Manuel Iris



He tenido, como cualquiera
la tentación de escribir  
hoy quiero refugiarme 
en el silencio de la luz 
de un cuadro de Vermeer
lo cual sería, cuando menos, 
un cliché respetable,
un versito lustroso.
Pero no he podido
porque la luz de Vermeer 
—al cual adoro— 
es un hermoso terciopelo que visito 
pero no me pertenece, 
al que no pertenezco.

Mi refugio verdadero es el recuerdo 
—tal vez alguna foto—
de una calle mexicana de apenas clase media
llena de charcos y postes de luz, 
mi abuelo-padre sentado en la terraza,
tomando un café.

Entiendo bien que mi silencio 
jamás tendrá el prestigio de ese otro, 

                                           pero es verdadero

y el poema no puede provenir 
de un silencio inventado, mucho menos
                por otro.

Ni el latido del verso debe ser 
el de otro corazón 
que el corazón 
de quien lo escribe.


I have had, like anyone else,
the temptation to write
Today I want to take refuge
in the silence of the light 
within a Vermeer painting
which would be, at least
a respectable cliché,
a shiny little verse.
But I have not been able to make myself do it,
because Vermeer’s light
—which I adore—
is a beautiful velvet which I visit
but does not belong to me,
to which I do not belong.

My true refuge is the memory
—maybe a photograph—
of a Mexican street of barely middle class,
full of puddles and light poles,
my Grand-Father sitting on the terrace,
sipping his coffee.

I understand well that my silence
will never have the prestige of that other one,

but it is true

and the poem cannot come
from a made up silence, much less
made up
              by someone else.

Nor should the heartbeat of the verse be
the one from any heart
than the heart
of he who writes it.

​​Manuel Iris (Mexico, 1983). Poet Laureate Emeritus of the City of Cincinnati, Ohio (2018-2020). He received the “Merida” National award of poetry (Mexico, 2009) for his book Notebook of dreams, and the Rodulfo Figueroa Regional award of poetry for his book The disguises of fire (Mexico, 2014). In 2016 two different anthologies of his poetic work were published: The naked light, in Venezuela; and Before the mystery, in El Salvador. His first bilingual anthology of poems, Traducir el silencio/Translating silence, was published in New York in 2018. This book won two different awards in the International Latino Book Awards in Los Angeles, California, in that same year. Iris has published poetry, essay and translation in magazines and literary journals from Mexico, Spain, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Portugal, France, the United States, and Angola. His poetry has been included in several Mexican, as well as Latin-American, and American, poetry anthologies. He has also given talks, lectures and poetry readings in literary events, academic conferences and cultural centers of Mexico, the United States and Europe. In 2021, he became a member of the prestigious System of Art Creators of Mexico (Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte). Manuel Iris holds a BA in Latin American Literature from the Autonomous University of the Yucatan (Mexico), a MA in Spanish from the New Mexico State University, and a PhD in Romance Languages from the University of Cincinnati, the city in which he lives.