Ken Gorfkle
Book Excerpts

Book Excerpts

Peek behind the cover of Gorfkle’s new book with the three poems, translations and commentaries below.


    “Florecí”, brilla el pájaro.
La flor brilla: “Volé.”
“Estáis equivocados.”
…Por supuesto, los tres.

(Poesiectomía, p. 98)

    “I flowered,” glows the bird.
The flower glows: “I flew.”
“You are both wrong.”
…Of course, all three.

What are the sources of knowledge? How can one know oneself? “Florecí” imagines a conversation between three protagonists with a comment by the poet. In doing so, it articulates the depth of the misconceptions that human beings have of themselves.

Thinking that it is a flower, the bird glows with pride; thinking that it is a bird, the flower similarly glows. One can be blind about oneself even to the point of taking pride in one’s misconception. Without objective information from the external world, the subjective viewpoint is rarely correct. 

The observer, with an external and objective point of view, points out their error to them. Whereas the individual has subjective ideas developed over the course of a lifetime, the external observer sees reality more objectively, as it exists in one moment.

Observing all three, the poet (yet another observer) takes even a larger view, noting that both the objective and subjective points of view are incorrect. However, this observation also implies that both points of view contain true aspects of reality as well. If the bird and flower are mistaken, then the observer is correct, and if the observer is mistaken, then the bird and the flower have captured reality.  So both the objective and subjective points of view contain correct and incorrect conceptions. Consequently, the challenge with all of these representations is to sort out fact from fiction.

Knowledge is subjective as well as objective.  Subjective impressions may be hugely erroneous and there is no certainty that what we understand “objectively” is correct. So, true knowledge seems impossible to obtain, and the “ truth,” more often than not, is merely one’s point of view.


rincón de cuna: alfil
con una sien.

(Oó, o, p. 89)


Going and coming:
corner of a cradle: bishop
with a brain.

“Naturaleza muerta,” translated as “Still Life,” literally means “Dead Nature.”  Nature is not only dead in the sense that it is automatic and blind, it is also the inevitable bringer of death.

What is my future? As surely as the sun that rises and sets daily, my future is death: I cannot avoid ending as food for flies, just as they themselves come to their all-too-quick end.

What is my life?  A “going”:  a departure: out of the womb and into the house, out of the house and into the world; going to school; to work; to the marriage altar; to parenthood, to old age, and finally, to death: a going out of this world.  But also, a “coming”: an arrival: coming to my vocation; coming to my place in the world; coming to my authentic being.

At the beginning, I occupy a corner of a cradle, a temporary place of safety.  Then, I become a bishop on the chessboard of life: with neither a pawn’s straitjacketed range of movement, nor with the knight’s agility, nor with the castle’s ability to move straight ahead towards its goal, nor with the power and stature of the king and queen.  As a bishop, I can only move obliquely toward my goal. It seems that my every move is determined by my master. 

And yet, unlike the bishop on the chessboard, I have my own brain.   Obstacles confront me; do I have the intelligence to surmount them?  Will I use that intelligence to create an active and fulfilling life?  Or, will it lie fallow until the flies enjoy their repast?  Will the portrait of my life be indeed a “Still Life?”

In this poetic “Still Life,” the poet expresses death in various ways.  However, the first word of the poem, “porvenir,” contains the word “venir:” to come: to come to oneself, to come to one’s real life.  The words of the central rhyme of the poem:  “ven” and “sien” (“come” and “brain”), strongly accentuated, join in order to emphasize the self-realization that one’s own intelligence can produce.  With that rhyme, the poem is saying: “Use your brain!  Come to yourself!  Live your real life!”


    Me imito:
de biznagas.

(La Noche Antes, p. 90)

    I imitate myself:
of cacti.

This poem comes from the chapter “En las lavas sensuales” of the book La Noche Antes, the fourth volume of the tetralogy Cortejo y Epinicio, which deals with the human being in the last period of life.  As a result, the poem addresses the erotic experience during this period. 

I have my own understanding of the erotic experience. Developed during my adolescence, this understanding has stayed with me, and although aspects of it have evolved over time, its essence remains constant. In this domain, I have needs, appetites and reactions, along with an understanding of the meaning of the sexual act and of my partner in that act.   

But my mind and body have changed over the years, and to consider this aspect of my being as I did earlier no longer works. No longer do I possess the virility of my youth, so necessary for creativity and creation; nor do I feel either the urge or necessity for procreation.  Lacking those two sacred impulses, my awkward attempts to recapture the sensorial pleasures of my earlier years blaspheme the sexual act. In the past, my ideas of sexuality were appropriate; now, they lead me into maelstroms of doubts, confusion, and depression. Why is all that I am, think, and do in this area now so wrong, when before it was so right and natural?

Why do I continue to imitate myself, year after year, in this aspect of my being? What is it that continually keeps me in the same place, preventing me from adapting to the changes inside me and causing me such confusion and unhappiness? It must be a throwback to an earlier evolutionary stage. The cactus stayed the same for millions of years; facing a hostile desert environment, it evolved and perfected its way of being and then remained that way in order to protect itself and thrive in that environment. Change would have been fatal. I am a descendant of this plant. This state of being – this “vestige of cacti” that prevents me from change because change would be fatal – is deeply entrenched in me. My habits, reactions, and thought processes of childhood and youth have molded me into who I am now, and my aversion to change has created inflexibility. As I finally understand the fruitlessness of my old habits, thoughts, and assumptions in this aspect of my being, do I have the will and strength to change?