Fabio Morabito is a poet who lives in Mexico City. Though he was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of Italian parents, and spent his youth in Italy, all of his poetry has been written in Spanish. In his fourth book of poems, Delante de un prado una vaca (Before a Field a Cow), Fabio Morabito uses the image of looking out of the window multiple times. Many of his poems take place indoors and looking out the window has a powerful effect of representing everything beyond those doors. Thus, several of his poems have interesting twists, like this one:
THEY ALL ran to look out,
except me. Something,
the shade under which I was,
the book I read,
a soft laziness…
They all went out to see and I kept to myself.
I see it still: the agitation of the family,
the open window of my room,
my resistance to getting off the couch
and the uproar that decreases
until everything apparently
returns to normal…
I go back to my book,
but the spell of the page has broken,
and it hurts me not to know what happened.
I know I still have time,
if I look out,
I can pick some crumbs of the event
that shocked my family,
but their silence weighs upon me.
Not a single voice called me
in that window that was open
more so than any other;
not a single voice called me,
I should have gotten out of my stupor
tossed the book and gone to see,
followed the footprints still fresh
from the scandal and learned,
even through the mouth of my cousins;
tossed the book
or read it at a stretch
and not stayed
with the open book and my eyes forlorn,
imagining the worst and resentful.
The poet is in his house, as a young boy, absorbed in his book, when an event takes place outside. He hears the commotion and thinks about going and seeing out the window, but he remains in place, unable now to return to the page, and resentful because he has not been called as a witness. Yet, he is aware that this situation is also his making, he could have gone to the window, or returned to the book, but he is neither here nor there. To me it represents the anguish of the poet, absorbed in the book, mildly aware of the outside, a bit curious, not enough to go and look out, but enough to have the desire of being summoned, of being called and wanting to be a witness, to participate in the action taking place. The poet remains isolated from the others, removed, and now resentful, unable to return to the book.
In this next poem, the poet is even younger, just able to walk. It constitutes the first memory of a boy looking at his father look out the window.
I SEE MY FATHER looking out the window.
Sitting on the floor,
I see his broad back. I can barely walk.
How beautiful is a father
when, looking out the window,
his back is framed for the son.
He leaves imprinted the best memory.
A father that faces the world,
the first door that infancy gives us,
the first inkling that not everything is breast.
Fabio’s poetry is very straightforward, so the meaning of the poem does not need an explanation. It is simply a boy, seeing the back of his father for the first time, recognizing him as someone who is “facing the world,” and realizing that not everything is the mother or, more precisely, the breast, this domestic feminine world that has so far sheltered him. There is a world out there, as indicated bythe father figure with the broad back, cut against the window frame. It is a beautiful image, and the twist comes in the very last line: “the first inkling that not everything is breast.”
But this next poem, where there is also a window and a looking out, has—for me—the most interesting feeling behind it. The simplicity of Fabio’s words contrasts with the complexity of the emotions behind it. We often look out the window when we are waiting for someone, but what happens if we look out alone, just because we feel like looking out the window?
WHY not look out?
Why only look out
if I am waiting for you?
Why not do it
without waiting for anyone,
just because I want to?
Every day I ask myself the same thing
and just as I am about to look out
I postpone it,
perhaps afraid of realizing
—if I look out, just because I want to—
that I do not need you.
You’ve read the last masterful twist. The poet’s greatest fear is not loneliness, no, that would be too simple. The greatest fear is not even knowing, but realizing. Darme cuenta means, in a way, to uncover something that is already there: that he doesn’t need the other. In this particular poem we do not know who the other is. In Spanish, because of its grammatical structure, it is hard not to give gender to a person: we do not have the genderless you, but Fabio works around it, using a genderless ti and te, with no indication of who follows it. So, this person that he waits for could be anybody: his son, a lover—in the book he addresses mostly these two. But the beauty of the twist is not that he loves them, but realizing “that I do not need you.” In order not to uncover this feeling, he postpones looking out. In a twist of Oedipal love, this poet instead of blinding himself after learning of his wrongdoing, would rather remain purposefully blind, at least not looking out, than discover the horrible truth, that he does not need his loved ones.
Contributor and translator Lorea Canales is a Mexican lawyer, journalist, and novelist living in New York City. Her two novels, Los Perros and Apenas Marta, were published by Random House Mondadori, Mexico, to critical acclaim. She has translated Morabito’s Before a Field a Cow into English. She has a Masters in Law from Georgetown University and a Masters in Fine Arts from New York University. She is working on her third novel.