Dublin by Jacqueline Goldberg – translated by William Blair, with Consuelo Méndez

I have purchased a travel guide to Dublin.
It explains about its historic center
and breathtaking spots around the bay.
It accounts Celtic legends, mild winters,
centuries at a glance.

It is known that I will never go to Dublin.
Nor will there be time to return to Vienna,
to the Jewish cemetery in Prague,
to the Villa Savoye, in Poissy.

Bram Stoker was from Dublin.
Oscar Wilde was from Dublin.
James Joyce was from Dublin.
Samuel Beckett was born in south Dublin.
Handel premiered his Messiah
at the Fishamble Street Music Hall.

They are magnets, though I may never understand Dublin.

There aren’t any airplanes departing from my bed.
The jail is the country.
The country, relentless.

I wear a throat of thorns,
seismic and incurable hands.

Just now I am writing a book about my trembling.
The disease is a literary genre:
suffering is so well-liked,
the transparency of bitter syrups.

The guide tells of a ninety-minute walk
through literary and Georgian Dublin.
It crosses over squares, runs through a stretch of the Grand Canal.
I don’t see any hospitals.

— Mauricio, how much is a ticket to Ireland?
— I don’t know, it is cumbersome to find out on Sunday.
— Let it be. I will never go to Dublin.

It isn’t enough to wake up with a book between your legs.
Best to read oneself in the object.

Noon sweeps papers on my desk.
I gather the absurd, the tempered, certain noise.

Someone cries.
Perhaps the child with cancer one floor up.
Perhaps the pianist two floors below.
We are in captivity,
each in his own still life.

«All of old. Nothing else ever.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better»,

writes Samuel Beckett in Worstward Ho.

I hate how awesome Beckett can be.
I deserved to be from his Dublin of castles and lighthouses,
but I was born in a city of black earth.

Bliss is dim.

I go out, I undertake what I can.
I look normal, I have a broken tooth.
There is so much that is not known about me.

Thus, the cuss words.

«Go out, go away», the brothers write.
Here, I can’t take it any longer.
My wings are burned.

I learn some about tarot.
I avoid it. It scares me.
I only know that my card is The Tower.

I dreamt that I leapt into the void.
I didn’t write down anything.
I don’t remember a thing. Or do I?
I drove on winding road,
the car flew over,
I knew that I would die, I wasn’t afraid,
I appreciated gifts and pity.
I woke up.

The Tower.
I must shut myself in it and write.

It’s the end of a way of life.
Maybe it’s because I’m going into my fifties,
since I’ve lived half of them away from home.

A lot torments me:
old parents, a son who becomes a man,
the forenamed germ of the worst.
Right here, on my keyboard, my bones.

«First one goes suddenly» [Beckett again].

We allowed a kilogram of potatoes to rot,
they bloomed, softened up.
And them so expensive, so scarce.
It was carelessness, insolence.

The rottenness is so vast.

So much dust in the cracks is bad luck,
hair everywhere, a broken cup.

«All of a sudden, he returns».

I quote Beckett. Again, and again.
I like his truncated language.
I have a book with his face:
ugly tracks on his forehead.

Delayed tears.

I take good care of the edge of my eyes.
Old age is horrendous in such a poor language.
I can, if anything, slow down the process.
Creams help both compassion and skin.

We will end up behind a mask.
And the mask in between the knees.

Darkness is so clear.
Everything so useless. Almost everything.

St. Thomas Aquinas claimed
that four are the causes of suffering
and many others of sadness.
It is good that there are figures:
seven deadly sins,
nine circles in Hell,
eight steps to make onion soup.

For Areteo of Cappadocia, melancholy
—four are its types—
is an «anguish of the spirit fixed to thought without fever».

Fever the satiety. Fever the gag.

Picturesque villages wait not far from Dublin,
mountains, desirable rural mansions.

The guide shows a traditional kitchen
at Newbridge House.
Brittle, overloaded.

Dublin is as far as the islands of my country,
the triumphs of my country’s landscape.

