Ricardo Blanco's Blog

Poems for staying at home (Day 34)

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“This is the time of the killers.” Today’s poem is in tribute to George Floyd, and in support of Black Lives Matter.

Palimpsest from Rimbaud

I am writing over words written
On the skin of other words.
I am an echo of other echoes. A trace of other traces.
I write crossing out voices
As if the paper were a transient slate.
I realize that at the bottom of this page
Torn away from his prison diary
The poet attached vertigo
Before proclaiming himself emperor of silence,
And despite this being heresy
I write over his voice.
I cross out his black A, his white E, his red I,
His blue O, his green U
And I stamp my symbols with impunity,
But he insists on setting a trap for me.
Over my precarious words
I don’t know why
An indelible motto persists:
“This is the time of the killers.”
Once again, all together now:
“This is the time of the killers.”

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Palimpsesto desde Rimbaud

Escribo sobre palabras escritas
En la piel de otras palabras.
Soy eco de otros ecos. Trazo de otros trazos.
Escribo tachando voces
Como si el papel fuera una pizarra fugaz.
Advierto que al fondo de esta hoja
Arrancada a su diario de prisionero,
El poeta fijó vértigos
Antes de erigirse emperador del silencio,
Y aunque resulte herejía
Escribo encima de su voz.
Tachono su A negra, su E blanca, su I roja,
Su O azul, su U verde
Y estampo mi grafía, impunemente,
Pero él insiste en tenderme una celada.
No sé por qué persiste,
Sobre mis precarias palabras
Una divisa imborrable:
“He aquí el tiempo de los asesinos”.
A ver, repitan en coro:
“He aquí el tiempo de los asesinos”.

 

 

Born in Medellín in 1946, Juan Manuel Roca is one of the most respected figures in contemporary Colombian poetry and fiction. Also a well-known journalist and social commentator, he has a long association with the world- famous poetry festival in the city of his birth, set up in defiance of many years of war and civil strife in his country. He has received numerous awards; was a finalist for the Rómulo Gallegos Prize for the Novel (2004), winner of the Cuban Casa de América Prize in 2008 for his Antología personal, and of the Spanish prize, Casa de Ameríca de Poesía Americana in 2009, for his collection Biblia de Pobres.

 

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Poems for staying at home (Day 33)

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Bunnies and top hats, David Lynch and the dark reverberations of down the rabbit hole; all of this explored by the inimitable Pedro Serrano in this quarantine poem, first published in The Other Tiger.

 

The Rabbit and the Top Hat

As in Alice’s garden
the rabbit on the damp lawn
jumps, its curvature springy.
Gently it raises its ears in tandem,
sniffing the waves of dainty herbs
and between its little teeth goes the grass
of this gleaming border.
It’s not a motionless ear in the void,
but a rug in the middle of the green,
a knot or fleecy brown pompom
that comes pulsing forward.
Startled, it bunny-hops towards the thickets
and the high spikes of the scrub
green and flat like squat towers and turrets.
Through a few magic doors
it plunges between the agapanthus and iris
as though entering a universe crammed
inside David Lynch’s top hat.
I lose track of it within that magic world,
dense and dark,
though in a sudden gust
it passes again in front of me
as if it were a streamer
with no lament or leash,
swiftly,
and so it vanishes.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

El conejo y la chistera

Como en el jardín de Alicia
el conejo en el césped húmedo
salta y muelle su curvatura.
Suave alza las orejas de dos en dos,
husmeando en las olas de hierbas frágiles
y entre sus dientecillos va el pasto de este
confín luminoso.
No es una oreja quieta en la nada,
sino una alfombra en el centro de lo verde,
un nudo o borla marrón peluda
que avanza palpitando.
En sobresaltos se mece hacia los matorrales
y las altas agujas de la maleza
verdes y chatas como torres y almenas.
A través de unas puertas mágicas
se hunde entre los agapandos y lirios
como si entrara en un universo apretado,
adentro de la chistera de David Lynch.
Ya no lo sigo en ese mundo mágico
. denso y oscuro,
aunque en una ráfaga súbita
pasa de nuevo frente a mí
como si fuera una serpentina
sin arrepentimiento ni mordaza,
repentino,
y así desaparece.

