from issue #8: ‘Ester Primavera’ by Roberto Arlt

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ESTER PRIMAVERA by ROBERTO ARLT
Translated from the Spanish by Lucas Lyndes

A previously untranslated classic Argentinean short story.

*

I AM OVERCOME by an inexorable emotion at the thought of Ester Primavera.

It’s as if a gust of hot wind had suddenly struck my face. And yet the mountain ridge is capped with snow. Velvety white icicles line the forks of a walnut tree beneath the garret I occupy on the third floor of the Pasteur Wing at the Santa Mónica Tuberculosis Sanatorium.

Ester Primavera!

Her name brings the past flooding back. My red fits grow paler with the beauty of each subsequent memory. To speak her name is to feel a hot wind suddenly strike my cold cheeks.

Stretched out on a long patio chair, covered to my chin with a dark blanket, I think of her constantly. I’ve spent seven hundred days thinking at all hours of Ester Primavera, the only living creature I have so atrociously offended. No, that’s not the word. It’s not that I’ve offended her. It’s worse than that: I’ve uprooted all hope of earthly kindness from inside her. Never more will she dare to dream, so crudely have I savaged her soul. And from that dishonor I derive a delicious sadness, which flares up under my skin. Now I know I am ready to die. I never suspected that remorse could reach such delectable depths; that sin might be such a frightfully soft pillow, where we recline forever with the anguish that ferments inside us.

I know she will never be able to forget me. The stare of that tall creature, moving her shoulders ever-so-slightly as she walks, is all the beauty that keeps me bolted to the world of the living I left behind for this hell.

I see her still. That long and delicate semblance, arranged in an expression of torment, as if always on approaching me she had just then freed herself from some enormous load she had been shouldering. It was this effort that kept her agility intact. As she walked, the frill of her black dress whirled about her knees, and a ringlet of her hair combed over her temple until just above her earlobe seemed to attend her gait, that rush to throw herself into the unknown. Sometimes her throat was wrapped in furs, and on seeing her pass you might mistake her for a stranger returning from far-off cities. And so it was that she approached me. Her twenty-three years, which had slipped through every possible plane of perpendicular existence, her twenty-three years bottled up in that graceful body strode toward me, as if I, in that present, constituted the definitive raison d’être of her entire past… Yes, this; she had lived twenty-three years for this: to stride along the broad sidewalk toward me with her tormented expression.

Santa Mónica Sanatorium.

How right they were to give to this red hell a name so synonymous with meekness, this place where death has tinged every semblance yellow, home to almost one thousand consumptives among its four wards: two for men and two for women.

Oh! And there are times when one might cry forever… And the circle of mountains there, that circle surpassed by mountain ridges more distant still, the circle where the gleaming rails disappear around a curve, where the trains glide past like toy caravans. The river, when there is sun, offers glints of light amidst the green; the cliffs colored violet in the dusk and red like embers at dawn; and higher up, Ucul, and down below, Cerro del Diablo, and along the tortuous horizontal slope, the blue methylene triangle of the reservoir behind the dam, forever advancing. And by night, by day, women coughing, men sitting up in bed, made rigid by fevered hallucinations or the taste of blood welling up on their palates from deep within. And God who reigns over all our souls gone taciturn with sin.

*

TO THE RIGHT of my patio chair, the half-breed Leiva. Profile like a beast rampant and brushstrokes of black mane over a hazel forehead.

To my left a red Jewish boy reposes, always silent, so as to slow the tuberculosis as it devours his larynx. Beyond him, in a long row that occupies the roofed patio, wooden chairs, and resting in them, children, men, adolescents, all wrapped in dark regulation blankets. Almost all of them have yellow skin stuck to the flat bones of their faces, their ears transparent, their eyes aflame or gone glassy, their nostrils palpitating as they slowly inhale the glacial air coming off the mountain.

Between the lashes of those half-open eyelids, there languish flashes of memory. Some of these eyes still hold fast to something seen recently; and then, in hiding, they glaze over with tears. All of us are like that, always remembering something in this mountaintop sanatorium. I think of her; for seven hundred days now, I have thought of Ester Primavera. When I speak her name aloud, my cheeks are struck by a gust of hot wind. And yet the gray snow covers the mountain peaks. Below them, all is black in the caverns.

The half-breed Leiva lights a cigarette.

“Want a puff, Seven?” he says to me.

“Alright.”

We smoke with caution; it’s been forbidden to us. We blow the smoke out beneath the blankets, and suddenly the nicotine contracts our stomachs in a dizzy spell. From inside the room comes constant coughing. It’s Bed Three. A few concise words are crossed.

“Did you sleep last night?”

“Not much.”

“Still running a temperature?”

“Yeah.”

Or else:

“When are they putting in the chest tube?”

“Tomorrow.”

“You anxious?”

“What?… So I can keep on like this?”

A black man lies ecstatic in the patio chair, his coal gray head collapsed in infinite fatigue against the fabric. Leiva looks at him and says, “That one won’t make it past winter.”

From inside the room comes the sound of coughing. Now it’s Nine, Nine who just won’t finish dying, Nine who bet the ward medic a crate of beer bottles “that I won’t die this winter.” And he won’t die. He won’t die because his willpower is going to get him through until spring. And the doctor, a specialist, is sulking over this “case.” He says to him—the sick man is practically a friend and he knows his situation all too well—”But there’s no way you’ll make it. Can’t you see you haven’t even got this much lung tissue left in you?” And he turns his pinkie nail to the patient.

Nine, cornered into a whitewashed right angle of the room, laughs with a subterranean death rattle in his acrid fog of decomposition. “Forget about it ‘til spring, doctor. Don’t you go getting your hopes up.”

And the medic walks away from the bedside in exasperation, intrigued by this “case” whose very progress is the negation of all his knowledge. But before he goes, he says with a laugh, “Why don’t you just die? Do me a favor. Is it that much to ask?”

“No, it’s you who’s going to do me a favor by paying up with that crate of beer.”

The doctor has tuberculosis, too. “Just a corner of the left lung, that’s all.” The intern as well—”practically nothing, the right lung’s just a bit soft”—and so on. All of us moving about like specters in this hell named for a saint, all of us know we’re sentenced to death. Today, tomorrow, next year… one day…

Ester Primavera!

The fine damsel’s name strikes my cheeks like a gust of hot wind. Leiva coughs, the Jewish boy dreams of his father’s fur shop, where right this instant Mordecai and Levi are probably laughing by the samovar, and the chapel bell tolls. A toy-like train disappears around the gleaming bend of the tracks and pierces the black caverns. And Buenos Aires, so far away… so far away…

It’s enough to make you kill yourself, but kill yourself there, in Buenos Aires… On the threshold of her doorway.

I knew that I wanted her to be mine forever when, on the tram to Palermo, I answered Ester Primavera’s question with these words: “No, don’t even dream of it. I’ll never get married, and especially not to you.”

“No matter. We’ll be friends then. And when I have a suitor, I’ll stroll up to you with him so you can meet him. Although I won’t say a word to you, naturally.” With her eyelids lowered, she avoided me as if she’d just committed a wrongful deed.

“So you’re accustomed to these cynical games, then?”

“Yes. I once had a friend very like you…”

I laughed and said, “How strange!… Women who frequently change friends always seem to find another just like the one before him.”

“How delightful you are!… Well, as I was saying, when the situation became risky, I would take my distance so I could return when I felt stronger.”

“Do you realize just how deliciously shameless you are? I’m beginning to think you’re sizing me up.”

“What? Don’t you feel at peace by my side?”

“Look me in the eyes.”

A lock of hair left her temple uncovered, and despite her malicious smile there persisted in her an expression of fatigue that rent her pale little face with suffering.

“And your boyfriend? What was his opinion of that cynical game?”

“He wasn’t familiar with it.”

“You’re wicked.”

Suddenly she looked at me gravely. “Yes. I’m bored of so much stupidity. Do you know what it means to be a woman?”

“No. I can’t even imagine.”

“Then why do keep looking at me with that face? Don’t get angry, but you seem like a bit of a halfwit. Wait, what are you thinking?”

“Nothing… You can probably imagine what I’m thinking. But remember this: if you ever dare to play a dirty trick on me, I won’t let you forget me as long as you live.”

