Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 2



Absalom Cortes


Address, caress, redress…

At times it is a battle
of kafkaesque proportions
rules of engagement unknown

Where one’s putative stake in the outcome--
grounds for a death blow at one moment,
little more than laughable the next--

Appear to take their cue from
the ever-shifting sands that seem
to stretch in every direction all around

A mutability that belies every last
modicum of existence, such as to suggest
that there might be no endgame after all--

To the extent that one’s opponents
take on the guise of long-lost
comrades-in-arms, only to then

Tuck tails and turn into something
that negates all understanding
of comrades, arms and in-betweens--

While your best chance at a caress
comes not from the cool breeze cutting
through the fog of war on a sultry night

But rather the pulse of the midnight jungle
burning interminably inwards, a silent horror
now burrowing perpetually deeper within…

Such as to make one wonder what it is all, in fact, for?
whether this might not all be just part-and-parcel
of some paralytic complex self-created?...

But whatever the recognition
it is far-removed from the stomping
grounds of simple unrequited action--

The underlying truth that your
analytical mind has been, all too
deftly, playing at both sides all along--

Whereby you might be able to come clear
of the dreaded thinking and simply fühlen,
sein und leben, again and again and again…




Sweet daydreams

Between Calcutta streets
where shanties intermingle
with broken-down sundry stalls

Vendors practice their trade from
a perpetually supine position, the better to
lull you into a state of extravagant plethora

Then there is the pride of place given to
reclining Buddhas, one sleepy austere figure more
Midasian and jewel-bedecked than the next

Or the rickshaw drivers cycling through a permanent siesta
from old Islamabad over to Ho Chi Minh City
Dien Bien Phu down to Surabaya, Padangbai and beyond

One can see the incomparable relevance of inactivity
in a place where total inertia might be the only thing
keeping the proverbial wolves from the door

Here where the ambient temperature is always hovering around
uterine and excessive activity during business hours
will only send you spinning to the ground

Never have I felt the anthropogenic
extinction so stark und naar
mein selbst kompliziert darin




Sumatra

Across the plains of Serendipity
there where the herculean meet the horizon
there lies an island removed from that which stands ahead and behind--

So that for a moment all-too-fleeting
a hope in new beginnings is founded
upon the overhanging gardens of golden light

At play upon the tufted cloud banks in every direction
lining the underside of the sky and spanning out
to a point of infinite dissolution defying all definition…

Such that it does not matter if all
is indelibly forgotten and it seems
strange to be here at this point in time:

Here where the whitewash runnels out
like mad plumage behind, the motor churns
and deafens to a point of profound inner silence

Against a loose fixture of unlit light clanging against
the masthead, imitating the pulse of a clock
entombed in the catacombs of a dream--

The cloves burning at irregular intervals
ahead of you akin to the smell that welcomes in
a loss of consciousness with no sign of surrender...

The sky behind irreconcilably pale sets off the corsair boats
flying in from the westerly stage to patrol the wasted
hunting grounds with long tubes of cold fluorescent light

Stalk the waters with an irreproachable sense
of that-which-was, will-never-be-again, shadows
seeping out from a time never once seen or even felt-¬-

While in the foreground a once-herculean sky
has turned disconsolate, an inverted meadow
bathed in pink that brands a sky’s last dying ember

A heartfelt but imperceptible sigh--
the water running alongside burnished with
a glass-bottomed glow that brings a sense of being

But one broken step from a final reunion
with the abysmal looking-glass--Then it is all over
and the world becomes a silk-paper silhouette once again...

Out of the East a broadfaced Buddha moon
breaks the day as if for the first time, muted
by what it was and can never be again

Still enough to make it seem like the place was not
just an afterthought, the afterthought not just a provision
for the irrecollection that might never have been.



Absalom Cortes: "By trade I am a freelance translator. By nature I am an itinerant philosopher. Leveraging the geographic license afforded by my work, I have spent the last fifteen years in pursuit of the last traces of our world’s cultural and linguistic diversity."




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