Ascendant Scorpio

By MATILDE CAMPILHO
Translated by HUGO DOS SANTOS

 

                                                                            for José

On the night Billy Ray was born
(New York, 28th and 7th)
not one soul contemplated the geraniums
There was, however, the sound of the world falling
like multiple stalactites
in the area surrounding the hospital
Cars, some at 60 mph, others at 25
Firefighters rushing to save a dog
stuck on a hatch of a boat moored on the Hudson
The immigrant cleaning out the bodega’s register
for some bucks and chewing gum
The couple on the corner up the block, both in tears,
rightfully ending an affair that’s dragged on for five years
Rosa Burns slowly entering her apartment,
hurling thrusts at the lock with a key much older
than her smile—shaking, shanking, almost surrendering
this business of living and finding the target
There was a street cleaning truck picking up debris in its path
There was the clattering of poker chips hurled across
a green velvet table, between fingers and cigar smoke
Someone yelling, the explosion of a minor death
Someone singing a South American song
Someone petting a pigeon
Someone bouncing a tennis ball against the bedroom wall,
repetition, repetition, repetition
There was a radio switched to on playing softly in the background
There was a witch brewing a stew of copper and holly
in the apartment with burnt walls
On the night of Billy Ray’s birth
at the same time he heard the gelatinous sound
of the placenta from which he was detaching
and then the sound of his mother’s birth canal
and then the sound of the first touch upon his scalp
and then the sound of his own scream
the scream that started the party
The entire world gathered together
between 28th and 7th
in New York
to repeat the prayer of small steps
the alleluia of western existence:
hundreds of men bowing before
the lingering metaphysics of all
the hallways of the world, and which
goes beyond even the lunar infinity.

 

Matilde Campilho was born in Lisbon in 1982. Her first book, Jóquei, was published in 2014 by Tinta-da-china, and was later published in Brazil and Spain. She has published in various national and international magazines, including Granta, New Observations, Berlin Quarterly, Bat City Review, Prima, The Common, St. Petersburg Review, and GQ. She hosts a radio program, and lives and works in Lisbon.

Hugo dos Santos is a Luso-American writer, editor, and translator. He is the author of Then, there, a collection of Newark stories, and the translator of A Child in Ruins, the collected poems of José Luís Peixoto.

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Ascendant Scorpio

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