Poems for staying at home (Day 7)

 

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Today’s house is a childhood home in Santiago de Chile, revisited by the poet Verónica Zondek after years in exile, following the Pinochet dictatorship. The poem burrows and weaves its way through the dusty enclaves of the past, trying to make sense of ‘progreso’, which as well as meaning ‘progress’, is an area of Zondek’s native city.

You can listen to Verónica Zondek reading ‘Progreso’ on video below.

 

 

Progress

I know it without betrayal or evidence.
This is my house and yet it’s not.
Memories boil and bubble from step to step
and towering up to the 15th floor, get lost in the nothingness of sky
grey now and not the blue of No, I remember.
Three stairs with footprints and mud in the entrance
a cranky horseshoe on a nail in the door
and an aura that protects the family’s breath.
Yes, a chequered floor in the kitchen
a spruce chess board and Clorinda for thorough hygiene
bread that is promptly kneaded in memory
an oven that bakes the cake of childhood’s clay.
Yes, I remember the shifting shade of the shutters
and the eternal counting of lines in sleeplessness
and the voices from heaven
and also the others
those
those that reprimand
those that invade my head in supposed sleep
and make me read by the light of a torch
so that God willing panic doesn’t spread.
Yes, a grumbling staircase absorbs my school shoes
and reveals and flaunts that strident independence.
Yes, once loud and swaggering,
swelling with laughter and tears and the nerves of a beginner,
hooked, like everyone, in the eye of their own time.
So many days wandering in the desert of the home
concentrating on the alien talk of adults
filling the emptiness that occasionally swells
to later stitch together a story, only intelligible,
of course, in one formerly so sane,
and that wardrobe of surprises in the corridor
nothing less than an ancient sea in full surge
buried beneath one and seven keys of Cerberus
silence and secret seldom ajar
pirates’ chest and cave of cursed elf
wishing for illness so as to break the seal
and the shining white walls of adobe
naked and without a skin when the earth shakes
and the books that collapse on your head
and the invasion of master bonesetters
and the dust and the mess and the cornered silence
and the tremendous bother of hustle and bustle.

Vanity.
Vanity of the matter that shelters memory
like a silent treasure box surrendered to the digger.

Progress
cold and beautiful like the blue ice of glaciers
that barely able and with the road’s consent
neither knows nor asks
and takes control and buries beneath the thunder of doing
the loveliest thought and chained to the fire
that already once was snatched from us.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Progreso

Lo sé sin traición ni documento.
Esta es mi casa y ya no es.
Hierven y suben los recuerdos de escalón en escalón
y altísimos hasta el piso 15 se pierden en la nada del cielo
gris ahora y no azul del no, ya recuerdo.
Tres peldaños con pisadas y barro en la entrada
una herradura quejumbrosa en un clavo de la puerta
y un aura que defiende el hálito familiar.
Sí, un piso cuadriculado en la cocina
Un pulcro tablero y una Clorinda para el buen aseo
Un pan que presto se amasa en la memoria
Un horno que cuece la torta del barro infantil.
Sí, recuerdo la sombre alternada de los postigos
y el eterno recuento de líneas en desvelo
y las voces celestiales
y también las otras
esas
las que amonestan
las que invaden mi cabeza en reposo pretendido
y obligan la lectura a la luz de una linterna
para que Dios mediante no cunda el pánico.
Sí, una quejumbrosa escalera recibe mis zapatos colegiales
y destapa y ondea esa independencia de pelo en pecho.
Sí, una entonces bravucona y vociferante
una hinchada en llanto y risa nervios de principiante
una colgada como todos en el ojo del tiempo propio.
Tantos y tantos días errantes en el desierto del hogar
concentrada en el decir aparte de los mayores
llenando el vacío que a ratos hincha
para luego hilvanar una historia en demasía propia
inteligible, por supuesto, en un otrora tan cuerdo
y ese armario con sorpresas en el pasillo
no otra cosa que un mar antañoso con su completo oleaje
encerrado bajo una y siete llaves de cancerbero
silencio y secreto pocas veces entreabierto
baúl de piratas y cueva de duende maldito
deseando la dolencia para violarle el sello
y las albas paredes de adobe
desnudas y sin cáscara en medio de las tembladeras
y los libros que derrumban sobre la cabeza
y la invasión de maestros componedore
y el polvo y el desorden y el silencio arrinconado
y la tremenda molestia del ajetreo.

Vanidad.
Vanidad de la materia que acoge el recuerdo
cual cofre silente entregado a la retroexcavadora.

Progreso
frío y bello como el hielo azul de los glaciares
que pudiendo apenas y con la venia de dónde la carretera
tampoco sabe ni pregunta
y toma la sartén por la mango y entierra bajo el trueno del hacer
el bellísimo pensar y encadenado al fuego
que una vez ya nos fue arrebatado.

 

 

Verónica Zondek was born in Santiago de Chile in 1953. She has a History of Art degree from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has published a dozen poetry collections and an anthology of Chilean poetry, Cartas al azar (1989). She is a writer of diverse interests, having compiled a major study of the Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, and a children’s book: La mission de Katalia (2002). She is a member of the editorial committee for the independent publishing house LOM Ediciones in Santiago, and has translated many poets from English – most recently, Anne Carson.

 

 

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