Come Back (after Cavafy)

C.P. Cavafy, Come Back

Return and return and possess me,
beloved feeling –
awakening of body’s memory,
desire once again
infusing blood.
I want my lips and skin to remember,
hands feel they can touch again.

Return and possess me
in the time of dreams,
when lips and skin remember.


You can compare the Keeley/Sherrard at the link with what I’ve done. I’ve changed a lot but kept “lips and skin remember.” I think my aesthetic choices are justifiable.

It’s the theme where I’m both happy and not so happy. I’ll need more poems to explore what I really wanted out of this one. The speaker on my reading feels desire for desire. This is very strange, to say the least. Sure, there are times where we’re in love, but I think the “high” from those times, whether we’re loved back or chasing someone, has to do with the feeling we’re getting or winning something. I think a lot of the “I wish I could be in love” sentiment is a reaction to others getting or winning. “Getting/winning,” for me, speak to having a desire – one desire – that can be fulfilled.

This poem is talking about something different. “Desire for desire” forces the issue of memory. The only way you could want desire is if you had it before and now lack it. We have to grant, further, that the speaker is only mouthing the words: “desire for desire” is not actually desire. This is a prayer because it is hopeless, unfelt. While the poem does present this situation, I do think it is only temporary; the speaker is making some sort of transition.

I replaced the simple, sensual “in the night” with “time of dreams” to emphasize a movement from body to mind. The speaker is asking for a soul, for life. Again, I haven’t explored the theme as thoroughly as I should. For now, I’m treating him as literally pathetic – I don’t mean this in a bad way. Since “desire for desire” doesn’t exist, he doesn’t know what he wants. He really wants a certain memory, a certain time back. What’s amazing: in not feeling a particular desire, in not feeling anything bodily (as he thinks), he’s giving expression to feeling itself. Feeling has a sort of universality, where it takes over the mind and demands a certain reality.

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