One afternoon I went for a walk in Chapultepec Park, in Mexico City, where I lived for many years and still feel inextricably bound. I’d been sitting at the computer all day and wanted to be around other humans, trees, dogs, squirrels, shadows doing their thing in the open air. I stopped to watch a group of people doing something odd and beautiful together on a patch of dry grass. Was it a dance improvisation workshop? An actors’ warm-up? I couldn’t tell, but it felt special to see them doing it. They drifted around and moved their limbs, interacting sporadically with their surroundings and each other, in a way that felt both spontaneous and coordinated, both public and private. Both practiced and unfinished, even unfinishable. They used only their bodies, no language at all.
I love my work as a literary translator, I love writing poems, and I often love being alone. Sometimes, though, when I witness a group of artists making something together—musicians, actors, dancers—I feel an undertow of wistfulness, even envy. Sometimes, too, a book’s pretense of physical permanence, its objectness, feels almost embarrassing to me. I don’t mean to suggest that actors don’t get lonely, or that musicians don’t worry about making something that lasts! All I know is that I drafted “Rehearsal,” soon after my trip to the park, in a rush of longing that quickly morphed into a sense of wonder at the strange, tender impulse to make anything at all, and at the transience of whatever is made, and about the impossibility, really, of making it alone. Even something as tiny and self-contained and seemingly solitary as a poem.