My insolence pleased her. Smiling malevolently, she said, “Tell me… Just out of curiosity… Don’t be angry… You’re not the kind of man who meets a girl, and then says to her after a week, with his puppy dog eyes, ‘Won’t you give me some proof of your affection, miss?,’ and asks for a kiss?”

I observed her dourly. “I may very well never ask you for or give you a thing.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I’m not interested in anything you might have to give.”

“And how do I interest you, then?”

“As entertainment… Nothing more. When I’m bored of putting up with your insolence, I’ll abandon you.”

“So you find my soul attractive, then?”

“Yes, but no one else is going to see things that way.”

“And why not?”

“It would be best not to talk of it.”

Now we walked amidst the green silence of the trees. With a childlike voice she told me of other climes, of outbreaks of suffering. In Rome she had visited a hospital for those mutilated in the war. She saw faces that looked as if they’d been sent through the rollers of a laminating machine, and craniums cut off at obtuse angles, as if trepanned with a drill. She had visited the lands of ice and cetaceans. She had loved a man who gambled away one night—on the tabletop in a ghastly tavern in Comodoro, among prospectors and murderers—his entire fortune. And he left her standing there in her bridal gown so he could continue living his lawless existence among the card sharks of Arroyo Pescado.

We conversed all morning long. The tip of her parasol alit on the sun dapples that covered the red gravel of the paths. I thought of the singular contrast between the substance of what she was narrating and the delicate tone of her voice, such that her charm was doubled by the overlapping persons I discovered in her: in her trusting intimacy she was a child, while in her acts she was a woman.

And we treated each other not as strangers, but as people who have known one another a long time now, between whom no secrets exist, for whom the nakedness of the soul has laid bare all possibilities.

As she delved into those events, careful not to complain out of deference to any lack of interest on my part, her voice became warmer and more refined, so that one involuntarily understood he was in the presence of a young lady. And these two words, so far as she was concerned, took on a sense of perfection, perfect and visible like a silver tuberose sprouting from an iron bar.

And then with sadness, we said goodbye. But before disappearing, she doubled back and said to me, “Thank you for looking upon me with eyes so free from desire. With you I shall always be able to talk about anything. Don’t think poorly of me.”

Then, moving her shoulders slightly, the skirt whirling round her agile legs, she disappeared.

*

OF THE FIVE OF US who gather each night in that room, who is the vilest?

Yes, always, two hours after dinner, we gather for a mate. The first to arrive is Sacco, with onion head and boxer’s body, paler than a votive candle, who was a hood back in Buenos Aires. He’s got a rap sheet longer than a thesis paper. Then comes the hunchback Febre, who steals flasks of morphine from the nurses’ station; then Paya, brawny, bow-legged, his milky face forever clean-shaven, with a spark of bitter light deep in his hazel eyes and the magnificent bearing of one used to relying on his physique.

They come to “our” room while the Jewish boy is asleep. Leiva the Eraser prepares the mate while Sacco tunes up the guitar, covering the instrument’s body with his broad chest.

We all drink mate from the same metal straw; we no longer fear contagion and one germ more or one less among us matters little. The conversation flags shortly after starting, and more often than not we sit in silence.

Oh, yes! We call Leiva “The Eraser.” He doesn’t like to talk about the people he’s rubbed out. He calls it “rubbing someone out” when he’s murdered them. But when he gets drunk at the dive bar next to the bus stop in Ucul, at the turnoff to the sanatorium, he starts to reminisce. This happens on Sundays, when the cockfights are held and even the highest-ranking politician in the department comes to town, every last slob in Ucul with a peso to bet. Leiva, his elbows propped on the table, looking somberly out at the rectangle of distant meadow framed by the doorway, evokes the good old days with certain euphemisms.

He was a cattle herder in Las Varillas. “Outside San Rafael,” he “rubbed out” his first person. Under the obtuse angle of the garret roof, the guitar strings tuned by Sacco leave diapasons hanging in the air turned white with smoke, as the notes gradually grow dim. The hunchback rests his jute sandals on the edge of the brazier, and with his marmoset’s face, rocking his head back and forth, he follows the rhythm of the dulcet tones.

Paya, his neck wrapped in a silk kerchief, takes refuge in sullen silence, occupying an angle of the room where the roof hangs lowest.

He thinks, remembering his furnished apartment on the corner of Corrientes and Talcahuano. He reminisces…

Who amongst the five is the vilest?

Each of us has led a wayward or tragic life.

One summer morning I was surprised by a terrible pain in my lung. Paya felt the blood rise to his lips like a water fountain one night while cutting cards, with a two thousand peso bet on a full house. Leiva was brought down by the flu, Sacco by his coughing, a cough so insistent that a fit tipped off a fellow bus passenger just as Sacco was lightening his pockets.

Bored and brooding, we sit around Leiva, who has now taken up the guitar. Our foreheads remain bowed, our faces set in a virile expression, an affirmation of our desire to live more cruelly still. The boy with laryngitis sleeps with his face to the wall, and his red hair leaves a copper stain on the pillow. Paya lets the cigarette butt smolder between his lips. He thinks of “the life,” the police lineups, the nights spent in the clink. He thinks of the radiant afternoons at the races, the black stands filled with porteños, the jockeys’ colored shirts slipping vertiginously around the track: green, red, yellow shirts swelled up in the wind as the working stiffs sucked on oranges by the dozen, shouting their heads off as their favorites ran by.

Leiva bleeds a tango onto the weeping strings of the guitar. Our cruel expressions crumble in a convulsive tremor of facial nerves. Like wild beasts in the forest, we catch the scent of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires so far away. Among the snowy mountains, Ester Primavera’s name strikes my cheeks like a gust of perfumed wind, and Leiva’s profile, turned leathery by sun and wind, remains bowed over the lute. His eyes, too, settle on a distant recollection, the green and violet pampa, the restless cattle in the mountain mist, the cup of cane liquor drunk at the counter, with one hand on his holster and the glass raised in a toast.

Sacco, on the edge of my bed, cleans his nails with the tip of a knife. He, too, reminisces. He’s back in Cell Block Three, with the thieves awaiting a visit the next morning from the woman who will bring them clothes, or news from their lawyers; then dusk, with their repugnant rations in the trash, still steaming, followed by the interminable card games; the excitement of reencounters, trips to court in the prison bus, tales of con jobs, the prolegomenon of the holding cells, the letter sent in an attempt to cheat some poor sap with tales of fraudulent bankruptcy… The exhilaration of freedom… The profound exhilaration of that jailer’s shout: “Sacco… Bring your stuff on up to the front.”

Like a gust of hot wind, Ester Primaver’s name strikes my cheeks.

The tango sounds out scenes of anguish, where the women wear purple shoes and the men’s faces are like maps made of gashes and knife scars.

Straightening up in pain, Sacco suddenly says, “The old bellows are killing me. Been killing me for three days.”

A twitch contracts his thin lips over his twisted teeth.

“Does it hurt?”

“Yeah. A lot…”

“Why don’t you have them cup and bleed you?”

“I’m sick to death of the incisions. My back looks like it’s been through the meat grinder…”

*

I SAW HER the day after our talk. What evil spirit suggested to me such a wicked experiment? I don’t know. Afterward I’ve often thought that my illness must have been growing inside of me already, and the malice evident in all of my actions was the consequence of a nervous imbalance brought on by the toxins secreted by the bacteria. I would later discover that there are a great number of depraved consumptives, inflamed by temperaments that have brought suffering upon their fellow man.

The evil hidden in each man is endowed with dark impulses when the blood becomes poisoned, in a kind of repressed hatred of which the sick man is well aware, though this doesn’t stop him from letting it seep into his personal relationships. The act is accompanied by a bitter pleasure, a sort of morbid desperation.

Oh, that’s right! I saw her the next night in the doorway of her home, which opens onto the garden. She could do nothing but stare at me. I had the presentiment that something was going to happen. I didn’t speak, my words held in by the anguish of the lie I was about to tell her. It was a madman’s test.

I said to her, “I’m married.”

Her head bent toward the back of her neck as if she had received a cross to the jaw. Her facial features went slack in an explosion of white heat. The skin of her jaw and her lips drew taught with a quiver. A thin wrinkle parted her forehead, and for an instant her eyelids trembled above her eyes, from which her soul seemed to be trying to escape. Then, for a moment, her gaze fell still behind the rigid lashes permeated by a dying spark.

Finally, she regained her intense passion.

