Nobody summons duende forth like Miguel Algarín.
The last time I heard this poem, we were reciting poems for a program outside the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe. I was dating someone at the time, and she had gotten upset at me for the way I said I wanted her to meet me there. Apparently my voice wasn’t enthusiastic enough, and so she stayed away, and she missed this. In fact, she missed us all reciting the poem in unison, from memory, along with him, when his own memory faltered. Ah bueno. It was a transcendent experience. Duende personified. And I speak of her now in the past tense.
Communication between us was never a strong point, and that bothered me, so when Miguel began to recite this out loud, it resonated. This is one of those brain ticklers that I know Wordz is a fan of, so maybe he can tell me who the speaker is. Given Algarín’s prior complex preoccupations with matters of spirit and sacred Christianity, I can see this as a conversation between a man in love and his lover/muse, who he sees as a savior/Christ figure. Or maybe it’s literally a lover of Jesus Christ’s. Or, maybe I’m overthinking it, and it’s simply a believer expressing both victory and defeat in the Lord. However it is, when I first read this poem in Spanish, in his book Time’s Now/Ya Es Tiempo, it just gutted me.
Conversación Numero Cinco Con Cristo
y cuando yo veo lo que tú ves,
el espacio entre tú y yo desaparece,
pero todavía desespero,
porque no sé si tú hiciste lo que yo hice
para lograr ver lo que tú ves.
Conversation Number Five With Christ
and when I see what you see,
the space between you and I disappears,
but I still despair,
because I don’t know if you’ve done what I did
in order to see what you see.