 

Pedro Serrano, born in Montreal in 1957, is a poet and professor at UNAM in México DF. He was until recently Director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre in Canada. His translations include the anthology La generación del cordero (containing many of the most prominent British poets of the 1980s), Shakespeare’s King John and the poetry of Edward Hirsch. He recently published DefenßaS, a book on poetry and other wanderings. La construcción del poeta moderno, based on this doctoral thesis, is an extended essay on T.S. Eliot and Octavio Paz, and was published 1n 2012. He was for many years the editor of the online poetry monthly Periódico de Poesía. A book of his selected poems, Peatlands, translated by Anna Crowe, was published by Arc in 2014.

Poems for staying at home (Day 32)

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Today’s poem: a perfect study in stillness, by the Mexican poet Coral Bracho.

 

Goats

In the whiteness
and its nucleus of light
the goats stand stock-still. Gently the rock
holds them in its palm;
like a brushstroke
a butterfly.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Cabras

En la blancura persisten
las cabras quietas
y su centro de luz. Suavemente la piedra
las sostiene en la palma;
como una pincelada
a una mariposa.

 

Coral Bracho, born in Mexico City in 1951, is a poet and translator whose work has been published in several languages. Her publications include the poetry collections El ser que va a morir (J. Mortiz, 1982), La voluntad del ámbar (Ediciones Era, 1998), Ese espacio, ese jardín (Era, 2003), Si ríe el emperador (Era, 2010) and Marfa, Texas (Era, 2015). She has been a Guggenheim fellow for poetry (N.Y.), and a SNCA fellow (México). She has received the National Poetry award (Aguascalientes, 1981), the Book of the Year award (Xavier Villaurrutia 2004) and the Jaime Sabines-Gatien Lapointe Prize (Quebec, 2011), among other awards. Her Selected Poems have been translated by Forrest Gander, and published by New Directions as Firefly Under the Tongue (2008). ‘Goats’ appears in The Other Tiger: recent Poetry from Latin America.

 

 

 

Poems for staying at home (Day 31)

2 bimblebees

 

As we find ourselves in June, two bumblebees, observed by the Mexican poet Pura López Colomé, hover over ‘rose coloured leaves / from a flower that is not a rose.’

 

And the Anthurium, Undaunted

Two bumblebees
extract the juice,
sweet and bitter,
at the centre
of these rose-coloured leaves
from a flower that is not a rose.
Gorged,
they knock against the windows
again and again,
certain of migrating,
their treasure within,
beyond the air,
unaware of the eclipse
of a free pathway,
unaware
of the magnet
of a mirage.
With honey blood
as their essence,
already part of a distinct
and rapturous
marrow.

 

 

Y el anturio, impávido

Dos abejorros
extraen el jugo,
dulce y amargo,
al centro
de las hojas color de rosa
de una flor que no es rosa.
Ahítos,
golpean los ventanales
vez tras vez,
seguros de emigrar,
con el tesoro adentro,
allende el aire,
ignorantes del eclipse
de un sendero libre,
ignorantes
del imán
de un espejismo.
Con la sangre miel
en las entrañas,
parte ya de una médula
extática.
Y distinta.

 

 

Pura López Colomé was born in Mexico City in 1952 and completed her BA and MBA in Mexican Literature at UNAM. She is the author of 11 books of poems, and a Collected: Poemas reunidos 1985-2012 (México DF: Conaculta, 2013). Her own work has been wide translated, while her translations of Seamus Heaney, with whom she maintained a long friendship, are highly-regarded in the Spanish speaking world. In 2011 she recorded a bilingual anthology of poetry on CD with Alastair Reid: Resonancia/Resonance: Poetry in Two Languages (Fondo de Cultura Económica). She has received many awards for her writing and translation, including the Premio Xavier Villaurrutia, the Premio Nacional de Traducción Literaria and the Premio Nacional Alfonso Reyes. She lives in Cuernavaca.

Poems for staying at home (Day 30)

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After the weekend, this cow rummages through the debris left by the visiting humans; the remains of campfires, plastic carrier bags, bottles and beer cans. We know, we’ve seen it. Poor cow.   Fabio Morábito reminds us of the sadness in her eyes.

 

Ajusco

Cow, how much sadness
in your eyes now
that it is Monday and the field
is more immense and lonely
and around you shimmer
dirty paper plates
and beer cans.

Slabs of exile
and calm accumulate
in your figure, cow.
You look around
you, then lower your head
to rummage in the trash
like an enormous dog.