“No, it isn’t possible… Say it’s not so.”

Instead of taking pity on her distress, a somber expectation held me steadfast. If Death had stood by her side and her life had depended on my saying the word, it was a word I would not have pronounced. Was this not, after all, the loveliest moment of our lives? Could we bottle up more anguish for the future than at that very moment? There, we were perfectly authentic; I, a man who gambled away a woman before her very eyes… Everything else was a lie… What was authentic was this, the pain of this girl who had forgotten her duties to herself according to convention, who had forgotten all appearances, thus transforming her into an eternal child; at that very moment, I was not worthy to kiss the dust trodden by her feet.

Suddenly, she moved away. She said, “No, this isn’t possible. We must see each other tomorrow.”

And we saw each other not just once, but many times. She prodded further at my lie, that lie that was someone else’s truth, and I couldn’t contradict my tale.

I strolled through the gardens with that lovely creature. With her gray parasol, she opened furrows in the sand, and under the delicate weave of her straw hat, she smiled like a convalescent. Having forgotten it all, we spoke of the mountains I had never seen, and the cliffs that sit by the sea’s edge (this I didn’t know), where the stench of the algae renders the icy atmosphere as penetrating as that of another planet.

She had seen the far-off lands of the South, the solitude of lighthouses, the sadness of violet sunsets, the awful tedium of the sand whipped up ceaselessly by the winds on the dunes. And as I listened to Ester Primavera, my fleeting happiness became more intense than suffering; mine was a hopeless love. And Ester Primavera understood what was taking place inside me, and so that I would never forget her, so that I might always remember those passing moments, she adorned them with her infinitely delicate words and her childish demeanor; that will to bring everything to a close, hidden under such a frail and sweet appearance, seemed inconceivable.

One day we said goodbye forever. Her eyes filled up with tears.

*

THE GUITAR rings out raucously in the half-breed Leiva’s hands. Sacco is brewing mate. The black mountain exhales a savage breeze like a monster slowly respiring. Outside, the windows of each ward are lit up. Making his way with a flashlight, a nurse walks along a sandy path, his white apron inflated by the wind. In his hand he carries a bag of oxygen.

Paya, seated on the edge of Leiva’s bed, smokes leisurely. No one speaks; we listen to the tango, a tango that plumbs the back alleys of death in the shape of a woman coming in from the streets.

Suddenly, the Jewish boy awakes in terror. Disheveled, with his back against the headboard, he coughs nonstop.

“There’s a lot of smoke in here,” says Leiva.

“Yeah, a lot.”

Paya opens the window and a gust of frozen air eddies for an instant in the foggy atmosphere. The Jewish boy coughs constantly, with his kerchief pressed against his lips. Then he looks at the kerchief and smiles joyously. The fabric is still white.

“There’s no blood?”

The redhead shakes his head no.

This is our obsession. And we always keep up on one another.

There’s not a single one of us who doesn’t know just where his lesion is situated, along with those of his roommates. We listen to each other’s insides. Some guys have a real keen ear. They pick up before the doctors do the sibilant sound of leaking air somewhere in the back or chest indicating a deadly crevice.

We talk of the disease’s progress with a sickly erudition. We even place bets—yes, bets—on the dying patients in our wings. Packs of cigarettes are gambled away to see who nails the time of death of the next to go. A complicated and ghastly game, since sometimes the dying man doesn’t die, instead “reacting,” entering into convalescence, curing himself of the disease and then mocking the gamblers, becoming so enthusiastic as to ironically search out another “candidate” on whom to place bets.

In life and death, there are moments that seem to us worth less than the butt of the cigarette we smoke so morosely.

If not for the memory of Ester Primavera, I reflect, I would have killed myself already. In the midst of all this misery, her name strikes my cheeks like a gust of hot wind.

She has ceased to be a woman who will one day grow old, with her white hair and her old woman’s smile, worn-out and sad. Bound to me by indignity, for seven hundred days now remorse has persisted inside of me like a splendid and perpetual metal shard. My joy lies in knowing that on my deathbed, as the nurses walk by without looking at me, the tattered image of that delicate creature will be there to accompany me until the end. Yet how to ask for her forgiveness? Even so, for seven hundred days now, I think of her at all hours.

Wrapped in an overcoat, I walk out to the gallery with a blanket on my back. In truth, this is forbidden, but I find a corner in the blackness and stretch out on a patio chair. It’s so dark out that the acrid odor of the espinillo trees seems like the voice of the earth. A dark mass juts up parallel to my face: the mountain. Far away, uncertain as stars, a cord of yellow lights reticulates the distance in a hypothetical plane. These are the streets of Ucul.

My flesh hardens on my bones. It’s so cold! Snowflakes fall. They look like feathers turning about themselves. And I think, “Why did I act so vilely with that child?”

And once again I fall back into that vulgar memory.

A month after everything had come to an end between us, I ran across her in the street in the company of an individual. He was puny, with an office manager’s mug, cat whiskers, and a mulatto face. She directed an ironic look at me, as if saying, “What do you think of this guy?” I stood for a quarter of an hour on the street corner, my mouth open… But what right had I to be incensed? Hadn’t she warned me already?

“I’ll get married to the first one who comes along and shows me he loves me just a little.”

Had that ironic look really appeared in those same eyes, once so teary? Was that possible? A cold rancor, one of those rages muted by the ferocity latent in every man, comprised solely of immediate action, took me to a café. I reflected that I needed to erase her from my life, to put her in a position that would make any further friendship between us impossible. She must abhor me so much that in the future, even were I to kneel before her as she passed, all such humiliation would be useless. I would be the only man she would hate with the patience of eternity.

So I asked for note paper and I wrote the most despicable letter that has ever left my hands. My ferocity and my desperation piled insult upon insult, distorting events she had narrated to me, exalting details of her life that would suggest to a third party with no knowledge of our relationship the idea of an intimacy that had never existed, and I refined each affront to make it more atrocious and unforgettable, not with coarse words, but by scorning her noble spirit, twisting her ideas, embarrassing her in such a way over her generosity that I suddenly thought, were she to read that letter right then, she would kneel before me and beg me not to send it. And yet, she was innocent.

Since I knew she was not at home at that very moment, but in the street conversing with another man, I sent it to her in the certainty that it would be received by her mother or her brother, who wouldn’t doubt what was written there because the references were to events that I could have only heard from her.

I called over a shoeshine boy and offered him a peso to deliver the letter. I instructed him to clap loudly so that the servant wouldn’t sequester it; the others in the house couldn’t help but ask who was in the doorway raising such a raucous. The boy, after abandoning his kit at the foot of the table, disappeared along the acacia-capped street, taking great bounds.

“It’s done now,” I thought to myself.

And yet I was unsure of what was happening inside me. A new serenity steeled my nerves. The shoeshine boy came back, and in the description he gave me of the man who had received the letter, I recognized her brother. I gave the boy his peso and he went away.

I set off down the street. I walked at peace, observing the sun dapples in the doorways, the green of the gardens, until I stopped to pick up a child who, running out of a passageway, had tripped and fallen. The child’s mother thanked me. I walked at peace, as if my personality were completely divorced from all wickedness. And yet there had occurred something as enormous and impossible to remedy as the progress of the sun or the passing of a planet. Only by impelling my mind was I able to imagine the arrival of the ragged child riotously clapping his hands, and the surprise of all those people at receiving, addressed to such a daughter…

I couldn’t help but laugh; sleep had trapped me in its gears. I imagined a gentleman brandishing the letter between interrupted attempts at domestic morals and Ciceronian invectives truncated by the mother’s fainting spell, the sisters crying over a possible catastrophe, the brother angrily interrogating the maid regarding my countenance so that he might pummel me, the frightened servant watching for the “girl’s” arrival and muttering between her teeth, “The things that happen, my Lord!” while the cook gloated among the pots and pans, delighting in the gossip that she would relate to her husband later that night, in the meantime praising the morals of the poor and saying with grotesque sufficiency, as she hung up a skillet: “Oh, no, better to be poor and principled…”

My chortling exploded so sonorously in the street that passersby stopped to look at me, convinced I had gone mad, and a watchman finally came over and asked me, “What’s going on, friend?…”

I looked at him insolently and responded that first of all, I was no friend of his, and then, “What? Is it forbidden to laugh at one’s own thoughts?”

“I meant no offense, sir.”