For now, it is Sunday.
The door is half-open.
Outside is suffocation without a map,
movie with wolves.

Everything improves under confinement.

If I go to Dublin,
if one day I go to Dublin,
if I were to go to Dublin,
I will buy Saint Brigitte’s Cross,
a Connemara marble stone,
a Celtic inspirational pendant.
I will look for embroidered handkerchiefs
for the tears on the way back,
a glass bottle from Waterford,
the whiskey of perennial oblivion.

It is not that I know much about Dublin.
Everything is in the tourist guide.
Even the schedule of religious services
for 95% of the population, which is catholic.

I will not pray in Dublin.
I will not pray for the diseases to come.
My prayers have become so meticulous
that I don’t recognize who disregards them.

John Updike
—who wasn’t from Dublin but from Pennsylvania—
mocks literate Dublin,
that of the round nameplates everywhere:
«Look wherever you look, the ghost of a writer».

Suspicion is laborious, especially that of the poem.
It chokes on a dog’s bark, stump in wells of musk.

We have to remain human,
grow headlong, confirm the obstacles.

We must continue sharpening the pathos,
to be where we can’t be,
dare to fold, purge, certain infinite.

The wind returns, I ignore it.
I have shut down every crack,
I feel my temple,
the impediment remains in its place.

— Eva, how much is a ticket to Dublin?
— Give me an hour and I will find the best route.
— No. It doesn’t matter. I will never go to Dublin.

The noises of the street are rotten blood on my temple.
I no longer menstruate.
Did I say that I don’t menstruate?
In half an hour of surgery I got rid of a uterus,
with it ages of masonry,
the only brave place I ever accommodated.

Nobody misses my mammal prowess.
I am ungraspable vein,
I make lists of forbidden words,
I am touched by the crude version of myself.

I will never go to Dublin. Nor to Iceland.
It’s not an omen or a promise, flutter or consolation.

I will no longer go to toward more despair.
The splinter has stopped penetrating.
I persist in a ditched disenchantment.

I have opted for chin pains,
elbows like crickets, a lamented wisdom.

I will be a nomad in my bed.
I will believe in calming potions
so that beloved words return, gone ones.
Crosses without place, cardinal bitterness.

I bid goodbye. I will make a trip.
So much desire curses.

It will not be surprising, then,
that I walk through the snowy streets of Dublin,
that I sleep on a bench in Iveagh Gardens.
And there, without abacus or trapeze,
I scream longings, from which I wanted so much to flee,
yearn for the one I was when I still wanted to flee.



Jacqueline Goldberg (1966) is a Venezuelan poet, fiction writer, essayist, and author of children’s books. She is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, eleven children’s books, and 21 volumes of poetry. Her poetry has been translated and published in anthologies in fifteen countries. She is a former resident of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Her novel Las horas claras received the 2012 Fundación para la Cultura Urbana, was the Venezuelan Booksellers’ Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the 2013 Critic’s Award for the Novel. She lives in Caracas, Venezuela where she continues to write and publish.

William Blair is an editor, publisher, and translator; he is a graduate of the MFA in Literary Translation program at the University of Iowa. He has translated María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s work extensively. Co-translated and published works include two books of poetry by Vaz Ferreira, Lichen by the Uruguayan poet Luis Bravo, and Great Vilas by Manuel Vilas. He has also published numerous poems in translation, in Latin American Literature Today, Exchanges 30th Anniversary Issue, The Presence: A Catholic Poetry Journal, and Corresponding Voices, among others. Blair founded The Song Bridge Project to promote Spanish language literature in translation.

Consuelo Méndez retired as a professor from the University of the Arts, UNEARTES, where she specialized in experimental drawing, body art, and performance. In Venezuela, she has won awards for her artwork in the Michelena National Show (1983), the Municipal Art Prize of Caracas (1984), and the Graphic Biennale of Maracaibo (1990). Her work has appeared in numerous international exhibitions. She continues to research the plastic and visual arts: painting, drawing, photography, and graphic arts, with a special interest in bookmaking. She is a close admirer and supporter of Goldberg’s literary works.