Wilson Pickett, the singer of soul classics like In The Midnight Hour, has just died. January 30th is the first anniversary of Martyn Bennett 's death. Wilson Pickett was the sort of artist whose work everyone knows, but whose name is only known by his few dedicated fans. Martyn Bennett, on the other hand, was too brilliant and original for his own good and never got the success he deserved. I knew he was diagnosed with a nasty type of cancer in the year 2000, and I suspected he was depressed, and we had emailed occasionally in the three vyears or so before his death. I'm still mourning him in the same way other people mourn family members or "real" rock stars.
This is my only poem in free verse in which the English version came before the Spanish one. It mixes my own feelings for Martyn with my memory of having to study in the hospital on my grandfather’s last days: I had an oral exam the morning after his death, and I pretended to be strong about the whole thing for a few days. And I stole an idea here and there from Jeanette Winterson, who has a novel, Written on the Body, that you should go and read right now.
A hospital is not a library.
A needle’s not a pen.
We sit and wait as your blood is replaced by ghosts.
As I think of your inky hair,
Most beautiful when sweaty,
Long wet tendrils falling over us.
Ink’s the key.
I used black ink to write poems about you,
As you mocked me (people use computers these days,
Your body is still waging war on itself,
I’ll write poems about you
until the future gives up and makes you immortal.
Un hospital no es una biblioteca.
Una aguja no es una pluma.
Nos sentamos a esperar mientras los fantasmas sustituyen tu sangre.
Y pienso en tu pelo entintado,
Precioso cuando sudabas,
Largos tirabuzones húmedos sobre los dos.
La tinta es la clave.
Tinta china para componer poemas sobre ti,
Y te burlabas (eso se puede hacer a ordenador,
Por si no lo sabías)
Tu cuerpo sufre un golpe de estado,
voy a escribir poemas sobre ti
hasta que el futuro se rinda y te haga inmortal.