Then the delirium passed. Nothing could change what was done.

The night came, and I knew she was out there, suffering.

*

AS THE DAYS went by, I experienced every kind of remorse. I imagined Ester Primavera as the afternoon came to an end, alone in her bedroom. The pale creature, with her arms resting on the rectangular bronze headboard of her bed as she gazed at the pillows, would be thinking of me. And she would ask herself, “Is it possible I could have been so wrong? Is it possible for such a monster to be enclosed inside that man? Then all those words he said were lies, then all human words are lies? How could I have failed to see the falseness in his face and eyes? And how could I have told him about myself? How could I express so many sincere perspectives, give to him my purest self without moving him? He must be the vilest of all the men I’ve ever known. Why did it all happen?”

I never saw her as I did then, so sad in my memories. It seemed to me that all her dreams, floating like svelte parallelepipeds in the luminous morning air, were collapsing, covering her with the dust of the earth.

And as I reconstructed all the sorrows she must be suffering because of me, from afar I felt bound to her substance, and if in those instants Ester Primavera had come to kill me, I would not have moved.

How many times in those days I must have thought of the delight in dying by her hand. Because I had believed that through my terrible infamy I would scrub her from my conscience and that her pale face would dwell in me never more, but I was wrong. My cruel offense inserted her in my days, more immobile and fixed than a sword passed perpendicularly through my heart. And with each beat, the deep gash slowly expands.

For a time the fan blades of night and day revolved before my eyes as if I were drunk.

Many months later, I ran into her.

I was walking with my head down, when I instinctively lifted it. Ester Primavera crossed the street in my direction, coming toward me. I thought, “Oh, how happy I would be if she were to slap me.”

Could she have divined what was going on inside me?

Rapidly, with a slight movement of her shoulders, her semblance ragged, her gaze fixed, she advanced toward me. Her black dress whirled around her agile legs. A lock of hair left her temple uncovered, and her throat was wrapped in a short black fur.

Her steps became ever slower. She looked at me with stillness in her soul. I was the one who had made her suffer so… Suddenly she was only a step away… This was the same woman who had stood next to me one day, who talked of the mountains, the ocean, the cliffs… Our eyes were closer still; there was a lunar clarity in her face, the fine wrinkles of suffering crossed her forehead… Her lips twisted, and without saying a word, she disappeared…

For seven hundred days now, I have thought of her. Always of writing to her from this hell to ask her forgiveness.

The snow falls obliquely. In the darkness, a nurse advances. Suddenly, in his right hand, the bulb of the electric lantern flashes. He shines a white cone of light on me, and says drily, “Seven, go lay down.”

“I’m going.”

For seven hundred days now, I have thought of her. The snow falls obliquely. I get up from the patio chair and head to the ward. But before arriving, I skirt a railing with a view to the south. There, eight hundred kilometers away, lies Buenos Aires. The infinite night occupies a desolate space. And I think: “Ester Primavera…”

*

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roberto_Arlt_(1935)

ROBERTO ARLT (1900–1942) was an Argentine writer. His novels El juguete rabioso (1926) and Los siete locos (1929) have been respectively translated as The Mad Toy and The Seven Madmen. The latter will be republished by NYRB Classics in December 2015.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

LUCAS LYNDES is co-founder of Ox & Pigeon Electronic Books, a digital publisher of international literature in translation. His translation of the novel The Swimmers by Joaquín Pérez Azaústre was published by Frisch & Co. He lives in Lima, Peru.

‘Ester Primavera’ originally appeared in Spanish in La Nación, Buenos Aires (9 September, 1928). This English translation is copyright © 2015 Lucas Lyndes. All rights reserved.

Header photograph: ‘Eye’ by Hans Van Den Berg  @ Flickr. Republished under this Creative Commons licence.

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from Issue #8: Poetry by Lu Ye, translated by Ouyang Yu

Photo (CC) reurinkjan @ Flickr

Photo (CC) reurinkjan @ Flickr

 *

The Girl Students’ Dormitory

In fact, a girl students’ dormitory is equivalent
To a boudoir in ancient times
If they study in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature
It’s more like a Xiaoxiang Guan or Hengwu Garden

The clothes and skirts, out to dry, are full of youth
Coaxed as much as nourished by the sun
In the shade of the locust tree downstairs there always stands a boy
Looking lost, like Jia Baoyu or Zhang Junrui
The window, with a wind bell hanging, is upheld by the pious eye
Like the pagoda in the sacred revolutionary place
The last stop to love, like
An outpost position

Like debts, there is a heap of pen-notes to make on the desk
That darkens the good days with shadows
Desk holes stuffed with lipstick bought with meal savings
Pittance of tax paid to beauty
Print bed sheets spread with large acres of fresh flowers
In which serendipity hides, like bees
The stockings, over the bed rails, are lazy, ostentatiously coquettish
A dress with sad colours is in abnormal menstruation
A cloth doll is more stunning than her owner
The little speckles on its face have an antique feel
A diary, secretively, is harbouring amorous thoughts underneath the pillow
A red plum branch sticking out of its hardcover
And there is an envelope, just sealed, that looks as solemn
As a carefully furnished room

Like those who love beauty more than landscape
They love chocolate more than shape
Whenever they read they crack spicy melon seeds
Faster and more accurate than their reading
And they are ready to crack open their bodies
The way they crack the seeds
When they have too many instant noodles they smell of soap
Their shelf-life, like love, is no longer than six months
And the wildest love is no more than
Suffering migraines whose side-products are
Poetry and prose, of the whimpering and whinging kind

When time, as chewy as chewing gum, is not consumed
Something else must happen, something else must be extracted
From the rose that is youth
In the most critical moment
It would be best to fall ill, as ill as Xi Shi
For love, like revolution in nature
Wins where the linkage is at its weakest
Bodywise and heartwise

Here, everyone plays the leading role herself
In the film that is life
And treats the attentions of a boy as the Oscar
God has awarded her

.

*

.

The Nunnery

Life, like this nunnery
Has days that are no different from one another
It ends even before it is lived
The flowers outside open and fall, and fall and open
The trees behind the house green and yellow, and yellow and green
Even a small grass flashes her fashion
But I, the colour of blue brick and grey tile
Deteriorate and go moldy because of the long imprisonment of the aroma in
…………..my bone marrow

Locked inside a tiny niche
I, illegally, sleep with desire and morality, swallowing each others’ innards
The drum and evening bell execute days and nights
The beautiful holidays, that have breathed their last, resemble the roses,
…………..uprooted in the spring
Never believing in resurrection
The classics look like a coffin shop, as calculating as a mouth organ,
…………..punched everywhere with holes
Its thickness just enough to trip the lightest steps

I live but I have parted company with life
My character more desolate than the embroidered cliff
My body more serious than the dead branches
My expression no better than a slate of bluestone, where no moss gathers
And, in the hollow of my arms that reflects the fields
One feels the non-existence of air

However, a jug, sometimes empty and sometimes full, somehow shows
A face many years ago
Its smile, framed with fire, like a secret code that erases its traces from the
…………..dusty world
Flickers in the water
The mute wooden fish is sorrowing
And, looking for the recovery of knocked time, intends to swim away

Look, the yeast of dream needs little
To swell the heart
An idea, like an incandescent bulb, rushes from quietude
To quietude, like screaming rats, an ominous sound bouncing back from the
…………..southern wall

How I admire the bunch of plum flowers by the window, born in the
…………..morning and dying at dusk
Its soul as tender as a white handkerchief
I do not know what love is; I have not written honeyed words
But I shall keep a post-life letter
And my will one day break the sky, as hidden as an illegitimate child

.

*

.

Making a Coffin

People were busy making a coffin
Death was fresh
With a clear fragrance of wood chips and shavings
My grandfather, just dead, lay inside the house
He, I believe, must have heard
The sawing of the wood and the hammering of the nails outside

At the same time when I felt
That there was a large white flower opening, quietly, in the air

The sunlight everywhere, seemingly generous enough
I was walking in the courtyard
I, was, still, alive,
My viscera intact
Desiring to seek pleasure, for love alone

The makers of the coffin, I was hoping, should reduce the noise to a
minimum
As I did not want the person inside the house to hear this
Unlucky noise
He might have got upset
Perhaps he was only assuming that he was taking a nap
And would wake up in a little while
When he would push the window open and raise his head
Towards the sky in order to observe the direction of the wind

There was a large white flower
Opening, quietly, in the air

I was wondering what
To be placed inside the coffin
A tape-recorder with a tape of Lü Opera
An asthma gas spray, a cloth tiger
A woolen hat and a set of dentures
There were just so many to put in
I didn’t want to include the person

The large white flower in the air
Was becoming larger, and lighter

.

