Sunday, September 26, 2010

After Revisiting “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World: A Tale for Children” (poem)

“The first children who saw the dark and slinky bulge approaching through the sea let themselves think it was an enemy ship...”
~ Gabriel García Márquez

This story used to make me laugh.
Something absurd and homey
about poor old Esteban, invented
after his death by a deprived village
of absolute morons. I remember
loving this story. You did, too.
Almost a lifetime ago, you struggled
to recall the plot you thought sprung
from Borges, and I supplied the title,
Gabo, and miraculously pulled the sad
yellow cover from my bag. Only a quarter
drunk as I would get that night, I read
the story out loud, slurring and stumbling,
lisping and laughing. You got it, anyway,
why it was funny, why it was worthy. Our first
odd entanglement, our first bold coincidence,
stirred by a dead man in a dead village.
We spent that night together, drunk and happy,
barely knowing each other, filling each other
with hilarious tenderness, finding a way to be.
Oh, what worthy hours to be hoarded, greedily saved,
tagged and labeled, preserved. Because now,
I read the story, this tale for children, and let it go
so easily, allow the pages to melt in my hands,
feel compelled to dismiss them, pray for their necessary
evaporation, magical and real. I want to disengage
you from this text that I love, have loved
so long, but you’re there, a footnote,
a carelessly inked “ha!” in the margin,
an unintentional circle, imposing and virile,
an impassive phrase. Or, something blank.
These pages are all that I have left of you.
I can’t laugh at the story now because
if your fate could be Esteban’s, then mine is
to name you and bury you at sea.


  1. I always remember that as being a Borges story too!

    I really like this poem — I love the idea of "worthy hours," and the line "these pages are all that I have left of you" is one that will stay with me for quite a while...

  2. thanks, rob. this is a melancholy poem for me... as you might guess. thanks for reading :)