Thinking of Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter

by Sergio Badilla Castillo

My nickname is conspicuous here in Munich’s bohemian quarter
among orthodox Jews and immigrants from the East.
In the inns of the Rialto a couple of painters
and some redheaded whores are knocking back gin and beer.
The night is bright in secret places where the moon peeps in.
Drunk in his studio what music
did Kandinsky hear? Was it Moskva or Kubanskaya
vodka that unleashed his madness?
In Cairo Nina wakens from a nightmare
about a lonely boy at play in lonely snow.
Vassily in his narrow bed yearns for the delineated breasts
of Gabriele, for his drunken paintbrush
her thighs as tight as a slightly built Valkyrie’s.
She cries because Vassily cries for her in Moscow:
A damsel in pink / ducks in flight / a baroness’s portrait.
What does it matter! Piano and cello are in the same house still.
I lose sight of him, then surprise him
in Neuilly sur Seine with Paul Klee (drinking Pernod by the river).
Terrible souls are captured in grays and chiaroscuros.
MoholyNagy / with his virtuoso camera / freezes his gestures
as he paints a seemingly motionless triangle.
The paintbrush smudges time and softens shades
and Vassily is obsessive because he’s a melancholy genius
before whom God falls silent in the utter dark of night.

Translated by Roger Hickin & Sergio Badilla Castillo