*

ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

LU YE is a Chinese poet born in December 1969. She has published a number of poetry collections, such as feng shenglai jiu meiyou jia (Wind is Born Homeless), xin shi yijia fengche (Heart is a Windmill) and wode zixu zhi zhen wuyou zhi xiang (My Non-existent Home Town). She has also published 5 novels, including xingfu shi you de (There was Happiness) and xiawu dudianzhong (Five in the Afternoon). She has won a number of poetry awards, including People’s Literature Award in 2011. She now teaches at Jinan University, China.

Since his arrival in Australia in 1991, OUYANG YU has published 73 books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literary translation and criticism in both English and Chinese. His latest novel in Chinese is Taojin Di (Land of Gold Diggers), published by Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House in 2014 and his latest novel in English is Diary of a Naked Official, published by Transit Lounge in 2014. His latest translation into Chinese is The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, published by Nanjing University Press in 2014. He is now professor of English at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics.

from Issue #6: Poetry by Ouyang Yu

Photo (CC) Sam Sherratt @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Sam Sherratt @ Flickr

 *

Perhaps

Perhaps it’s all wrong
Perhaps one should have stayed poor and enjoyed it more
Perhaps one should never have been born to live the multiply lived lives that
…………are essentially the same the world over
Perhaps one should have been born with an ambition to become a top-
…………grossing international movie or a zero-adding movable asset
Perhaps it’s all wrong
Perhaps one should remain a never-ending cigarette that burns its time till it
…………turns into time-honoured ashes as long as life
Perhaps poetry should not have been allowed to exist; instead, poets should
…………have been set free to become birds or insects or some as yet to be
…………discovered creeping creatures
Perhaps the earth should suicide-bomb, leaving words as radioactive waves
…………for light years to decipher
Perhaps it’s all wrong
Perhaps nothing ought to be judged along the faultlines of good or evil or
…………good or bad or good or better
Perhaps one is a bin, once unleashed into the universe, is but a self-
…………proliferating bin tumbling into fragments of being doing in its undoing
Perhaps love is evil spelt backwards wrongly, good is gag, and life should
…………never have been lived for that single purpose of making money or else
…………why, I mean, one could have simply swapped one’s life for that of
…………being a piece of gold, waiting to be dug, like Australia
Perhaps it’s all wrong, after all

*

Planning

Not to write short fiction, spending time on things that may interest others,
but not self

Not to write drama

Not to write mere fiction that demonstrates to the world that one is merely
alive, from a few years of death to another few years of death

But to follow the wandering heart wherever poetry takes it and to bend over
the bow in the shape of mind designed to let loose a skyful of stars

*

Death

I think that’s quite nice a way of dying
Suffering so much senile dementia
One doesn’t even know where one is till one is gone

She said this in her 3rd or 5th-I don’t remember which-floor
Apartment where one could gaze past trees and rooftops
At the corner of what looks slightly like the Opera House

Followed by my own remark that it’s more preferable
To die like the Polish poet who dreamt into death
In bed, found dead the next day, and better still

If everything financial is organized pre-death
She agreed and started talking about the significance
Of facial features, such as the deep valley between

My brows that cuts my way to success
A thing, according to her, one can’t go without
Or else one’s life is pure death

It so happens that today I’ve received a magazine
Carrying a poem among many with a line that says
Something to this effect: Why have there never been successful birds?

Many live, only to die
Many live a death of life
And many live, successfully, but no one remembers them, it seems

*

Binru

…………………….Translated from the Chinese by the author

Some people are sure to be completely forgotten by history
Not written into any books
Or local chronicles
Not mentioned online or offline
Such as Dad
Even I have almost forgotten him
But for the fact that the hazy Shanghai
Is not so hazy today
And that my footsteps back from the vegetable market
Are not so hurried
The sun, even if it is in China
Even if it is in early November
Still has the power, at its end time
Of stripping one off his jacket
The man, a poet who never wrote a poem
The man, who called everything names behind a closed door at home
Was amicable enough as soon as he went outdoors
At peace with the world, and who managed to get his three sons
To go to college within the same year
Two of them becoming foreign citizens
Within twenty years
The other one, Oh, the other one
Has since become a symbol of something hopelessly spiritual
Dad had a single first name before liberation: Cheng
And, after liberation, he was categorized as a ‘Historical Counter-
revolutionary’
When he changed his name to Binyu
Yu for Zhou Yu, a piece of beautiful jade
Mom called him, in a strange local dialect
Binru

(Zhou Yu, 175–210, courtesy name Gongjin, was a military general and strategist serving under the warlord Sun Ce in the late Eastern Han Dynasty.)

*

Old Zuo

……………………Translated from the Chinese by the author

It’s a bit hard to write about Old Zuo
Some called her Big Sister Zuo
Some called her Mother Zuo
Some called her Aunty Zuo
And most of them would call her Old Zuo
Old Zuo smoked
Old Zuo didn’t cook and she preferred to eat at the canteen
Steamed bun and congee for breakfast, lettuce for lunch and a soup of turnip and
vegetables for dinner
When her sons came back on Sundays
Old Zuo would get up early and buy pork ribs and lotus-roots
To stew a pot of soup with them over a slow fire
Two of her sons she left in someone else’s care
The other one was away most of the times and went overseas later
Old Zuo loved smoking and she had many male friends and colleagues
She worked at the Third Front
She worked in the mountains
She was a good ping-pong player in her youth
Old Zuo wasn’t choosy about things she ate
But she was most particular about manners
Not allowing us to make noise while chewing food
Not allowing the tips of our chopsticks to be stained with a single grain of rice
when picking the dishes
And not allowing us not to hold our rice bowls steady at the dining table
Old Zuo was a stickler for cleanliness
She peeled whatever she ate
Including sesames
According to her daughter-in-law, married to her third son
Old Zuo was not happy in her old age
Suffering from senile dementia
To the degree that she did not recognize him when her oldest son came back from
Australia
Old Zuo now sleeps a calm sleep under the ground
Old Zuo is Mom
By the name of Zuo Zhen
A name not findable online
Right across the world

 *

ABOUT THE POET

Since his arrival in Australia in 1991, Ouyang Yu has published 73 books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literary translation and criticism in both English and Chinese. His latest novel in Chinese is Taojin Di (Land of Gold Diggers), published by Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House in 2014 and his latest novel in English is Diary of a Naked Official, published by Transit Lounge in 2014. His latest translation into Chinese is The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, published by Nanjing University Press in 2014. He is now professor of English at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics.

from Issue #6: Poetry by Flora Delalande, translated by N. J. Tait

Photo (CC) aquarelleromatinque @ Flickr

Image: Théodore Géricault, Le radeau de la Méduse (CC) aquarelleromatinque @ Flickr

 *

Read Flora Delalande’s original French, then the English translation in blue. 

*

Médusée

J’écorcherai mon cœur aux étoiles
Je l’étendrai entre nos mondes
Et je partirai sous mes voiles
Au gré des vents, au gré de l’onde

Mon corps diaphane sur l’eau diffuse
Les yeux fermés, la plaie ouverte
Mon cœur de femme sur la Méduse
Le poing serré, la main offerte

Mes ongles nus sur le miroir
Griffent le verre, sculptent le flot
Je m’abandonne à cet espoir
De te rejoindre sur mon radeau

Le vent se lève, le bois se brise
Le ciel s’arrache en trous béants
Toute une vie à la dérive
Arriverai-je jamais à temps ?

…………………………………………………………(Dialogue avec l’Orage, 2011)

Marooned

I will throttle my star-studded heart
I will string it out between our worlds
And I will set out under sail
As winds will have it, as waves will have it

My gossamer body swells over the sea
Eyes shut, wound exposed
My woman’s heart on the Medusa
Fist closed tight, hand outstretched

My fingernails naked on the mirror
Scrape the glass, sculpt the current
To this hope I surrender myself
To reach you on my raft

The wind is rising, the wood is going to splinters
The sky is torn apart into abyssal holes
A whole lifetime adrift
Will I never arrive in time?

