That Which Floats Past on the Water, By Heberto Padilla

That which floats past on the water--

the clumps of oily tar float past it, indifferently--

is it a drowned body?

Under the heavy presence of the sun,

it's a weight that wants to be weightless,

goes under

and bobs back up.

The waves wash over each imminent appearance.

Black water splintered by boats' bows

in their passing

send it under again, bear down on it, a dead bird.

A dead bird? A barrel corroded by salt?

A flash, false, deceptive?

Is that how it is, sudden, vague, of the moment,

the persistent bubble of a poem?

Like smoking at the sea's edge, stunned suddenly,

with no more interest in the harbor

than the whiff of passing? I don't know.

Eyes should always be on the alert,

lynx eyes, eyes like gods' eyes, all-seeing--

but that is clearly out of the question.

--TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH BY ALASTAIR REID

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