from Issue #8: Poetry by Blanca Castellón, translated by Roger Hickin

Photo (CC) Daniela @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Daniela @ Flickr

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Read the original Spanish, then the English translations in blue.

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Inútil

A cuenta de qué
esta preocupación
por un completo extraño
que abre y cierra puertas en el súper mercado

gastar energías deseando al sujeto su gran día
que algún cliente de los que entran y salen a montón
descubra en él un talento particular que lo catapulte al estrellato
que al regresar a casa encuentre
un billete premiado en la cuneta
que por esa puerta que ha abierto treinta veces
en lo que llevo yo observando
aparezca sonriendo su artista predilecta
y le dedique el milagro de un abrazo

porque no centro mi atención en asuntos productivos
mientras espero a Luis en mi automóvil
frente a la plaza de compras mas agitada de Managua
donde un trabajador intenta ganar el sustento
a costa de arrastrar la pesada cadena de naderías

para que puede servir mi observación extrema
en que puede ayudar mi propuesta imaginaria a la vida ajena
en que podría serle útil este poema
a un Perico de Los Palotes
que ha capturado mi afecto pasajero.

A waste of time

Why this concern
with a total stranger
who opens and shuts doors at the supermarket

why bother hoping he has a great day
that some customer amongst those who throng in and out
will see in him a special talent that catapults him to stardom
that on his way home he’ll find
a winning lottery ticket in the gutter
that through the door
I’ve watched him open thirty times
his favourite actress will enter smiling
and (o miracle!) grant him a great big hug

why don’t I concentrate on something worthwhile
as I wait in the car for Luis
in front of the busiest shopping mall in Managua
where a worker attempts to earn a living
hauling the heavy chain of trivia

only to be exposed to my intense observation
an accessory to my imagining of another’s life
in which this poem might be of use
to an Everyman
who has won my fleeting affection.

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Trepanación virtual

Dan ganas de sacarse
el cerebro de la cabeza

meterlo en la tina del baño
con agua tibia
sales minerales
y burbujas aromáticas

contemplar desde afuera la corteza
con el manto de tejido nervioso
que cubre los hemisferios

fascinados ante semejante espectáculo gris

esperando que brote
entre sus 100.000 millones de neuronas
–– tantas como estrellas de nuestra galaxia ––
un poema rojo
muy rojo
como gota de sangre infantil

un poema verde
tipo reserva de Bosawas

mientras descansamos
de los pensamientos
mientras pasan las guerras
y las hambrunas

mientras llega una epidemia
que extermine a los corruptos

mientras el combate mental
nos da una tregua.

Virtual trepanation

You want to remove
the brain from the head

put it in a bathtub
of warm water
mineral salts
and fragrant bubbles

study the cortex from the outside
with its layer of nerve tissue
covering the hemispheres

–– such a gray spectacle is irresistible ––

awaiting the emergence from among its
100,000 million neurons
–– as many as the stars in our galaxy ––
of a red poem
a really red one
like a drop of child’s blood

a poem as green as
Bosawas rain forest

while we rest
from thinking
while wars
and famines happen

while an epidemic strikes
that wipes out the corrupt

while there’s a lull
in mental strife.

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Una de cuatro (una pared propia)

Es importante tener una pared
construirla con
lo que tengamos a mano
alzarla hasta que roce la utopía

es importante tener una pared
abrir ahí el aire cuando falten ventanas
colgar el sol cuando sobren tormentas
es importante tener una pared para detener
poemas en fuga

es importante que una pared
sirva de pecho cuando sea necesario
o de pizarra para calcular lo que va quedando
a favor nuestro en la ecuación de libertad

es importante tener una pared

para frenar una traición
estrellar palabras huecas
sostener a la patria
fundar una republica

es importante tener una pared

una aunque sea
de aquellas cuatro
de Joaquín Pasos
que cierre cuerpos y sea eterna

a la vez reversible y portátil
dispuesta a la mudanza
cómplice del silencio
cascarón del honor.

One of four (a wall of one’s own)

It’s important to have a wall
to use what’s at hand
to construct it
to raise it up to reach utopia

it’s important to have a wall

to access air when windows are lacking
to hang the sun on after too many storms
it’s important to have a wall
to keep in truant poems

it’s important a wall
when required to can act as a breast
or a blackboard to show what remains to us
when freedom’s equation’s worked out

it’s important to have a wall

to stop treachery in its tracks
to shatter empty words on
to defend the motherland
to set up a republic

it’s important to have a wall

even one of the four
that Joaquín Pasos spoke of
that will close up bodies
and last forever

reversible and portable too
ready for change
silence’s accomplice
of honour – the shell.