The remains of campfires
resemble the marks your teeth made,
not those of the men
who, before leaving,
burned in them plastic cups
and bottles as a last
rite of cohesion.

The fog covers the hill
and encircles you like
the sea a promontory,
and everything is quiet when
your ample motherhood,
of a sudden, claims your calf
amid the mist.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Ajusco

Vaca, cuánta tristeza
en tus ojos ahora
que es lunes y el campo
es más inmenso y solo
y en torno a ti pululan
platos de cartón sucios
y latas de cerveza.

Pedazos de destierro
y calma se amontonan
en tu figura, vaca.
Miras alrededor
de ti, luego te agachas
hurgando en la basura
como un enorme perro.

Los restos de fogatas
parecen dentelladas
tuyas, no de los hombres
que incineran en ellas
antes de irse, último
rito de cohesión, vasos
de plástico y botellas.

La niebla cubre el cerro
y te rodea como
el mar a un promontorio,
y todo calla cuando
tu amplia maternidad,
de pronto, reclama entre
la bruma a tu becerro.

 

 

Fabio Morábito was born in Alexandria in 1955 and has lived in Mexico City since the age of fifteen. His award-winning poetry, short stories and essays have established him as one of Mexico’s best-known writers over the past 25 years. He is also a translator from Italian. Much of his work has appeared in translation, to growing international acclaim. Three of his poems appear in The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

 

Poems for staying at home (Day 29)

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Today Piedad Bonnett sings the praises of the oft-neglected sea cucumber. I once spent so long trying to find her house in Bogotá, in a taxi with Jorge Fondebrider and a clueless driver, that she thought we’d been abducted and was on the point of phoning the kidnap rescue services. This one’s for Clare Potter.

 

Lesson in Survival

There is nothing beautiful about the sea cucumber.
It is, in truth, an animal without grace,
like its name.
At the bottom of great oceans,
unmoving, soft, amorphous,
it remains
condemned to the sand,
set apart from the beauty that the sea displays
above its body.

It is known that
when the sea cucumber gets a whiff of death
in the predator that threatens it,
it expels
not only its intestines
but the entire cluster of its gut,
which serves as food for its enemy.

In a clean ritual
the sea cucumber flees from whatever threatens to harm it.

To survive, it stays empty.

Relieved of itself and free of others
it mutates its being.

And little by little
its innards
recompose.

And it returns to being, in salty lethargy,
an entity at peace that lives in its own way.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Lección de supervivencia

Nada hay de bello en el pepino o carajo de mar.
Es, en verdad, un animal sin gracia,
como su nombre.
En el fondo de los grandes océanos,
inmóvil, blando, amorfo,
permanece
condenado a la arena,
y ajeno a la belleza que encima de su cuerpo
despliega el mar.

Se sabe que
cuando el pepino de mar huele la muerte
en el depredador que lo amenaza,
expele
no sólo su intestino
sino el racimo entero de sus vísceras,
que sirven de alimento en su enemigo.

Como un limpio ritual
huye el pepino de aquello que amenaza con dañarlo.

Para sobrevivir queda vacío.

Liviano ya de sí y libre de otros
muda de ser.

Y poco a poco
sus entrañas
se recomponen.

Y vuelve a ser, en letargo de sal,
una entidad en paz que vive a su manera.

 

 
Piedad Bonnett was born in Amalfi, Colombia in 1951. She is a poet and novelist, whose awards include the Casa de América Prize (2011) for her collection Explicaciones no pedidas and the Poetas del Mundo Latino Prize (2012). Her memoir, Lo que no tiene nombre (That which has no name), recording the life and suicide of her son, received extraordinary plaudits across Latin America and Spain on its publication in 2013. She lives in Bogotá. This and another of her poems appears in The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

Poems for staying at home (Day 28)

Aulicino

Jorge Aulicino in Valdivia, Chile, September 2013 (photo Richard Gwyn).

 

Now, listen: do not go roaming with the possum. Is that perfectly clear?