…………………………………………………………..(Dialogue with the Storm, 2011)

*

Une goutte, une seule

Sous les toits de tôle, j’ai eu envie de pleurer nos décombres. Prendre ta tête entre mes mains et l’apaiser, une dernière fois. Dénouer le fil qui me retient, qui tend les larmes jusqu’à l’extrême.

J’ai vu un pistolet sur une table en désordre.
Une tasse de thé pleine de pluie.
Une main coupée, des doigts rigides

et un tableau troué, de guingois, sur le mur.

One drop, just one

Under the tin-sheet roofs, I felt like weeping for our wreckage. Taking your head in my hands and consoling it, one last time. Unknotting the thread restraining me, contracting tears to the extreme.

I saw a pistol on a cluttered table.
A teacup filled with rain.
A severed hand, stiff fingers

and a riddled painting, lopsided, on the wall.

*

Rêve

Il faudrait pouvoir être une étoile filante
Simple trait de lumière illuminant le ciel
L’instant d’une seconde, accrocher les regards
Disparaître et mourir, un sourire sur vos lèvres

Rien qu’une étoile filante dans un noir épuisé
Un épi de lumière oublié par la nuit

Dream

One should have the chance to be a falling star
A simple trace that spreads light over the sky
For the instant of one second, laying hold of every gaze
To vanish and die, a smile across your lips

No more than a falling star in black fatigue
A lit pinpoint the night forgets

*

ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

Flora Delalande is a young French historian and poet. Born in Normandy, she began writing poetry when she was sixteen. In 2011, she created the organisation « Le Temps des Rêves » with other poets interested in fusing different art-forms. After Dialogue avec l’Orage [Dialogue with the Storm], her first poetry book, she published Trésors parcheminés [Treasures in parchment], illustrated by Hassan Manasrah, a Palestinan sketch artist. In 2013 she began to perform her poetry live.

N. J. Tait is a translator and freelance writer and editor who works mainly on the north coast of New South Wales.

from Issue #4: Poetry by Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi

Photo (CC) Paul Albertella @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Paul Albertella @ Flickr

*

Read Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi’s original Italian, followed by Theodore Ell’s English translations in blue.

*

*

Da Il Parlamento d’amore

La camera bassa lancia il grido. Un razzo
si accende nel cortile del nuovo millennio.
Una cometa chiama a raccolta. Decisa a riaprire
il parlamento d’amore chiuso da tanto tempo.

Da quando il Novecento è finito e i bambini
chiamano da ogni finestra cieca. Da ogni lager
di Germania Italia e Albania. Da quanti
anni non parlano. Mentre tornano in mente

i volti scarni di Giorgio e di Giovanna. Tornano
per affacciarsi alle pareti gialle che il male
ha scalcinato. Se aprono le finestre e la bambina
accenna un bacio. Le imposte crollano sotto

il fuoco delle domande. E le artiglierie in tivu
una ad una apparecchiate. Tornano a sparare.

From The Parliament of love

The lower house starts shouting. A rocket
ignites in the courtyard of the new millennium.
A comet calls a gathering. Intent on reopening
the parliament of love, closed for so long.

Ever since the Twentieth Century ended. Ever since
the children call from every blind window. Since
every lager of Germany Italy and Albania. For as long
as they have not spoken. While the fleshless

faces of Giorgio and Giovanna return to mind.
They return to face the yellow walls that evil
kicked down. If the windows open and the girl
beckons for a kiss. The shutters collapse beneath

the fire of questions. And the artillery pieces on T.V.
are set one by one. They begin shooting again.

La camera alta quasi tocca il cielo. Dalla plastica
verde piove l’eternità. Come l’amianto ingessato
piove la democrazia del male. Piove sempre perché
lassù gli yankee d’America muovono pietre di luna.

Ma torna persino il tempo in cui ci amammo
per opposte tifoserie. Se il Novecento è il grande
vecchio ora sciancato. Buono a essere cucinato.
Volerete in noi se vi spoglierete del vostro orgoglio.

Fummo soldati bambini in terre di Albania. E voi
le bambine impietrite in fronte alla tivu. In pace sì
perché finissero le guerre nel sussidiario. Faceste
pire di libri e fuoco. E obiettori finimmo il testo

a scuola sempre paludato. Ora votiamo una
mozione d’ascolto. In sella a questo millennio.

The upper house almost touches the sky. From green
plastic rains eternity. Like plastered asbestos rains
down the democracy of evil. It always rains because
up there the Yanks of America move moon stones.

But even the time when we loved each other through
opposing fans returns. If the Twentieth Century
is the great old man, now lame. Good to cook.
You will fly within us if you cast off your pride.

We were kid soldiers in the lands of Albania. And you
the girls turned to stone in front of the T.V. Yes in peace
so that the wars could end in the textbooks. You built
pyres of books and fire. And as objectors we finished the text

that at school was always so wordy. Now we propose
a motion to listen. In the seat of a new millennium.

*

Edipi

Meditazioni per Edipo Re a Fiesole

…………………………………………………..per Antonio Crivelli

I

Che cosa cerchi nel Tempio etrusco?
Prima di ogni scena. Prima di ogni
complesso. Madre e padre presidiano
insieme a te. Edipi travestiti già nel seme.

Nascono. Inesorabile sorge la comunità
fantasma. Le stele con cuori di pietra
serena. Segnano il Tempo della Legge.
Chiamano dalle rovine le figure di pietra.

Distrutto il Tempio. Tornano ancora
gli Dei di pietra? Essere in volti emersi
dal nulla. Immobili urlare il nostro dolore.
Non poter levare due braccia al cielo.

 

II

Che cosa cerchi nel Teatro greco?
Di fronte alla Porta di Tebe attendere
di vedere. Lo scheletro spalancato. La sorte
inesorabile. Edipi nelle terracotte corrose.

Le ante. I due battenti gettano la tragedia
nel labirinto iniquo degli affetti. Esiste
il Presente? Vi piove il Passato. Vi piove
il Futuro. Nel fango i volti parlano. Il Coro.

La Sfinge Bianca. Non esiste alcuno scampo.
Aperta la Porta attendere tutti. Il Presente
diventa la pietra rossa. Nel sasso pietrificati
noi che il sangue ci macchia per sempre.

 

III

Che cosa cerchi nelle Terme romane?
Accade nelle vasche ai nostri corpi. Eppure
evaporare. Edipi disfarsi via dalla pietra.
Farsi marmo bianco e rosso. Lavarsi da colpa?

Levigati attendere di esalarsi tutti nel Futuro.
L’esilio. La comunità d’inermi. Mentre stanno
padre madre nel cuore della Legge. Finalmente
riunita la famiglia. Cipressi e pendici sassose.

È il luogo dove vagasti? Di fronte al desco
mangiare. Tre archi in piedi. Tre orbite vuote.
Esiste la speranza? Edipi in cecità vagando.
Mentre il Tempo non assolve. Getta il muro.

 

IV

Che cosa cerchi del mondo in Piazza Mino?
Figure crivellate dagli spari. Il destino è ancora
immobile. Mentre non sparano più sulle colline
dove il fronte passava. Ma sparano dalle ombre.

Edipi non potersi sottrarci. Tutti li abbiamo
nel cuore. Tutti Edipi dentro la folla assiepata
negli affetti. Ora corpo a corpo un’altra peste
intraprende il destino. Più dura. Ci fa di bronzo.

Uccidiamo padre e madre. Salvarli da inutile dolore.
Per essere noi soltanto i condannati a cadere.
Il Tempo non mitiga la colpa. Si ripete di collina
in collina. Neppure ci illude fuggire dal Mondo.

Oedipi
Meditations on Oedipus Rex at Fiesole

………………………………………………………..for Antonio Crivelli

I
What do you seek in the Etruscan Temple?
Before any scene. Before any complex.
Mother and father preside together with you.
As Oedipi camouflaged already in the seed.

They are born. Inexorably arises the phantom
community. The stelae with hearts of serene
stone. Now they mark the Time of the Law.
The figures of stone call out from the ruins.

The Temple is destroyed. Will the Gods
of stone return yet? To be in faces come from
nothing. Motionless screaming our pain.
Unable to lift two arms to the sky.

 

II

What do you seek in the Greek Theatre?
Before the Gate of Thebes waiting to see.
The skeleton spreadeagled. Inexorable
fate. Oedipi in their corroded terracotta.

