Sine Qua Non

Sine Qua Non

Day 10! This poem came from an exercise I tried once or twice in undergrad. We had to “translate” a poem from a language we didn’t really understand and then turn the resulting gibberish into its own poem. So this poem is loosely based on an incredibly poor sonic translation of a Neruda poem called, “La Carta en el Camino,” – “Letter on the Road.”

Fun fact: I learned the phrase “sine qua non” from a Battlestar Galactica episode. Not the four semesters of Latin I took in high school or anything…



Goodbye, but you
will be
my conspiracy,
like vultures,
for blood in my veins. O fire,
O love, kiss me bravely
with roses,
like an island,
like an outlaw,
like a torment
hung in air.

Cleave the earth!
Bury your lanterns!
Don’t watch for me now
in the mirror-smooth sea.
The sea, the night,
like a lathe,
turn my heavens,
the muttering rain,
my body cut free.

I live on your lips’ unfurling red banners,
twist through my fingers the vines
of your hair. There is nothing
but this, O and this
is: I love you.
I love you, your hands,
like a sun,
like a prayer.
This, heart, is how
I could call down a highway
from the middle of stars
to the firmness of earth.
If I know how to sing
your breath is my anchor,
my sword through black water,
my cheek on the shore.