Poems for staying at home (Day 25)

Railway forest

Carlos López Beltrán is the author of one of the most haunting poems in our anthology, The Other Tiger: as the speaker travels by train through the German forest, he has a vision of the son he never had.

Listen to Carlos reading ‘Desabrigo’ here.

Listen to Carlos reading ‘Exposed’ here.



I had a son.
Between the branches of the German forest
that scratch the window like splashes of graffiti
I suddenly glimpse his profile and sense his presence.
He walks slowly in a city unknown to me,
between two sad, immigrant neighbourhoods.
He is wearing a thick and threadbare jumper.
And has lighted a cigarette . . .

At the same moment that his shadow appears
he catches sight of me in this dark carriage
next to a sleeping woman. I am writing.
Writing about him . . .

He feels my pained bewilderment
and he feels it as distant, cold, numb
beneath the filthy straw of absence.
I had a father, he murmurs
just as a rat, running between two drains,
distracts him.

I had a son, I murmur, just as my wife awakes
and says, very softly: a rat, a rat,
running between two drains, in my dream . . .

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)



Tuve un hijo.
Entre las ramas del bosque alemán
que rayan como ráfagas de grafito la ventana
de pronto adivino su perfil y siento su presencia.
Camina solo en una ciudad desconocida por mí,
entre dos barrios lúgubres, de inmigrantes.
Lleva un suéter muy grueso y muy gastado.
Y ha encendido un cigarro…

En este mismo instante en que se me aparece su sombra
él me entrevé en este vagón oscuro
junto a una mujer dormida, escribiendo.
Escribiendo sobre él…

Siente mi turbación dolorosa
y la siente distante, fría, amortiguada
bajo la paja astrosa de la ausencia.
Tuve un padre apenas se murmura
a sí mismo cuando una rata
corriendo entre dos cloacas lo distrae.

Tuve un hijo apenas me murmuro y mi mujer despierta
y me dice quedito una rata, una rata
corriendo entre dos cloacas, en mi sueño…


Carlos López Beltran was born in 1957 in Minatitlán, in the Gulf of Mexico. He has a PhD from King’s College, London. Since 1992 he has worked as a historian and philosopher of bioanthropological sciences at UNAM, Mexico City. Previously, he worked as science writer, magazine editor and translator. He has published several collections of poetry, of which the most recent is Hembras desarboladas y otros hombres fuera de lugar (2014). He has published two collections of essays: El material de los años (2014) and La Ciencia como Cultura (2005). With Pedro Serrano he co-edited La Generación del Cordero (2000), an anthology of contemporary British poetry, and 359 Delicados (2012) an anthology of contemporary Mexican poetry.

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