The shutters. Two panels fling tragedy into
a vicious labyrinth of affections. Does the Present
exist? There Past rains down. There Future rains
down. In the mud the faces speak. Chorus.

Bianca the white Sphinx. From here no escape
exists. When the Gate is open all must wait.
The Present becomes the red stone. Petrified
into rock, we whom the blood stains forever.

 

III

What do you seek in the Roman Baths?
It happens to your bodies in the pools. Yet it
evaporates. As Oedipi loosening from the stone.
Becoming red-white marble. Washing guilt away?

Smoothed all waiting to exhale in the Future. Exile.
The community of the helpless. While mother
and father stand in the heart of the Law. Finally
the family reunited. Cypresses and rocky slopes.

Is it the place where you wandered? At the lunch table
eating. Three arches standing. Three orbits empty.
Does hope exist? Oedipi in blindness wandering.
While Time does not absolve. It throws down the wall.

 

IV

What do you seek of the World in Piazza Mino?
Figures riddled with bullet-holes. Destiny is still
motionless. While they fire no more from the hills
where the front went through. But from the shadows.

Oedipi we cannot escape. We all have them
within the heart. All Oedipi in the crowd thirsting
in affections. Now destiny embarks body by body
on another plague. Harder. It bronzes us.

We kill father and mother. Saving them from useless pain.
To be ourselves the only ones condemned to the fall.
Time does not mitigate guilt. It repeats from hill
to hill. We can pretend to flee the world no longer.

***

ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

Paolo Fabrizio Iacuzzi was born in Pistoia, in western Tuscany, in 1961 and has lived in Florence since 1992. He has published four collections of poetry – Magnificat (1996), Jacquerie (2000), Patricidio [Parricide] (2005) and Rosso degli affetti [Red of affections] (2008) – which have increasingly focused on the frailty of the individual within violent cycles of history. His fifth collection, Il bene cucito al bene [Good stitched to good] is forthcoming. The Oedipus sequence published in this issue was written to complement sculptures by Antonio Crivelli, commissioned for a staging of Oedipus Rex in the Roman theatre at Fiesole in 2011. Paolo has translated Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) into Italian and has rediscovered and re-published numerous works of the poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), whose archive he oversees. Paolo is Artistic Director of the Accademia Pistoiese del Ceppo, a literary academy in Pistoia, and chairs the Premio Letterario Internazionale Ceppo Pistoia, awarded since 1956. For information: www.paolofabrizioiacuzzi.it

Theodore Ell is co-editor of Contrappasso Magazine and an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney.

Contrappasso, Issue #6 – launching in September 2014

Cover image "DSC02603" (CC) Vincent Lou @ Flickr, altered from original

Cover image “DSC02603” (CC) Vincent Lou @ Flickr, altered from original

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New Issue. New Authors. Contrappasso 6 is launching soon! This issue explores still more possibilities in international writing, bringing together work from nine countries in four languages, by more than twenty authors who are appearing in the journal for the first time.

Their work leads from snowy streets in Montana to packed train stations in Tokyo, from Hong Kong horse races to Sicilian passion-plays, from the Coal River Valley to Manila shopping malls, and from an iron lung to The Raft of the Medusa.

This issue features interviews with Australian poet Judith Beveridge, veteran American crime writer Lawrence Block and Filipino novelist Jose Dalisay. It presents new fiction by Japanese novelist Mitsuyo Kakuta (translated by Aoi Matsushima), Chilean Álvaro Bisama (translated by Megan McDowell) and from the USA, Jon A. Jackson and R. Zamora Linmark. The poets are Elizabeth Smither, Iain Britton and Stephen Oliver (New Zealand), Flora Delalande (France), Penny Florence (UK), Ouyang Yu (China/Australia) and Richard James Allen, Stuart Barnes, Jamie Grant, Siobhan Hodge, Frank Russo and Les Wicks (Australia).

Watch this website to sample the work this all-new ensemble of writers. They travel far.

The Editors

 

 

from Issue #4: Poetry by Mikhail Yeryomin, translated by J. Kates

Photo (CC) Antti T. Nissinen

Photo (CC) Antti T. Nissinen

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J. Kates’ translations of Mikhail Yeryomin’s Selected Poems 1957-2009 was awarded the 2013 Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation and will be published this year by White Pine Press. Here, Mikhail Yeryomin’s original Russian appears in black and J. Kates’ English translations in blue.

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Поселок (В сумерках туман подобен
Прасубстантиву: наблюдатель — « . . . пред
Святым Его Евангелием и животворящим
Крестом …» — становится свидетелем аблактировки
Инфинитива и супина.) сходство
С полузатопленным челном и средним членом
Сравненья мышц стрижа с пружиною зажима,
Забытого на бельевой веревке, обретает.

……………………………………………………………………1977

A settlement (In twilight a fog similar
To the protosubstantive: the observer — “before
His Holy Gospel and life-giving
Cross . . .” becomes a witness of the ablactation
Of the infinitive and the supine.) is a simulacrum
of a kindled canoe and the middling member
of the comparison of a martin’s muscles with an elastic clamp,
forgotten on a linen rope, found.

…………………………………………………………………….1977

 

*

 

Повилика, прильнувшая к стеблю,
Бледный витень, чье тело длиной с его жизнь —
Дериват ли от vita? Гаплоия
Композиты из vita  и тень?
Или плеть? Аксельбант родовитого льна
Или ядопровод? Или тирса лоза? Или —
« . . . The laws impressed on matter by the Creator . . .»
Селекционерская гордость Мойр?

………………………………………………………………..1977

Гаплогия — гаплология.
Ch. Darwin, M. A. The Origin of Species.  “Recapitulation and conclusion.”

A dodder clinging tightly to its stem,
Pallid viten, a body long as its life —
Does it derive from vita? Haplogy
Compounded from vita and tenebræ?
Or a lash? An aiguilette of aristocratic flax
Or a poison duct? Or a vine of thyrsus? Or —
. . . the laws impressed on matter by the Creator…”
The selectionist pride of the three Fates?

………………………………………………………………….1977

Haplogy = haplology
Ch. Darwin, M. A. The Origin of Species.  “Recapitulation and conclusion.”

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Сомкнула веки. Не вступать, а погружаться
В сокрытый ими сад. Деревья —
Еще не алфавит, уже не древние аллеи текста.
Любовь — еще вторая изгородь. Движенье —
Уже не ноша, но еще не ниша.

Не словом открывают губы
Лучистый взгляд жемчужин
Над моим лицом.

…………………………………………………….1978

She closed her eyelids. Not to step into, but be plunged
Into a garden hidden beneath them. The trees
Not yet alphabet, now no longer ancient alleys of text.
Love is still a second hedge. Movement
No longer burdensome, but even less a burrow.

Lips do not discover with a word
The radiant appearance of pearls
Over my face.

………………………………………………………1978

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Пир августа. Азычество лампасов и лампад.
Ватрушка — в каждом угольке готовый вспыхнуть
Зеленым пламенем творожный язычок —
Подсолнуха. Стручок гороха скалит зубы,
Расколотый, изогнутый древнейшей шуткой
Равновеликости на взглял с земли
Луны и соднца. Платье юной горожанки —
Поблекший крапп, полегший лен.

…………………………………………………………..1979

Feast of August. Aborigin of trouser-stripes and icon-lamps.
Cheesecake — in each corner ready to flare up
A little cottage-cheese tongue like a green flicker —
Sunflowers. A peapod bares its teeth,
Disruptive, twisted like an ancient joke
Equivalence in looking from the earth
Moon and sun. The dress of a young townswoman —
Withering madder, flattened flax.

……………………………………………………………1979

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Следить бег низких облаков
И пресмыкание далекой электрички. Pópulus Vulgaris
Толпой (Избранничество — не искус ли?)
И вдоль дорог выстраивается. Прониккнуть
Ленотром или (Оттиск аватары
На глине или благодать?) Алкидом —
Одна двенадцатая дюжины побед —
В усадьбу Гесперид?

……………………………………………………………1985

Ленотр — Версальский парк, Фоненбло и т. д.

To follow the races of low clouds
And the reptilian crawl of a distant  train. Pópulus Vulgaris
En masse (Isn’t a referendum a temptation?)
And alongside, the construction of roads. To penetrate
By means of Le Nôtre or (The Impression of an avatar
In clay, or a blessing?) with Alcides —
One twelfth of a dozen victories —
In the Garden of the Hesperides?