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Traducciones verdes

No entendés
el lenguaje de la huerta

como vas a traducir
la hierba buena
el cilantro
el chile Congo
con los ojos
virados al desierto

jamás entrarás al
cante verde
ni hondo

ni serás capaz
de interpretar
la sal del cuerpo

podrás, si acaso
acariciar un día muerto

un valle seco

el brote de agua
lo tengo yo

no se diga mas

y que estallen en luz
las veraneras.

Interpreting green

You don’t know
the language of the garden

how will you interpret
mint
cilantro
chile Congo
with eyes turned
to the desert

green song
deep song
will be barred to you forever

you’ll be powerless
to explain
the body’s salt

just possibly you’ll get
to touch a lifeless day

a dried-up valley

I’ve got
the water’s gush

let’s leave it at that

and let the bougainvillea
dazzle us.

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Febrero

Los cadáveres que planté
hace años en mi memoria
han empezado a florecer
con tinta sobre hoja blanca

la escarcha del tiempo no fue
capaz de malograr su estela

los perros aún merodean
sus cosas personales
un zapato que guardé para
conservar el arco del pie amado

ese pie quizá se ha convertido
en flor pendiente de un arbusto
o Jacinto en el pelo de la muchacha que
hoy día busca ser nombrada
como la muchacha de los Jacintos.

Febrero no es el mes mas cruel
le dicen el mes del amor

yo prefiero llamarlo
como dijo un poeta de mi país
el mes joven:
que muere corto de días

y ya ven hoy mis cadáveres
tienen ganas de florecer
antes de que muera el mes
arrastrado en sus vientos.

Viene llegando el sol
me retiro a saludarlo

aquí dejo
cadáveres en flor
y una disculpa a Eliot
por evocar sus versos
sin consulta previa.

February

Corpses planted
in memory long ago
have begun to bloom
ink on a blank page

the frost of time could not
obliterate their traces

dogs go on turning over
their belongings
a shoe I’ve kept preserves the arch
of a beloved foot

the foot perhaps
is now a flower on a bush
a hyacinth in the hair of a girl
whose wish is to be named
the Hyacinth Girl.

February is not the cruellest month
it’s the month of love they say

together with a poet of my country
the young month
is what I’d call it: the one
that dies short of days

and you can see my corpses
are keen to bloom today
before winds haul the month off
to its death.

When the sun arrives
I’ll go to greet it

and leave behind
corpses in flower
and apologies to Eliot
for invoking his verses
without asking first.

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ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

BLANCA CASTELLÓN (b.1958) is a celebrated Nicaraguan poet whose books include Ama del espíritu (1995), Flotaciones (1998), Orilla opuesta (2000), Los juegos de Elisa (2005) and Cactus body (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand, 2014) a bilingual chapbook of recent poems which was launched at the 10th Festival Internacional de Poesía, Granada, Nicaragua in 2014. A bilingual English/Spanish selected poems is in preparation. Her poetry has been described as “both as light as foam and as sharp as a cut-throat razor” (Rogelio Guedea).

ROGER HICKIN is a New Zealand translator, poet, visual artist and publisher. His much-praised Cold Hub Press – coldhubpress.co.nz – publishes contemporary New Zealand and international poetry. He has published two collections of his own poetry, and translations of a number of Latin American poets, the most recent being Mexican poet Rogelio Guedea’s Si no te hubieras ido / If only you hadn’t gone. 

from Issue #4: Poetry by Rogelio Guedea, translated by Megan Saltzman

Photo (CC) Dennis Jarvis @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Dennis Jarvis @ Flickr

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The original Spanish version of each poem appears first, followed by its translation in blue.

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Celebración de la garza

La poesía no sirve para salvarte. Para salvar a nadie.
La poesía no sirve para cruzar un río,
para enredar una magnolia en una oreja no sirve.
Tampoco sirve para subir a un autobús sin pagar.
Para entrar en el cine por el ojo de la alcantarilla no sirve para eso la poesía.
Tampoco sirve
para levantar un muro que detenga el mar.
No sirve de asiento en los trenes, de almohada en los aviones altos,
la poesía tampoco sirve para enamorar a la niña del apartamento contigo,
si crees que sirve para eso estás equivocado.
No sirve para eso, loco.
La poesía no es un analgésico para que puedas dormir.
No sirve para quitarte el insomnio, antes te da más, antes te aprieta
las mandíbulas.
Tampoco sirve para salvarte de la multa policial. Ni siquiera del anuncio
diciendo ocupado en un baño público.
La poesía sólo se salva a sí misma. No a ti, no a tu abuelita,
ella misma es la salvadora de su propia voluntad.
Se escribe para salvarse, te utiliza como a un guante viejo para salvarse,
va ocupando tu cuerpo, tus manos, tus ojos, tu nariz.
Va ocupándote hasta que te hace desaparecer.
Un día te preguntas y ya no estás, la casa desmantelada,
las ventanas cerradas.
Un letrero que dice: Se vende. Para mayores informes.