 

from A Somewhat Difficult Syntax

The possum represents those who craved
the Holy Word, but who, once they have received it,
do nothing with it. And they breed inside the ears.
The possum represents those who wanted Grace
and Grace was given to them, to no end.
Do not move if you find a possum
on the staircase or on a taxi seat.
Its thought will crawl towards well-trodden places,
because, assured of Grace and of the Word,
it never occurs to it to do anything but wander
where once there were cities that armies
crushed beneath their boots and filled with condoms.
Better for you to keep working on your worthiness
so that the white or celestial blue light falls on you,
when you get really distracted from your work of flaying,
weeding, bending, casting to the winds, storing or tossing.
Even though you walk barefoot on the rough wharves
of your own thought, you will have to be profoundly distracted
not to receive in vain the friendship of the kingdom,
not to go roaming with the possum.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

 

de Cierta dureza en la sintaxis

La comadreja representa a quienes estuvieron deseosos
de la palabra divina, pero que nada hacen con ella
cuando la han recibido. Y crían en las orejas.
La comadreja representa a quienes quisieron la gracia
y la gracia les fue dada, para nada.
No te muevas si encontrás a la comadreja
en la escalera o en el asiento de un taxi.
Reptará su pensamiento hacia lugares hollados,
porque, segura de la gracia y la palabra,
no se le ocurre qué hacer sino vagar
por donde hubo ciudades que los ejércitos
aplastaron con botas y llenaron de condones.
Más bien continúa construyendo el merecimiento
para que descienda la luz blanca o celeste sobre vos,
cuando realmente te distraigas en tu trabajo de desollar,
carpir, doblar, aventar, guardar o sacudir.
Aunque andes descalzo por los muelles ásperos
de tu propio pensamiento, habrás de distraerte profundamente
para no recibir en vano la amistad del reino,
para no deambular con la comadreja.

 

Jorge Aulicino, born in Buenos Aires in 1949, is a poet, journalist and translator. He has published a number of poetry collections, a large selection of which appear in Estación Finlandia: Poemas Reunidos (Buenos Aires: Bajolaluna, 2012). Aulicino has translated a number of Italian poets, including Cesare Pavese and Pier Paolo Pasolini; and in 2015 published his translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He worked for the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarín for 28 years and from 2005 to 2012 was the editor of the newspaper’s weekly cultural magazine, . In 2015, he won the Argentine National Poetry Prize.

 

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Possum in a bucket, Nicaragua 2012.

 

Poems for staying at home (Day 27)

The fall

 

Today – because ‘it’s the only thing the universe knows how to do’ – a poem about falling, from Argentina’s Beatríz Vignoli. I love the particularity of these lines:  ‘If they tell you that I fell / don’t come / and teach me revisionist aerodynamics. / Don’t tell me of those who fell in victory . . .’

 

The Fall

If they tell you that I fell
it’s because I fell.
Vertically.
And with horizontal results.
In a right angle I am
only the sides.
I am ignorant of the monumental art of slanting
the hero’s ornamental torsion
that passes off his fall as a jump.
That loop of the martyr who, ascending,
casts off the role of victim
and soars above her own anguish
is not my specialty. Me, when I fall,
I fall.
There is no parabola
no air, no lift force.
A slip: I wait. I land on the floor
by the shortest route.
An avalanche, a stone,
a beam that has been dynamited.
There is no bodily guile in my descent.
It outlasts itself: the bottom
of the abyss is softer
for one who does not fly, only falls.
If they tell you that I fell
don’t come
and teach me revisionist aerodynamics.
Don’t tell me of those who fell in victory.
Don’t come and tell me
that you don’t believe it was an accident.
The only thing I believe in is the accident.
The only thing the universe knows how to do
is fall over for no reason,
is collapse, just because.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

La caída

Si te dicen que caí
es que caí.
Verticalmente.
Y con horizontales resultados.
Soy, del ángulo recto
solamente los lados.
Ignoro el arte monumental del sesgo,
esa torsión ornamental del héroe
que hace que su caer se luzca como un salto.
Ese rizo del mártir que, ascendiendo
se sale de la víctima
y su propio tormento sobrevuela
no es mi especialidad. Yo, cuando caigo,
caigo.
No hay parábola
ni aire, ni fuerza de sustentación.
Un resbalón: espero. Al suelo llego
por la ruta más breve.
Un alud, una piedra,
una viga a la que han dinamitado.
No hay astucias del cuerpo en mi descenso.
Se sobrevive: el fondo
del abismo es más blando
para quien no vuela, sólo cae.
Si te dicen que caí,
no vengas
a enseñarme aerodinámica revisionista.
No me cuentes de los que cayeron venciendo.
No vengas a decirme
que no crees que haya sido un accidente.
En lo único que creo es en el accidente.
Lo único que sabe hacer el universo
es derrumbarse sin ningún motivo,
es desmoronarse porque sí.

