Shabdaguchha: Logo2 edited by: Hassanal Abdullah issue: 57/58

Nine Latin American Poets

Pablo Neruda

					[from Chile]


The mission of the stones
was to harden the earth:
they had wings:
the stones that took to the heavens:
those that survived
loosed a nocturnal cry,
a water sign, a violet sword,
a meteor.

The succulent
not only had clouds,
not only space with its oxygen smell,
but terrestrial rock
here and there, gleaming,
made a dove,
made a bell,
with greatness in the penetrating
becoming a phosphorescent arrow,
becoming salt of the sky.


There I go, there I go, stones, wait!

In some time or voice or weather,
we can be together or bond permanently,
to live, to die in this great hard
silence, mother of fire.

Sometimes running
through volcanic flame or river grapes,
or the true propaganda of freshness,
or a still promenade in snow,
or the pulverized dust of desert provinces
sprinkled with metals,
or even beyond, in polar regions,
the stony homeland
of the frozen sapphire,
at this point or door or birth or death
we will be stone, night without banners,
steadfast love, infinite shine,
eternity’s love, subterranean fire,
pride condemned to its own energies,
the only star that belongs to us.

Translated from the Spanish by Maria Jacketti

Luis Alberto Ambroggio

					[from Argentina]

I have been searching for a dawn
to build my happiness
moment by moment;
to live my eternity
smile by smile
in an infinite alliance
with the placid hours;
so that everything arrives with day
when trills sprout from the trees
harmonizing the alphabet
of innocence.

My house will be made
of an eternal landscape.


Sometimes we awaken without a weather forecast;
we feel neither sunny nor sad,
just starting anew.

Translated from the Spanish by Yvette Neisser Moreno

Francisco Arriví

						[from Puerto Rico]


In this waste land
of stubbled cane
there dreamed a house
with a balcony always in the shade

I lived its miracle
in the sunshine, water, and evening dew,
deep in innocence
when fantasy is at its best

on the balcony
I played with friends
pretending to be what we had read,
a pirate, a musketeer

upon the branches
I would think by myself
that my chest was growing
to the limits of the sky

it really was
the miracle
root and dream
and one day I lost it
without understanding why


May my children live
inside the heart of a ceiba tree
to be nurtured by the forces of their land.

May they drink the sap
of deep roots
set within ancestral soil.

May they breathe oxygen
in the spreading branches
of a solid cross in the current of the air.

May they be forged with me
in one common breast
bringing to light our homeland interred.

Translated from the Spanish by Clementine Rabassa

Juan Cameron

					[from Chile]


My clumsy flight
searching for light
My flight
swollen with blood.


No circus dog will wag its tail
if the major-domo orders keep it straight
The buffoons will come on stage
The high priestess will fly on the trapeze
as through a castle in the movies
with no safety net for her prosthesis
The pitchman on duty will open the sluicegates of laughter
The street will vomit out hundreds of clowns
into this bloodless vessel
into this vessel of sand
The truth is mandrakes no longer exist
nor dragons       not unicorns
No dog will bay at the moon
Dogs no longer believe in the moon.

Translated from the Spanish by Cola Franzen

Carlos Ernesto García

					[from El Salvador]


In a corner of the brothel
a man with a sad expression
tenderly kisses
the face of the woman
who heartily thrusts
a broken bottle
deep into his back
there just below his ribs.


Fed up with all the battles
the warrior took his sword
and drove it into the sand
and he thought:
This is a good place
for death

The afternoon went by
No one asked about the warrior
No one cared about the place
Chosen for his rest

A sandstorm took the time
to bury him
He wasn’t fertilizer for the land
but forage for the wilderness.

Translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Gamble Miller

Isaac Goldemberg

						[from Peru]


All the houses are still in the city.
But my father’s is the one that remains least.
He said he would guard his house until the last day of his days.
Much later, a time much later,
he came back from exile to lock it up.
And he left his son, whose house it wasn’t, with the key.
Time long ago sold the house to oblivion.
Today oblivion holds its key just like my father’s memory.
This will be his crosspiece—he said—my memory.
Much later, a time much later, he moved his house.
Put it over here—he said—where the house used to be.