Celebration of the Heron 

Poetry is not for saving yourself. Not for saving anybody.
Poetry is not for crossing a river,
not for tangling a magnolia in an ear.
Nor is it for riding a bus without paying.
To enter the cinema through the manhole, poetry is not for that either. 
Nor is it for
raising a wall to hold back the sea.
It’s no good as a train seat, as a pillow on high-altitude airplanes,
poetry is not for making the girl in the apartment next door fall in love with you,
if you think that’s what it’s for, you’re mistaken.
It is not for that, stupid.
Poetry is not a painkiller to help you sleep.
It won’t take away your insomnia, instead it would make it worse, it would
tighten your jaw.
Nor will it save you from a police fine.  Not even from the sign
that reads busy in a public bathroom.
Poetry only saves itself.  Not you, or your grandma,
it is the saviour of its own free will.
It writes itself to save itself, it uses you like an old glove to save itself, it starts
occupying your body, your hands, your eyes, your nose.
Occupying you until it makes you disappear.
One day you wonder and you’re not there, the house dismantled,
the windows closed.
A sign that says: For sale. Inquire for more information.

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Reminder

Una mujer no se hace con la sombra de la primavera,
tampoco se hace una mujer como tu hombro con un trozo de la noche
que olvidaste.
Ni con el alero de una casa de campo, tampoco
con la mano que lleva puesto un guante.
Una mujer como tu cuerpo que nace no se hace cinco minutos
antes de salir al trabajo. En medio del desayuno: no.
Ni durante el almuerzo con los colegas tampoco.
Una mujer es otra cosa distinta a una espalda recargada contra un árbol.
Es una garza distinta.
Y no se hace escribiéndola día a día, o borrándola noche a noche,
ni siquiera pensándola se hace,
no es una fecha en que debamos encontrarnos
ni un pañuelo blanco largo para despedirse.
Una mujer es siempre otra cosa,
más allá de lagos o edificios está,
no le aseguran la vida un seguro de vida o una cuenta bancaria,
una jubilación o una casa en renta,
nadie podría intimidarla con una navaja de rasurar
o enternecerla con un ramo de rosas blancas.
Una mujer no existe porque tú existes,
no se hace con lo que eres o no eres,
no te pertenece.
Una mujer es simplemente un hombre de buenos modales,
lo quieras o no, y siempre te permitirá caer, a ti primero,
en el siguiente abismo.

Reminder

A woman doesn’t become with the shadow of spring,
nor does she become a woman like your shoulder with a chunk of the night
that you forgot.
Nor with the eaves of a country house, nor
with the hand that wears a glove.
A woman like your body that’s being born doesn’t become five minutes
before leaving for work.  In the middle of breakfast: no.
Not during lunch with her colleagues either.
A woman is something different than a back leaning against a tree.
She is a different heron.
And she doesn’t become by writing about her day by day, or deleting her night by night,
not even thinking about her does she become,
she is not a date when we should meet
nor a white handkerchief for waving goodbye.
A woman is always something else,
she is beyond the lakes or buildings,
life insurance or a bank account cannot assure her life,
retirement or a rental home,
no one could intimidate her with a cut-throat razor
or soften her with a bouquet of white roses.
A woman does not exist because you exist,
she doesn’t transform with what you are or are not,
she doesn’t belong to you.
A woman is simply a man with good manners,
whether you want it or not, and she’ll always allow you to fall, you first,
into the next abyss.

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cerezas

para traer su testimonio, trayéndolo como arrastrado
……lago sin su mirlo,
…………………………….y vuelto a nacer crecido en pie con su fulgor,
su mano, su quijada, su pájaro cerrado,
……………………………………………………..otro palito su cuchara lejos
far away pero silente astro que no ves, pie girando alrededor
………del astro,
……………………..todo arco para empezar del uno al dos del dos
al casi,
…………juntura de su aroma, remedando al riachuelo de la virgen santa
del pueblo de José,
………………………….que se la comía (a mordiscones): Suchitlán, 1996.
un estanque,
…………………una piedra ciega de su traslación,
……………………………………………………………..una palabra que es y otra
que habita su silencio, junto, agazapadamente/
y entonces
…………………(New Zealand, 2006)
……………………………………………comenzar su ligazón: país, mujer,
trenes puentes vías (sic)
…………………………………y una ventana: asomándose para medir la distancia
del aire de su pie a su pie,
…………………………………..del vuelo de su ojo a su ojo,
de su mano que escribe pie y ojo a su mano que calla reclinada contra
…………el viento,
su dama:
……………….su vieja estación sin profecías,
………………………………………………………………again.

