Adam Gerber’s Goodbye
Translated from the Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Adam Gerber says good morning:
“Good morning, trees,
good morning, sky,
good morning, morning;
good morning, window
sill who brings the day my way;
good morning, vinyl-slatted
good morning, hanger
kept warm by my jacket (if it’s cold today
—and it’s cold today!), and I say good morning
when I open my eyes and see the world
after rubbing the sleep away.”
He has a cup
of milk and a Starbucks muffin,
puts an apple
in his pocket, opens the door and,
swelled with courage, says:
“Good morning, Staten Island
good morning, cold,
and good morning, squirrel
who slips away into the hustle
of another day like today,
another day’s day.”
He hears an American woodcock
in the branches of a maple:
“Good morning, Scolopax minor,
now that Cliff’s told me your name,
good morning, blackbird
and brown-headed cowbird.
Yesterday I saw
three seals at South Beach,
two raccoons and a lost possum
who walked on right along the path,
all day walking, always just like this.
(Here they are, in my notebook.)
“Good morning, Victoria
Boulevard, and good morning, Bay Street.
The ferry’s already arriving
at St. George
—good morning, terminal,
who makes me suddenly realize the day’s already started,
and to Captain Raspberry I’ll say good morning,
and to the homeless and the drunks I’ll say good morning,
and good morning to guy who runs of the kiosk,
and good morning to the man in the boiler suit,
but to the police I won’t say a thing,
and I won’t say a thing to their dogs either ‘cause they all wear a sign that says:
DON’T PET ME I’M WORKING,
and to the girl who puts powder on her armpits I’ll say good morning,
and to the sleeping tourist I’ll say good morning,
and to the boy busy writing emails I’ll also say good morning,
and to the woman listening to music I’ll say good morning,
and before getting on the subway I’ll stick my tongue out at the Statue of Liberty,
and to Freedom Tower I’ll say what’s up
when’s it going to be your day.”
From one pocket, Adam
Gerber pulls out an apple;
from another, a comb
and a map of the
fifty states; from another,
a can of Red Bull,
a lighter and a
feather that looks like it’s from a seagull;
from the zipped lining,
a New York Times supplement,
a bag full
of shells, a pipe
and a notebook from Hell
(from my black jacket)
where all of these
and some other things
have been noted.
Who’ll want to listen
to what I say about Adam Gerber?
Who’d be able to feel
all I feel for Adam Gerber?
Who’d want to read
the draft of this poem?
One day, and this is the complete and utter truth,
Adam Gerber stepped out for a walk
not looking anywhere but
one point six steps
in front of his feet.
Upon arriving in Manhattan he made his way up to Broadway, passing the Financial District, Chinatown and SoHo, Union Square, Times Square, Columbus Circle; he passed in front of Lincoln Center, the Upper West Side and further up; he crossed Columbia’s campus, Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd; crossed all of Harlem; passed the Hispanic Society, Washington Heights without thinking to stop there, Inwood without a glance at The Cloisters; he crossed the bridge, Marble Hill, 225th St.; he continued heading up through the Bronx, going round Van Cortland Park, from south to the north, North Broadway, South Broadway; New Broadway, South Broadway, South Broadway again, underneath the New York State Thruway, until arriving at Albany Post Road; he kept going up and up and up until he sank into the continental United States.
And here ends my story of Adam Gerber
(I haven’t known a single thing about him since)
and here begins Adam Gerber beginning his own story,
far beyond mine, the legend.
Melcion Mateu was born in Barcelona in 1971. He is the author of four books of poetry, among them Vida evident, which won the 1998 Octavio Paz Prize, and Illes lligades, which was awarded the 2014 Jocs Florals de Barcelona Prize. He is currently a professor at the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of The Ground and Heaven, both published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. He lives in New York City and Barcelona.