View from

The Return

I am alive and you’re alive, and hope exists,/but I have to bid farewell to these words of mine,/which I will never shout, because I’m but a man. “

Translated by Anthony Seidman


Today, to speak to you, I chose solitude;

to be alone, I shut all the windows, 

the gleeful eye of keyholes

and books and doors. And I have closed each thing. 


But not my lips, nor these tormented

words birthing from them in obscurity. 


It is certain that I would have liked to speak to you,

as in times past, of love, of the things that bind us;

I would have liked to tell you, slowly, 

that I love you, that it pleases me that your eyes follow me, 

that there is no softness like that of your hands, 

but outdoors there is a wind writhing with screams,


something tragic is erupting outside, 

and I knew not a thing. 


Understand: Love alone is not enough;

nor is it enough to wish that our children

be the most beautiful or the most intelligent,

because I now know we are giving the world 

more flesh for grief,

another den of weeping, 

another turbid fount of lamentations:

It would not even be enough if you and I, and our children, 

were to stop every pedestrian, 

and ask them while patting their shoulders, 

just why are they hopeless, why do they scream like that,

why do they carry life like the most stupid, 

most abject or most frightful of tasks.  


No one would listen to me, right? 

I believe no one would listen to us.

And you would have to feel the same…Now:

Here, doors locked, I possess the certainty 

that if I were to pick up the telephone and dial

and dial and dial until I die of thirst and hunger,

all of the lines would be busy.  


I could also open the window and scream;

scream in the morning, afternoon, and at night;

howl, scream until the entire world were to awaken and

destroy me while screaming, and I scream and scream back at them.

But to do that it is necessary to be heroic,

and I am nothing but a man with a ragged heart,

convinced that heroes no longer exist, 

that no one spares a cent to help anyone:

Everyone’s clutching their stale bread,

brushing water over their only suit

so it appears less faded,  

and daydreaming of some knockout blonde for free.


The heroes…

(when you arrive at those two last words, the heroes

I beg that you utter them in a hush,

as if you were informing someone on the loss of their parents). 


There are no longer heroes, do you hear me? There are no longer heroes:

Everyone reaches their daily desk,

and they’re reliable Yes-Men and hardworking, 

they’re all married and have countless children,

and they’re accustomed to a Sunday outing, 

bags containing sandwiches and soda-pop.

Then they run a bit and kick a ball

or try to climb a stunted and leaning tree

to show off how they’re still fit.

Afterwards, they eat, chat about the nice weather, 

content with their uneventful, lazy routine,  

and they go home and snore at ease

after placing their dentures in a glass of water. 


And I didn’t know anything about such matters…I was mute,

and I would wake up cropful and stupid each morning,

and I spoke of love and nostalgia as the most beautiful

and the most terrible events that could beset a man.  


Obscure words are learned, 

and they change the sense of our old words. 


If others wished to gaze at their surroundings, 

if they wished to gaze at their surroundings and see, 

if they saw that the world is not so simple,

if they were, at least, to suffer some of the world’s grief, 

if they were pained, at least, by a simple verse,

if a basic hatred were to cut their souls in two, 

if they were to weep, at least, a simple grief,

well, their chests wouldn’t resound more than a casket, 

but they would learn that ambulance sirens howl

like women crazed by the stench of blood;

that there are children who softly weep

as if they were singing an ancient song

because they’re dying without a witness, 

that there are groans and grief-choked words

sprouting in dark hallways, in motel rooms, 

down narrow alleys where hunger seeks refuge,

and the dull and powerless and soiled moan

of those who fall daily from violence;

and from the hatred of those who steal for the first time

because they have nothing to be stolen;

that there are lugubrious litanies in the churches

and terrified choruses in the hospitals;

they would know the leaden buzz of the silence

from those who have already learned that it’s all useless. 

And maybe then everyone will take their heart,

tumid, bloated, and turgid from wrath

and from weeping and desperation,

and chuck it from their turbid ivory tower

like a great seed for the blooming of the hero,

to carpet in brave purple the path 

that the true hero must tread tomorrow. 

Are you paying attention to me?…the true hero.  

The one who wears a crown of thorns on his temples

and on his chest a heart of basic and invigorating bread. 


Understand me now: They fool themselves when they believe that 

before a dying man’s bed they’re saying farewell forever

to everything that is dear:

I am alive and you’re alive, and hope exists,

but I have to bid farewell to these words of mine, 

which I will never shout, because I’m but a man. 

But hopefully someone will arrive to throw them into the air:

I know many will be swept by the wind,

and that some will fall on the rooftops

and the sun will slowly sear them,

and the rain will rot them;

others will dredge the city asphalt, 

scraps for stray dogs,

but one, the most limpid and serene of them all, 

will cradle the childhood we yearn. 


That’s all that I wanted to tell you. 

Now I am hitting the street again;

wish me the best of luck

and that I possess the willpower necessary

to not be a coward like the rest.



Miguel Guardia was a Mexican poet who lived from 1924-1982. Although his work was included in Carlos Monsiváis’s 1966 anthology La poesía Mexicana del siglo XX and, more recently, in the first, encyclopedic volume of Juan Domingo Argüelles’s Antología general de poesía Mexicana, Miguel Guardia’s poetry remains arguably overlooked. Miguel Guardia’s poetry should be celebrated for its political and social stances, as well as for a unique colloquial register, strikingly different from the poetry influenced by Paz and the earlier Contemporáneos, such as José Gorostiza or Carlos Pellicer yet reminiscent of some his generation’s better known poets, such as Jaime Sabines. His most popular collection, El retorno y otros poemas, which was published in 1956, possesses numerous poems that should be celebrated anew. The title-piece “El retorno” is especially noteworthy for its contemporary tone, and free-flowing cadence and lines. Miguel Guardia was born and lived in Mexico City. He studied Law and Philosophy and Literature. He was a grant recipient from the Mexican Center for Writers, as well as the editorial chief for the press of Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBA), Mexico’s national institute for the fine arts. He was also a respected literature and theatre critic.  

Anthony Seidman is a poet translator from Los Angeles. His most recent full-length translations include A Stab in the Dark, which was released with LARB Classics, by Facundo Bernal; Contra Natura, which was released with Cardboard House Press, by Rodolfo Hinostroza; and The End of the World Came to My Neighborhood, which was released with Spuyten Duyvil, by Frank Báez. His poems, translations, essays, and reviews can be found in such journals as Los Angeles Review of Books, Latin American Literature Today, World Literature Today, New American Writing, Rattle, Jacket 2, and Poetry International, as well as in his new collection entitled Black Balloons, available from Spuyten Duyvil.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.