…………………………………………………………….1985

Le Nôtre — The park at Versailles, Fontainebleau, etc.

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*

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Оставив девочек в декокте мелководья, девой
Явиться из ребра вольны.
Бесследно отмель миновав, на берег
Взойти — разводистые лунки
По ситцу. Грудь и бедра
(У кончика ноги цветущий подорожник.)
Оправить вязкой сетью.
И множиться в зрачках и на устах.

………………………………………………………………………1987

Girls left in a decoction of shallows, a virgin
Emerges from the edge of a wave.
Without leaving a trace in the sand, to climb up
On the berm — discolored openings
In the chintz. Breast and thigh
(A plantain flowering at the stem of her leg,)
Set right in an intractable net.
Burgeoning deep in the eyes and on the lips.

……………………………………………………………………….1987

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*

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Владеть устами — навык или дар,
Когда молчание билабиальней речи? Окольцовывать
(Orbicularis oris) или отвергать.
А гений, ставший на крыло
(Лазоревые кроющие перья, маховые —
Пребелые.), не зависает ли,
Быв удостоен невесомым «Ах!» меж алых семядолей,
Их разомкунувшим?

……………………………………….1992

Is it skill or a gift to govern the lips
When silence is more bilabial than speech? To band
(Orbicularis oris) or to turn away.
And genius, on the wing
(Sky-blue covering feathers beating
Blindingly white.) hovering, yes?
With an earned, weightless “Ah!” among scarlet cotyledons
It had dispersed?

………………………………………1992

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ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

Mikhail Fyodorovich Yeryomin, born in 1936, is a poet, playwright and a translator, who saw few of his poems published in his homeland during the Soviet period. Instead, his work — consistently in eight-line stanzas rich with allusive scientific and linguistic byplay — appeared in émigré journals like Kontinent and Ekho. The first volume of his poems (in Russian) was published in the United States in 1986, and then in 1991 in Moscow. Each book is a cumulative addition to and a selection from previous work, and each carries the same title: Stikhotvorenia (Poems). In English translation, his poems have appeared in Fjords ReviewThe Hawai’i ReviewNaked PunchParthenon WestStandTwo Lines, and in the anthology In the Grip of Strange Thoughts. J. Kates’ translations of Yeryomin’s selected poems won the Cliff Becker Book Prize this year and will be published by White Pine Press in 2014. The poet lives in St. Petersburg.

J. Kates a poet and literary translator who lives in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.

from Issue #4: Poetry by Hong Ying 虹影 translated by Mabel Lee 陈顺妍

Photo (CC) Laiwan Ng @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Laiwan Ng @ Flickr

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Home of darkness  /  黑暗的家

I see low stairs
Stretch out under his feet….a brain planning travel
And skeletons poking out everywhere
Thinking to regret is easier than not making a mistake
He takes out a piece of paper

A piece of very crumpled paper
He of course has passed through many cities
Stirred the hearts of many women
….I hear steamboats on the Yangtze

Blasts of whistles fill the air…..rejecting the deceit
Or maybe colluding with him to end
This part of history

Being faithful is harder than loving…..what I have to say
Must cut through the misty Yangtze
Until after these trees turn to red

I am an artist in depravity
And have not known good luck for a long time
Ultimately he will engrave my face with his dagger

Before swallowing the piece of paper…..moreover—

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*

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Plan to write someone’s biography  /  准备为一个人写传

Didn’t think he was this ready to act. Had I known
I wouldn’t be standing in the rain clutching an umbrella
The rain is heavy, because he is coming towards me
His face shrouded in a special

Calm. If the rain stops now
I’ll lower my head
Crouch down, and let the bottom of his coat
Brush the top of my head. The roses he is holding
Will instantly transform into scattered islands

I’m certain once he’s in the white car
It will cross the warning line
And like a tongue, wrap around the corner light post
Swallowing it. He will make me lose my umbrella
Lose my scarf, and shiver with excitement    it’s true, it’s true

He’s just a bit braver than me in going ahead. The white car
And all around it is heavy with blood
Making all the lines of my palms jump wildly. He and I
What went wrong? This is just the incomplete first chapter

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*

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Dreaming of Beijing  /  梦北京

It is all rotting cabbages
That can drown every one of my dreams
A hedgehog carefully makes its way across
The vanishing city wall
And sees us sisters hugging and weeping

Our lungs
Are always wrapping around men’s lies and sex organs
I turn
Confront my mother to her face
She walks away alone
We sisters will open our beautiful mouths before we die
And spit out one man after another

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*

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Train / 火车

I have raised my head from the sea more than once to watch how the train runs
over my body
At night in dream, it continues to rumble along
Taking away people I know
But thinking about it now, why are they unfamiliar?
I am submerged in the sea
A sea deeper than a city that vanished long ago
But a fish prefers being here
She says in February, the wind whinnies like a horse
She says in May, the horse is like brocade cushions and silk
But none is hers

The passengers wearing masks that are modern and trendy
Mix with festival revellers, taking away my suffering
But not leaving me any joy
I am alone in the sea
Sinking, persist in sinking
I hear fish whisper: go ashore, why worry about being caught
I suddenly remember, I’ve been dead for many years
And my skull has gradually turned blue

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*

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The black and white of eyes  /  眼睛的黑白

A chastity belt the crowd hangs on a tree…..adds weight to it
Light as a bundle of nerves, it is heavy like a demon staff
Under the tree I repeat a dance step, then a look of the eye
You and I unluckily entered an episode of a novel
Flowing water never fouls, and green mountains stay green
That’s one way of putting it
Another way of putting it is
Good or evil in our hearts is linked to the food we eat
And not the equivalent of our memories

I sent the cat to look for any trace of you
But there was no news all summer
When the cat’s paws were etched with your name
It said, no, no
Her eyes brimming with tears
Also one summer, I wrote in a book what the cat had said
Who wins or loses? Like a stinking fish
A cruel white, colonizes the eyes of those in the crowd
I lost because I buried myself under the tree

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*

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I am also called Salammbo  /  我也叫萨朗波

Nobody remembers me, but it doesn’t matter
No sign of the carriage that left long ago
And the whiplashes also stopped hurting long ago
Loving someone
Turns into a dream
A greater void than having no dreams

I am dead
And know nothing
Beauty ends like that, and the times end like that
On the sea today no birds can be seen
Give me a glass of red wine
And give me an apple
Salammbo is just a name

None of you is good-hearted
You look at clouds, forgetting how to look at them
How geometric shapes fold
How a person is made to vanish
I remember him coming to me
And saying, look at my eyes

They were full of lust, full of sad songs
He closed his eyes
And they were icy cold
But when my lips touched them they burned like fire
Yes indeed, now he is a good person

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*

ABOUT THE POET AND TRANSLATOR

Hong Ying 虹影 (b. 1962 Chongqing, China) began her writing career as a poet during the early 1980s in China. After relocating to London in 1990 she continued to publish poetry as well as short-story collections and novels in rapid succession. To date she has written twelve novels in Chinese, some of which have been published in many languages and made into TV series or films. She is best known in the English-speaking world for her novels Summer of Betrayal, Daughter of the River and K: The Art of Love. Her autobiographical novel Daughter of the River has been translated into thirty languages, and K: The Art of Love won the Premio Letterario Rome award in 2005. Her four poetry collections include Quick, Run Eclipse (1999) and I am also called Salammbo (2013). Hong Ying now lives in Beijing and Italy.

Mabel Lee 陈顺 PhD FAHA (b. 1939, Warialda NSW, Australia) is adjunct professor at the University of Sydney, after serving on the academic staff for 34 years. From the early 1980s until 2000, she was assistant editor of the Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia (JOSA) and co-editor of the University of Sydney East Asian Series. Her translations include three titles by Yang Lian, winner of the Flaiano International Poetry Prize in 1999: Masks and Crocodile (1990), The Dead in Exile (1990) and Yi (2002); and five titles by 2000 Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian: Soul Mountain (2000), One Man’s Bible (2002), Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather (2004), The Case for Literature (2006) and Aesthetics and Creation (2012). She began publishing translations of Hong Ying’s poetry in 1999, and thirty new poems will be included in Hong Ying, Zhai Yongming and Yang Lian (forthcoming 2013).

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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 *

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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/