Manuel Iris reclaims the poetic space as a radical exploration and celebration of paternal love and tenderness. If language is a vector of truth and transformation, if “the poem opens its wound” to the spaces in which we examine ourselves and love begets love, the poems in this bilingual collection offer the magnitude and direction to do exactly what poetry aims to do: say in words what can never be expressed in words. Iris’ poems reveal the silences of our most vulnerable selves, and “the silence/ toward which we migrate,/ from which we came.”
—Tara Skurtu, author of The Amoeba Game
This book was born around you. In it I talk about things that I don’t want to forget, or that shouldn’t be forgotten. I wrote it because, as a I compose these lines, the world is a very sad place, but you are happy there. I also wrote it so that you are never alone, so that my voice —after I am gone— continues telling you that I love you. I give it to you with these words from another father to his son: daunted by all, I take refuge in you.
I love you always, Papa
Cincinnati, Ohio October 16, 2020
Little poem obsessed with death
To get out of the house
we build the house.
To get out of the body
the lovers undress.
For the silence to sprout
the poem opens its wound.
Your daughter is dancing, says my wife
touching her belly.
For the past five months
I have been a witness
to what happens there,
under her hands.
My wife is a house inside my house
and I am outside of my own heart.
I am sure she is happy, she says
and I would give up poetry
in exchange for having, inside me, my daughter.
For feeling that dance that bonds them
to all beginnings.
But that option does not exist
and I do what I can:
cooking, fulfilling cravings,
writing a poem in which I say what I can see
from this side of the skin
in which mystery embodies itself.
And I testify, with loving envy,
that an everyday miracle
is a miracle
and nothing less.
Elegy and welcome for my father,
whose funeral I could not attend
I was always afraid to write
I woke up today, father
in a world where you no longer exist
but it turns out that sometimes death
is the consolation of immigrants:
today we beat the phone calls
and the airports.
Today you enter my house.
Perhaps that’s why
I’m scared of going back,
of watching the afternoon
without you there.
I don’t want to see your grave.
I don’t want you to have
but I will go,
I’m going to look at it and then
I will keep talking
(Now as I write
I’m again the boy
who raises his hand
seeking for yours.)
you did not wake up
and I do not say goodbye:
you enter my house.
The language of the house
Sometimes I’m afraid you will talk
in the language in which I cannot dream.
I almost always wish
that you live first
the language of the house,
the one in which I lull you to sleep,
in which I imagine you
telling me your things.
(You still do not know
that there is a different music, outside)
I have been afraid of the months
because you were born here,
in this place, in this language
in which I am a foreigner
and I want
in your world
in the language that you will have,
within your words.
I am afraid
that you will also know
the impossibility of belonging.
But you will build your own homeland, like anyone else.
If someone asks you where are you from,
tell them that you came from your father’s heart,
a heart that would learn any language
to talk with you.