cherries

in order to bring his testimony, dragging it through
…….a lake without its blackbird,
…………………………………..and again born already grown standing up with its glow,
his hand, his jawbone, his closed bird,
………………………………………………………….another handle its spoon far away
lejos but noiseless star that you don’t see, foot spinning around
…………the star,
……………………….all arch in order to start from the one to the two from the two
to almost,
…………..junction of its smell, imitating the stream of the holy virgin
from the town of José,
………………………………..who used to eat it up (big bites): Suchitlán, 1996.
a creek,
………………..a rock blind from its movement,
………………………………………………………………..a word that is and another
that lives its silence, together, crouched down/
and then
……………………..(New Zealand, 2006)
…………………………………………………..to begin his bond: country, woman,
trains bridges routes (sic)
………………………………….and a window: looking out to measure the distance
of the air from his foot to his foot,
………………………………………………….of the flight from his eye to his eye,
of his hand that writes foot and eye to his hand that hushes leaning against
…………..the wind,
his lady:
………………………his old station without prophecies,
………………………………………………………………………………otra vez.

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enclaves

buscando sus partes del otro lado de la acera:
………….su mano,
………………………..la calle de su pie,
………………………………………………..un ojo mirándole llorar
en lo distante
………………………..(yendo aquí, viniendo allá):
……………………………………………………………………..y luego, en la esquina
exacta,
………….el hombro asido a su ramaje, su círculo de mares infinitos,
…………………..su caracol arriba
………………………………………….y desde abajo:
recuperando árboles y muros, relojes o cornisas, un barco
que pasaba llevándolo,
………………………………traído hacia su garza/

con un anzuelo en los límites del agua, río sin equipaje ni versos
……….de don jorge
………………………….(todos los ríos van a dar…),
…………………………………………………………………y una ola cae,
cayendo otra ensenada//

……………………atado a sus abismos (un abismo puede ser también
la suma de dos casas)
……………………………..y a su sombra (una sombra sin pijama ni martillo),
recorriendo los pasillos de la memoria,
…………………………………………………………….su ruta incierta,
un día y más allá,
……………………….hasta llegar (su mano) a mi país,
para decir –de nuevo, otra vez-:
………………………………………….padre,
……………………………………………………..estos huecos que dejaste.

enclaves

searching for his parts from the other side of the sidewalk:
………….his hand,
………………………..his foot’s street,
………………………………………………..an eye watching him cry
in the distance
……………………….(going here, coming there):
………………………………………………………………….and then, on the corner
exact,
…………….the man clutching his branches, his circle of infinite seas,
………………………..his shell above
………………………………………………….and from below:
recovering tress and walls, watches and cornices, a boat
that was passing by carrying it,
………………………………………..brought towards its heron/

with a fishhook in the water’s limits, river without luggage or
………….don jorge’s verses
……………………………………..(all the rivers are going to end up…)
…………………………………………………………………………………………..and a wave falls,
falling another inlet//

………………………tied to its abysses (an abyss can also be
the sum of two houses)
………………………………….and to its shadow (a shadow without pajamas or hammer),
retracing the corridors of memory,
…………………………………………………………his uncertain path,
one day and beyond,
…………………………………..until (his hand) arrives at my country,
in order to say –again, anew-:
………………………………………father,
………………………………………………………these holes you left.

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ABOUT THE POET AND THE TRANSLATOR

Rogelio Guedea (Mexico, 1974) is a poet, essayist, novelist and translator. He is the author of forty books of poetry, essays, narrative, interviews and translations. Some of his recent books are: Mine fields (Aldus, 2013), Life in the rear window and other portable stories (Lectorum, 2012), Wristwatch: a chronicle of the Mexican poetry (19th and 20th Century) (UNAM, 2011) and The crime of Los Tepames (Random House Mondadori, 2013), a bestseller in Mexico. He is editing a critical history of 19th and 20th Century Mexican poetry, which will bring together 40 international scholars and will be published by Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes and the Fondo de Cultura Económica. He is a columnist for the Mexican newspapers El Financiero and La Jornada Semanal and currently the coordinator of the Spanish Programme at the University of Otago.

Since 2012, Megan Saltzman has taught and conducted research on Spanish language, culture and urban studies at West Chester University, near Philadelphia. Her main interest lies in how we—through our urban milieu—construct ideas regarding social identity, history and political potential. She is currently working on a book that focuses on contemporary Barcelona titled Public Everyday Space. She has published articles on urban nostalgia, alternative spaces of resistance in the city, and most recently on urban immigration and globalization in Spanish documentaries. Before moving to West Chester, Megan spent nine years teaching and researching in a variety of different places—Dunedin, New Zealand; Barcelona, Spain; Grinnell, Iowa; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Tokyo, Japan. She enjoys photography, textiles, languages, and wandering around cities. courses.wcupa.edu/MSaltzman/