 

Beatriz Vignoli was born in Rosario, Argentina in 1965. She is a novelist, poet, journalist, translator and art critic. Five of her poems appear in The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

Poems for staying at home (Day 26)

Raising Roosters With Laying Hens

 

The theft of a rooster prompts today’s poem from the Venezuelan Igor Barreto; a lament for a creature who ‘sings like the Angel Gabriel’. The poem can be found, along with 155 others, in The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

 

Rooster thief

My flower-growing neighbour
has robbed me of a very precious fowl.
I refer to a tobacco-coloured rooster
which grazed in a chicken coop
at the end of the house’s back patio.
I didn’t make any complaint,
I simply didn’t dare.
Every daybreak I set out furtively
down the dirt road
that skirts our properties
and drawing close to his place
I once again heard my cockerel crow.
It is a bird that sings like the Angel Gabriel
scaring off night’s shadows,
with four well defined musical inflections.
This modest ritual
went on for three nights.
Three times I awaited the dawn
longing to hear him.
My sight and hearing
sharpened in such a fashion
during that last gesture
over ownership of a bird
that I felt
the debt had been settled.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Ladrón de gallos

Mi vecino floricultor
me ha robado un ave muy preciada.
Se trata de un gallo color tabaco
que pastaba en una jaula
al fondo del segundo patio de la casa.
No hice ningún reclamo,
simplemente no me atreví.
Cada madrugada caminé furtivo
por la carretera de tierra
que bordea nuestras casas
y acercándome a la suya
escuché de nuevo cantar mi gallo.
Es un ave que canta como el Ángel Gabriel
espantando las sombras,
con cuatro inflexiones musicales bien marcadas.
Este modesto ritual
se prolongó por tres noches.
Tres veces aguardé el amanecer
anhelando escucharlo.
Mi vista y mi oído
se aguzaron de tal manera
en aquel último gesto
de pertenencia sobre el ave,
que sentí
que la deuda estaba saldada.

 

Igor Barreto was born in Venezuela in 1952. He was resident in Romania for a number of years and studied Theory of Art at the University of Bucharest (1973-1979). Barreto has been translated into English, Italian and French. In 2008 he won a Guggenheim fellowship. He has also worked as Professor of Literature at both the Central and Metropolitan Universities of Venezuela. Barreto has published a dozen books of poetry with Sociedad de Amigos, Caracas, and his collected poems, El campo / El ascensor was published by Pre-textos in 2014.

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.

 

Exposed

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)

 

Desabrigo

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.

Poems for staying at home (Day 24)

 

The-Tree-Of-Life

 

Today’s poem is another of my favourites from The Other Tiger, an extraordinary journey through family memory, in which the unsayable is said, and the tree of family is revealed to not know its roots. ‘Tree’ is by the Bolivian poet Jessica Freudenthal Ovando. 

 

From ‘Tree’

1.

my father has a girlfriend of my age
my father says he cheated on my mother with six women
of those he fell in love with
my father always cheated on my mother
“always” could be reduced to fifteen or twenty years
my father and my mother became engaged at fifteen years of age
and were married as soon as they were legal adults
my mother is the daughter of a military man
my mother is the daughter of a military man they say was involved
in the death of che guevara and the nationalization of the gulf oil company
my father is the son of the right hand man of the president who led
the revolution of 1952
my father’s father was exiled by the father of my mother
i am the daughter of my mother and of my father
i have a sister and two brothers
my older brother has the same name as my father and the older brother of my mother
the older brother of my mother died in an airplane accident
they say that it wasn’t an accident
they say that the plane was sabotaged to bring about the fall of my military grandfather’s government that nationalized oil and tin
my younger brother has the name of sid campeador and of the younger brother of my mother which is also the name of her father
i have my name and the name of the older sister of my father who died during an epileptic attack in eastern bolivia
my father’s mother says that she was born in a place where the cemetery is bigger than the village, and the word love is not known
my sister has her name and the two names of my mother
my mother’s younger brother has his father’s name
– but never uses it –
my mother’s younger sister is adopted
– but this is an open secret –
i am the spouse of my spouse
i do not use the surname of my spouse
my spouse was the boyfriend of the second daughter of my mother’s younger brother
my mother and my spouse’s father had a fling
my father became somewhat jealous
my mother was sick with jealousy
she used to check my father’s pockets and phone him like a madwoman
i suffer from jealousy
my husband has cheated on me on several occasions
i have never been able to cheat on my husband
i haven’t dared
yet
mother and father
mother fatherland
pacha mama
the family tree doesn’t know its roots
it can’t see them
in the darkness and depth of the earth
there hidden underground
far from the crown
from the air
and from the branches
from the branches of this tree
hang the dead
the suicides
my father’s mother’s brother
shot himself on christmas night
my father’s younger brother snorted cocaine until his heart stopped
my mother’s first cousin threw himself off the niagara falls
poetic deaths
deaths
my mother’s father died of cancer of the pancreas
my father’s father died of pulmonary emphysema
it costs this tree to breathe
it doesn’t know its roots
surnames run all along its structure
they vanish
they become transparent

