
When I was young I didn't
appreciate the special qualities of my skin
I thought it natural to have skin
like that; all others were aberrations.
Yesterday I interviewed
a ninety-year-old journalist.
I had to scream myself hoarse
to make him understand me.
His skin clung to his bones-
like a dead mule drying in the sun.
How could he have let matters
come to that pass?
The glory of youth, of course,
is its insouciant self-absorption.
As for fresh-cut flowers… well,
try changing the water every day.

Translated by David H. Rosenthal
David H. Rosenthal
El carrer de les Camèlies - Mercè Rodoreda
Solitud - Víctor Català
The visitor - David H. Rosenthal
“Tirant lo Blanc” - Joanot Martorell
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