Francisco Layna Ranz




I gave up smoking in 2005.
For a long time, I lived for not smoking.
Parliaments. I always like the ones with white filters best. In winter
           I associated smoke with a range of gestures,
           hands coming close to the mouth as if
to transfer a kiss to a sacred icon
honored by a congregation religiously awaiting
their turn. A part-time deacon
wipes off the saliva of reverence
with a white handkerchief.
Children don’t get it, but they’re bound. We’re born
           without cavities or faith. Over the years, food
           and affliction rot everything. They’re bound, children,
           to kiss a chubby foot, always lightly lifted,
           or a tear, a single tear, thick and cold.
Cold like a drop of old crystal on the palate’s embers.
I liked smoking best when walking alone, or in company
           but in silence.
It gave us the feeling that someone was watching us, and we had to
           do it right.
February of ’83, 7:10.
We would ask for a light in the street: Fuego! As if
           to ask for wind or earth next.
Madrid was a city that walked
           with you, that let itself be remade by different cravings.
           Everything happened there because you roamed its streets.
           Cigarette in hand, white filters.
We searched for tobacco, spirits heavy with wanting
           a challenge, wanting to need to go far,
           right up to the end.
And then, the day complete, we felt we deserved
           a rest, like good hounds on the trail of confessions.


FRANCISCO LAYNA RANZ is a poet, editor and literary critic who lives in Madrid, Spain. He has taught Spanish literature at universities in Spain and the US, and has published three scholarly books on medieval and Golden Age Spanish literature. He is the author of two books of poems: Y una sospecha, como un dedo (Amargord 2016) and Espíritu, hueso animal (RIL Editores 2017).


Read more by Francisco Layna Ranz:

Two poems in The Adirondack Review


About the Translator:

JP ALLEN’s poems appear in Tinderbox, Cactus Heart, After the Pause, and elsewhere. In 2017, he received an MFA in poetry from Johns Hopkins, as well as scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.