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

 

Fragmento de ‘Árbol’

1.

mi padre tiene una novia de mi edad
mi padre dice engañó a mi madre con seis mujeres
de las que se enamoró
mi padre siempre engañó a mi madre
–siempre– puede reducirse a quince o veinte años
mi padre y mi madre se hicieron novios a los quince años
y se casaron al borde de la mayoría de edad
mi madre es hija de un militar
mi madre es hija de un militar que dicen estuvo involucrado
en la muerte del che guevara y la nacionalización de la gulf oil company
mi padre es hijo del hombre de confianza del presidente que hizo
la revolución de 1952
el padre de mi padre fue exiliado por el padre de mi madre
yo soy hija de mi madre y de mi padre
tengo una hermana y dos hermanos
mi hermano mayor lleva el nombre de mi padre y el nombre del hermano mayor
de mi madre
el hermano mayor de mi madre murió en un accidente de aviación
-dicen que no fue un accidente-
dicen que sabotearon el avión para que cayera el gobierno de mi abuelo militar que nacionalizó la gulf y el estaño
mi hermano menor lleva el nombre del sid campeador y el del hermano menor de mi madre que es también el de su padre
yo llevo mi nombre y el nombre de la hermana mayor de mi padre muerta por un ataque de epilepsia en el oriente boliviano
la madre de mi padre dice que nació en un lugar donde el cementerio es más grande que el pueblo, y que no conoció la palabra amor . . .
mi hermana lleva su nombre y los dos nombres de mi madre
el hermano menor de mi madre lleva el nombre de su padre
– pero no lo usa nunca –
la hermana menor de mi madre es adoptada
– pero ese es un secreto a voces –
yo soy esposa de mi esposo
yo no uso el apellido de mi esposo
mi esposo era el novio de la hija segunda del hermano menor de mi madre
mi madre y el padre de mi esposo tuvieron un romance
mi padre se puso algo celoso
mi madre era enferma de los celos
auscultaba los bolsillos de mi padre y lo llamaba como loca por teléfono
yo sufro de celos
mi marido me ha engañado varias veces
yo nunca he podido engañar a mi marido
no me he atrevido
todavía
madre y padre
madre patria
pacha mama
el árbol familiar no conoce sus raíces
no puede verlas
en la oscuridad y profundidad de la tierra
allí debajo escondidas
lejanas a la copa
al aire
y a las ramas
en las ramas de este árbol
cuelgan los muertos
los suicidios
el hermano de la madre de mi padre
se pegó un tiro la noche de navidad
el hermano menor de mi padre aspiró cocaína hasta detener su corazón
el primo hermano de mi madre se lanzó por las cataratas del niágara
muertes poéticas
muertes
el padre de mi madre murió de cáncer de páncreas
el padre de mi padre murió de enfisema pulmonar
a este árbol le cuesta respirar
no conoce sus raíces
los apellidos recorren toda la estructura
se desvanecen
se hacen transparentes

from Patria bastarda (2014)

 

Jessica Freudenthal Ovando, born in Madrid in 1978, is a Bolivian writer who lives in La Paz. She promotes children’s reading with the Colectivo Lee and teaches Spanish on the International Baccalaureate Programme. She received an honorary mention in the Premio nacional de poesíá Yolanda Bedregal for her book Hardware (2009) and since then her work has appeared in various anthologies throughout America and Europe. Her second collection, Demo, was published in 2010, Patria bastarda in 2014, and El filo de las hojas in 2015.

Poems for staying at home (Day 23)

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‘When spirit plays at being matter, it turns into cat’. A selection of cat poems from Darío Jaramillo. Published in Impossible Loves (Carcanet, 2019).

