Collect Calls

by Julián Herbert

Translated from the Spanish by Daniel Borzutzky 


this is not water

they’re not constellations

 the abrasive buzz of the pencil against the sky

 these are not shooting stars


they surround with phosphorous fingers

Andromeda’s breasts

 this is not water

 it’s not even the notion

that matter is capable of desire

 of desiring to be apart from us

there’s not enough philosophy of mind

nor sufficient zen to explain

 the sinkhole

this is not water

 this is my girlfriend’s body in a hotel

ground down by a huge stone hand  

 this is my body moving over her

with fleeting adolescent dexterity

this is the only available future

for a species destroyed by self-consciousness

“stay still”

 my girlfriend says softly

 and she grabs my back

 her hands intertwined

 and she screws me

 to the surgical prankster bucking sound

of a wave when it crashes

i try to open my eyes down there

to watch over between the sands

to defend myself

to hold onto with my fists

the knives of water

 that mend me

but it’s just that this isn’t water

it’s the anxiety of radiance

 that leaves your sense of touch when it dissolves you




This is how I would like my last poem to be:

The narcococonuts landed in Jujuy

 (dodecasyllabic neobarosso lif-

 ted from a newspaper);

the right to bear a black knife was Cain’s

no one would speak of angels


if the clouds wore armor;

              fantasy is a place where it rains;           

             plagiarism is another place where it rains;

             the rain is a fantastic place from a right angle

This is how I would like my last prize to be:

             it should come with lots of money           

            (dodecasyllabic didascalic and fertile),

            it should blaze like diamonds

            that kill themselves almost without odor

            and the purity of things

             that weep for no reason


This is how I would like my last love to be:

            it should be you

            it should be a jellyfish

             it should be the transparent train of mezcal

            it should be the withered luxury of drinking alone 

            it should be my youngest son with a mohawk

            and with an axe

            it should be slow,

            it should cause me just enough darkness,

            it should have the spark of tigers beneath your fingernails

            it should be my hostage and fall silent


This is how I would like my last body to be:


            without pain

            begging for alms

            on the threshold of pain.




 Never fall in love with 1 kilo

 of ground beef.

 Never fall in love with the set table

 the food, the cups

 that she kissed with the mouth of an insistent

 iced-tangerine tea, powdered:


 Never fall in love with this

 infatuated stirring, the dead cough

 of a name (Ana,

 Claudia, Tania: doesn’t matter,

 every name will die), a flame

 that goes out. Never fall in love

 with someone else’s sonnet.

 Never fall in love with blue stockings,

 with the blue veins beneath the stockings,

 with the flesh on the thigh, that

 frivolous flesh. 

 Never fall in love with the chef.

 But also never fall in love, either,


 with Sunday: soccer, fast food,

 nothing in your mind except ropes like cradles.

 Never fall in love with death,

 her maidenly lust,

 her dog-like brutality,

 her midwife’s finesse.

 Never fall in love in hotels, in

 the simple preterit tense, on stationary

 paper, in porn films,

 in eyes as diseased as light-blue tombs

in secret conversations, in boleros, in books

by Denis de Rougemont.

With speed, with alcohol,

 With Beatriz,

 with the frying pan

never fall in love with 1 kilo of ground beef.