I came across this week’s poem – “Café San Martín” by Agustín Cadena – while reading through the anthology Goodbye Mexico: Poems of Remembrance. I find in the lyric a subtly profound meditation on the past, or rather the past we live with in our memories which is always juxtaposed against the ever-changing the present.
This being the first week of June, I thought this an apt piece to share. In the poem, it is always June. The speaker’s address is one of emphasis: the name of a cafe no longer there is repeated until everywhere there are cafes. The moment the poem wins me over is when the speaker’s shoes fill with water, as if the rain were a memory seeking him out.
Café San Martín – Agustín Cadena*
Do you remember the Café San Martín?
I do, sometimes,
when it rains in the afternoon and it’s summer.
We liked to go there and drink coffee
and smoke while we looked at the rain.
The Café San Martín was small,
lukewarm, and it had big windows
that looked onto a meridian of June.
But it is no longer there.
Now on that corner where it was
they sell video games.
Have you tried to go back?
Have you walked in the rain, alone,
remembering the girl you were
and asking yourself where would these people have gone,
with their pink curtains and old spoons
and their Café San Martín?
Yes, I have wanted to go back,
when I happen to think of you,
when my shoes fill with water
and I wish I were that age again
and not so foolish
as to let go of your hand that afternoon.
Once again it is June and raining.
Everywhere there are cafés
in certain neighborhoods.
The present erases all traces.
*translated by C. M. Mayo