 

Cats

 

The moon gilds the rooftops.
Unannounced, the shadows of cats appear.
They are so stealthy
they are only their shadows.
They see everything without being seen
and everything must be still while they move
so they can feel themselves to be unmoving,
the cats, their shadows.

*

Cloud in the shape of a cat:
cat that eats moons.
stealthy carnivore of the sky,
disguised as a cloud
or muffled in the darkness,
cat that devours stars.
Crouching, it surveys the heavenly spheres
and guzzles them in the night,
cat that eats moons.

*

States of matter.
The states of matter are four in number:
liquid, solid, gaseous and cat.
The cat is a special state of matter
although doubts remain:
Is this voluptuous contortion matter?
Is this way of sleeping not heaven-sent?
And this silence: might it emerge from a place without time?
When spirit plays at being matter
it turns into cat.

*

Wisdom of the cat:
To be idle all day without ever being bored.
Materialisation of the cat:
when the cat becomes matter, it extends its claws.
Guile of the cat:
it pretends to be a domestic animal.
Silence of the cat:
cats keep all the secrets of the night.
Mysteries of the cat:
everything about the cat is mysterious.

*

Nearly all cats
are cats.
But there are also cats that are not cats.
There are, to be sure:
we know about witches who take the form of a cat
and no one speaks of cats who turn into witches.
It could happen that a cat is so laid back
that it ceases to be a cat without becoming anything else,
a cat so idle
that it can’t be bothered with being a cat.

*

Words for speaking about cats:
there are no words for speaking about cats.
Words do not encompass cats.
Cats are indifferent
to beings who speak.
A bark might disturb them
and a thunder-clap give cats a shock.
But cats do not hear words,
they are not interested in anything that can be said with words.
Why words when you can have smell?
Why words when
silence is possible?

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Gatos

La luna dora los techos.
Inesperadas, aparecen las sombras de los gatos.
Son tan sigilosos
que son solamente sus sombras.
Ellos ven todo sin ser vistos
y todo debe estar quieto mientras se mueven
para que ellos puedan sentirse inmóviles,
los gatos, sus sombras.

*

Nube en forma de gato:
gato que come lunas,
sigiloso carnívoro del cielo,
disfrazado de nube
o embozado en lo oscuro,
gato que devora estrellas.
Agazapado, vigila las órbitas
y las engulle en la noche,
gato que come lunas.

*

Estados de la materia.
Los estados de la materia son cuatro:
líquido, sólido, gaseoso y gato.
El gato es un estado especial de la materia,
si bien caben las dudas:
¿es materia esta voluptuosa contorsión?
¿no viene del cielo esta manera de dormir?
Y este silencio, ¿acaso no procede de un lugar sin tiempo?
Cuando el espíritu juega a ser materia
entonces se convierte en gato.

*

Sabiduría del gato:
hacer pereza todo el día sin llegar nunca al tedio.
Materialización del gato:
cuando el gato se convierte en materia, saca las uñas.
Astucia del gato:
fingir que es un animal doméstico.
Silencio del gato:
los gatos guardan todos los secretos de la noche.
Misterios del gato:
todo en el gato es misterioso.

*

Casi todos los gatos
son gatos.
Pero existen gatos que no son gatos.
Que los hay los hay:
se sabe de brujas que se meten entre un gato
y nadie cuenta de gatos convertidos en bruja.
Puede ocurrir que un gato sea tan indolente
que deje de ser gato sin volverse nada distinto,
sólo un gato tan perezoso
que le da pereza ser gato.

*

Palabras para hablar de los gatos:
No hay palabras para hablar de los gatos.
Los palabras no abarcan a los gatos.
Los gatos son indiferentes
con los seres que hablan.
Un ladrido puede molestarlos
y un estruendo asusta a los gatos.
Pero los gatos no oyen las palabras.
no les interesa nada que pueda decirse con palabras.
¿Para qué las palabras si hay olfato,
para qué las palabras
si es posible el silencio?

 

Darío Jaramillo is one of Colombia’s foremost poets and novelists, widely acclaimed for re-energising the love poem, and winner of his country’s National Poetry Prize (2017). He is the recipient of the International Federico García Lorca Prize (2018) for a lifetime contribution to Spanish literature. His poems have been translated into English by Richard Gwyn, and have been published by Carcanet as Impossible Loves (2019). His poems also appear in The Other Tiger (Seren, 2016).