Your rambling story cries out for
The ashes of my corpse.
The oblivion that cradles your time
Demands the excavation of my roots,
Delivers up your interminable absence.
I am a man facing your image.
Your story walks all over my
footprints of rambling suicide.
The mirage of your prophecy
Removes me from myself:
Promise of eternal rest.

Translated from the Spanish by Stephen A. Sadow& J. Kates

Vinícius de Moraes

						[from Brazil]


Look at her, see her, a beauty who passes, so full of grace.
See her, a girl going past here, a soft swinging pace,
A sweet side-to-side,
On her way to the sea.

Girl, with your body all golden, all gilded by sunlight
At Ipanêma, with rhythm that’s more than a poem, your sight
Is the prettiest thing that I’ll ever see go by.

Oh, just because I’m so lonely,
Oh, how it all makes me weary,
Oh, if such beauty will make me teary,
It’s because it’s not for me only,
Passing by all alone.

Oh, if she only knew that each step in her pace
Makes the whole world all over swell up full of grace
And spread out with beauty in favor of love.


Think of the children,
Telepathic, mute,
Think of the girls,
Unsteady, blind,
Think of the women,
Broken, changed,
Think of the wounds
Like a rose in flames,
But, oh, don’t forget
The rose of the rose
Of the rose of Hiroshima,
Hereditary rose,
Radioactive rose,
Stupid and invalid,
Cirrhosis rose,
Atomic anti-rose,
No color, no perfume,
No rose, no nothing.

Translated from the Portuguese by Gregory Rabassa

Carilda Oliver Labra

						[from Cuba]


     I bring blond hair; it curls at night.
I kiss the thirst of water; I paint the trembling lotus.
I keep a useless ribbon and a broken fan.
I discover filthy angels coming out of the ashes.

     Any music wells up from my throat.
I’m almost a bourgeois lady—with a little luck:
as I gaze at the sun, it becomes for me
a celestial burst of light singing . . .

    I make use of my serene forehead colored like pure milk,
I make use, too, of a vast hope and a pencil that lasts,
and I have a sad lover as far away as the sea.

    In this house, there are flowers, birds, eggs,
and even an encyclopedia and two new dresses,
and still, still . . . I feel like crying!


I’ll erase you with a vinegar sponge,
and a little repugnance.
I’ll erase you with an important tear
or a nasty gesture.

I’ll erase you by reading metaphysics,
by a telephone call, or salutations
offered to ashes,
with a cough and a rash moment.

I’ll erase you with the wine of the insane,
gouging out my eyes
while taking a strange man into the tomb of my body.

I’ll erase you with innocent games,
with life and death,
even if I have to be a nun or a prostitute.

Translated from the Spanish by Daniela Gioseffi & Enildo A. García

Julio Ortega

						[from Peru]


These wanderings of desire
begin in the street, after the movie
when we pick
a small restaurant to try
the onion soup.
We laughed at ourselves
after giving life to the street gods
in vain.
But there is no forgetting when
there’s desire, the memory of
relaxed happiness.
Afterwards along the short Olympus
where I bought you a pink rose,
a popular novel
and some apples.
Only time followed at a distance
as we returned 
to the metro station
under the triumphal echo of the Opera.
Slender the clouds
of the emotive decoration
of these roles.


But they’re not the same geraniums,
intense behind the lattice, not
even the grass is identical
now that they are redoing the garden
in this exchange
of history for decoration.
Only the stone pavement of the portico
is true to the steps and voices
of the secret, that promise
of the very young,
with no time in oblivion.
But nothing is the same,
and almost everything is the imprint
of something else.
May this sentence never end.

Translated from the Spanish by Clementine Rabassa

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah