Joe Milutis translates Stéphane Mallarmé


Say nymphs, and I would perpetruate them. 

leering lightly
incarnate air’s voltage
and in taffeta tutus doze 

                                             I WOULD DREAM BRIEFLY
Ancient forever doubt
branches, becomes leafy
while real woods wood
that I offer myself
—sole triumph—
the perfect glitch
of inexistent roses. 


                           Or if these femmes you faun-on
Are a figure of an emblem of a nerve!
Faun, l’illusion
Hap of blue use
cold shape of the miraculous! 

One, the other
breathe in another
contrasts come like breezes in heatwaves . . .
your feathered hair. 

Suffocating phallustrous chaleur
at dawn
That’s my reading flute murmur
or like that silent flick
L’Arroseur Arrosé, this is about
the poet’s garden hose
winding up on a half horse
like a prompt s’exhalation before
what scatters the sound in the dream,
yes that’s it, up at the unfluttered
edge the visible and serene heartbeat 

In Japan, the girls carry themselves on Après-Midis and even bicycle on Daccarat Cruze: Le Nouveau Parfum du De De L’Eau Style du Mode Secret: such audacity, so spark—this floors me, sing it: “What some call a hollow read, I beat into Rosicrucian allegory and X-Rated allusion, gold threaded in the cloud musty far verdure-weed proffers its tendrils to fountains quiver the white beast odalisque. 

                                                                      (video black branch blanc beast sur la vide)  

And what slow prelude is this?
This flight of swans, non!
A Naïad, a-leaping, on-plunging,

Perhaps the translator must insert
a rude awakening—that this poem
of a starlit être has within a scarlet
letter, all the homoerotic fun removed
from faun, although if it’s in the dream
(or in the poem) what is the line, the
violation of exactitude or 

                            Inert, the moment leaves
no impression for whoever searches the “there”
finds that no art can
altogether combine here
the desire of that hour:
wake, then, wake to first fervor
correct and unique, under antique wavelengths illume,
only this lily! And the one of you all for guilelessness. 

Otherwise, sweet dithering lips make their noise
a kiss which assures in the depths of uncertainty . . .
it is already December and this talk of “august teeth”
already a thousand aprés-midis have passed since I saw these
nymphs, a single morsel of time, a missed kiss gothicized
into a stanza played backwards to find the hidden message
which Satan has written in your emailing me after 25 years
from the dentist all this time and its dents and we are now suddenly
quotidiennes? My head is spinning, you say, if I hadn’t gone
to that reading (the poet had a voice like root canal) we might not
have seen each other again in this *dear life* and I email back
this stanza about teeth which confounds me, because, perhaps
les dents de décembre sont prudents 

But, enough! A secret monolithic lute, confident
my junk—vast and doubled under azure we play 
risking the trouble of a play
a dream, a long improvisation
the beauty all around us, the absence of confusion
between false and falsetto our true song
I’d go as far as to say that love is the modulation
evanescing, they do, the dull doses
of abs and the absence on which my longing eye closes,
sonority, vanity, monotony of line!
Twist out of this futile flute, O malign
Syrinx, a reflowering of the lake where we once relaxed!
As for me, this fiery sound, melting the wax I pipe-on
and on about Goddesses; such idolatry these paints,
such shadows again across dropped pants:
And see, when I have sucked the sun from a raisin
I no longer regret the single ray,
But, laughing raise to the heaven of summer this vacancy of grapes
And, puffing on their luminous peels, rapacious
For visions I cast across them the eye of the tigress
until evening is upon us. 

O nymphs let us relive each detached caress
My will, my jonquille, my junco partner, darting each enclosure
Immortal, noise of burning in the waves of the seashore,
Wobbly cries from within forest’s orb;
And splendid head of hair absorbed
Into glitterings and frisson, for pete’s sake!
I run; feet entangled (I ache,
I am bruised with the languorous taste
of the evil of being two’d)
by the alarmingly lurching arms
of slumbering nymphs entwined;
Raving, ravishing, I’m not une 
And take umbrage in this clump, enraged
by sun’s shadow
All the exhaust fumes of the roses have depleted our
Delight, our day, this deleted hour.”
I adore you, anger of verses, O delicious
Church of sacred nude burdens, which Englished (eglissed)
Flee my lips a-fire firing
Fire!  The secret fears of the fleshed:
Of tentacles wrapt round a timid heart
Which at once relinquishes its innocence, tumid
With moody vapors, more or less foolish tears.
My crime, if thus you insist, is high on the vanity of years 
to have devised this disheveled boscage
of kisses that Gods keep from those my age:
Scarcely do I enfold an ardent laugh
in the happy pleats of myself alone with one
(kept by a simple finger, her feather’s whitening
Stains itself on the emotions of the other’s lightning
and she’s the small one, naïve and spacey)
when from my arms, undone by time and trespass,
this object forever ungracious, flees driven
no pity for the blubbering with which I was riven.” 

Quel dommage! Others will lead me towards happiness
By yoking their hair to my horns in a laborious headdress.
You know, mon chou, that violescent and quite mature
Each poem-grenade ruptures accompanied by the bees which murmur
And our song-blood, in love with whoever seeks to seize it here
Pours for all an endless swarm of desire.
It is now the hour when twilight tints the grove in gold and hints of embrous ash.
A posh exultation, foliage dashed:
And Volcanos!  For across this dappled sylvan scene, pan
To monstrous antipodal storm on desolate midnight terrain,
When sadly sleep sounds, when the flame has guttered
I sense Her presence! 

                                                       The grand chastizement is nigh! 

Her head invisible in the clouds, sex hidden in the black waves
The mother of empty words, heavy
With fiery silence, no afternoon, but ever after and anon
Sleepless, blasphemed, the forgotten first god on
Another shore who gives birth
To pan-creatures in the squalling sands of earth,
Eclipsed by polar cliffs and all that otherwise lives, these infant monsters
Their many mouths working themselves into stars,
And She, covered with polyps, triple-breast’d
Gargantua, moves through such waters as only the moon dares crest. 

And my nymphs? We’ll see how it ends, in the far shadow of this dark divinity. 

Film Treatment for Mallarmé’s L’Après-midi d’un faune 

Mallarmé’s “The Afternoon of a Faun”—once intended to be a script or scenario for a theatrical eclogue—is full of disjointed, dreamlike, gothic and erotic language.  As would befit the ultimate “maudit” poet, this work would never be translated to the stage during his lifetime, and was rejected by publishers for ten years until he found an enterprising printer of medical textbooks to take it on.  It would famously be reinterpreted by Debussy and Nijinsky, and would become a perennial source of inspiration for work that explores the intertwined queer, surreal, and occult impulses at the heart of the French Symbolist project, and incipient modernism.

It’s also full of difficult, and difficultly-censored, imagery.  That is, the poet is struggling with the dictates of cultural propriety as well as those of his own masculinity, all blurred, however, in the conceits of the dream.  Thus, both translating and filming this poem provide certain challenges: to respond without the clarity of “politics,” yet taking advantage of the freedom of commentary that experimental translation—both at level of text and film image—allows.

To put it bluntly, while the figure of the faun has been traditionally put in the service of pagan, many times homoerotic sexual imagery, here Mallarmé instead offers a more ostensibly heterosexual fantasy with what at times seems the suggestion of rape, or at the very least a stylized sexual aggression.  What happens when this violation is dreamt, inextricable from an indeterminate play of symbols? (Aptly enough, the most scandalous aspect of the Nijinsky ballet was the dancer’s decision to make love to a veil—a viol de voile volé from the nymph.)  I feel certain Mallarmé was aware of this dynamic.  Do we take his fantasized trespasses to be contextualized in the cold light of judgement or do we allow the dangerous “realism” of the unconscious to be manifest?   The goal for such a film and translation would be not to censor the already dream-censored language, but rather to use the text as an opportunity for psychic exploration, transformation, and renovation.  Like alchemical images, which, according to Jung, allowed for a cathexis of energies that Christianity failed to capture, Mallarmé’s “Faun” is a psychoanalytic, meditational, and proto-surrealist work par excellence, allowing for a reflection on poetic and sexual energies not easy mapped, only approached (or merely reproached) with great caution.

If an eclogue is traditionally a dialogue or contest between two voices, here there is the possibility of coming at the text by way of multiple voices, fragments, images and competing scenarios.  While Mallarmé creates the effect of a lyric duel—there are sections of the text set off by quotes and italics that alternate with roman text—the voicings to and fro are left ambiguous both at the level of the speaker and addressee.  It’s not a call-and-response, as much as it is multiple calls into the void, self-ventriloquism, or mere graphic play.  This ambiguity can be expanded so that what starts as a singular point of view is disrupted, turned into a multiply refracting surface, spawning virtualities both unspoken and inconceivable within the original poem, or perhaps already there but untapped through the devices of a more traditional translation.

Ces nymphes, je les veux perpétuer
“Say ‘nymphs,’ and I would perpetruate them.”

By translating “perpétuer” as “perpetruate,” I have tried to encapsulate many of these issues in the first line by introducing a portmanteau word.  Invocation itself (“Say ‘nymphs’” as homophonic mistranslation of “Ces nymphes”), immediately leads us to a problem of representation: perpetuating becomes a perpetration.  By invoking the nymphs, he perpetuates an ancient being—as we’ll see this is not only in the service of a decadent continuance of the classical, but also a remembrance of the missed chances of youth.  It also sets the scene for perpetrating what may be his crime or act of aggression against the nymphs in their leisure. This duality of perpetuating/perpetrating is pronounced and eroticized in the more well-trod tropes of the vampire genre, where the violation of the vampire—rarely consensual—can grant eternal life.  To heighten this association, the film could start with vampire teeth breaking soft skin, splicing into the imagery of fauns and nymphs the repertoire of the vampire.

A striking, violent opening image can be then followed by the more abstract, alternately Debussian and electronic, fragments of sensuous beauty (“Si clair,/Leur incarnat léger . . .”)—flashes of body parts, floating pastels, skin transluced red by the sun, tutus enmeshed and leaping.  The kitsch of the pastorale, reduced to its smallest recognizable codes.  Abstractions collapse and reform, never quite solidifying (“Aimai-je un reve?. . .”)—a dramatic image of what in effect will be the overall feel and method of the rest of the film.

In the original poem, there are ostensibly three characters: the faun and two nymphs.  Instead of characters, the film will present a variety of figures, interchangeable, who will represent, multiply or erase each other—morphing and changing as the translation translates-in upon itself.  This strategy leaves high potential for unmoored imagery and scenarios—with many opportunities for creative costuming and sculpture, but with the option for minimalism and abstraction, too.  By transforming the poem’s dramatis personae into figural glyphs—quite literally “characters”—their meaning can double, triple, or dissolve (typed, cursive or scrawled) so that what seems to be one man and two women can become all men, all women, queered or indeterminate, nature objects or fetishes, becoming-other-than-what-they-were, partaking in the forest supernaturalism of their being, or the language of their poeming, rather than a drawing room mirror of existent sexing.

Because of what seems to me the poem’s emphasis on control—or the dramatic loss of it—one central figure would be “the poet,” but here transformed into romance novel industrialist/master-of-universe type.  An isolated figure—we perhaps see him alone in the back of a limo, letting the wind whistle across the top of an empty bottle of mineral water he holds out the window as if a makeshift panpipe—he slowly “undoes” himself, turning faun, as horns, hoofs, and hairy haunches slowly break through his calculated veneer.  The centrality of this “poet” figure need not mean that he cannot be replaced, even by himself, as he transforms.  Nor does he need to be present from beginning to end.  He may serve merely as an organizational convenience or foil for more wild imagery, diverse bodies, indefinable objects.  The femmes can stand at his grave in the final lines, rather than, as implied in the original, the faun reflecting on their death, absence or dream.  However, while that final stanza has now been radically rewritten in a Lovecraftian mode, there is nothing prohibiting the film version from presenting its image as the versa of the text (and vice-versa). 

Of course, there should be pan pipes, pan pipes of all types and sizes: plastic bottles, McDonald’s straws bound with twine, anything where wind can move across the top of an opening and make sounds.  The sound of this throughout.

Joe Milutis is a writer, media artist and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington-Bothell.  Work has appeared in Fence, Triple Canopy, Cabinet, Tagvverk, Gauss PDF, Amodern as well as a variety of performance and gallery venues. He is the author of Failure, A Writer’s Life (Zer0 Books: 2013); Ether: The Nothing That Connects Everything (University of Minnesota Press: 2006); and Bright Arrogance, a column on experimental translation in Jacket2.  Numerous chapbooks, media-literary hybrid works, videos and sound pieces can also be found at

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) is sometimes known more for what he didn’t write than for what he did. Fame came late to him, and he published little—choosing instead to seek an impossible, absolute Book.  Many of his works, conceived of as multi-media performances or art-literary hybrids, were never fully conceived. And yet his impact on experimental literature, criticism and theory has been immense. If, according to his protégé Paul Valéry, a work is “never completed . . . but abandoned,” the great abandonments of Mallarmé (which included, at his death, a lacquered Japanese writing hutch stuffed with indecipherable notes and diagrams for his Great Work) would galvanize the Symbolist avant-garde, and prepare for innumerable future experiments.

Photos by Joe Milutis, feat. Truong Nguyen.




Allana Noyes translates Noé Blancas-Blancas

Preparation for a Novena

Slithering, that was the word he used. The man next to her had grumbled the word “slithering,” and then suddenly stood, insulting the driver and demanding to be let off the bus.

“Let me off here, you sonofabitch!

The old woman with him chimed in:

“He’s driving this damn bus around in circles. What, you making a pit-stop at your house? Jackass!”

They struggled to get down the steps with their heavy sacks and then stood, pushing at the doors while still cursing the driver. She used this as an opportunity to approach the front of the bus:

“Excuse me sir, are we in Dulzura?”

The driver answered without turning to look at her.

“Almost. I’ll let you know.”

By the time she descended she was beginning to understand what the old man had been going on about: “Unbelievable, rains three days in a row here and suddenly everything goes along slithering in the mud.” She was also coming to realize why his comment bothered her so much. It wasn’t what he said, but how, his voice bubbling over with disgust. She wondered to herself, what if slithering was normal and the grotesque thing was to walk upright? Maybe even now, as she was walking down this street it seemed repulsive to some, and if it wasn’t, then why was everyone staring? The townsfolk had begun to set up the street market, their lopsided stalls balanced on buckets and wooden crates like hobbled creatures; amputees incapable even of slithering. Girls barely old enough to be women, prematurely aged by their buzzing swarms of children, began setting out enormous pots that looked like black, charred skulls.

They wouldn’t tell her a thing in the pharmacy. Not in the corner store either. An “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know him” would’ve been polite, but they wouldn’t even look at her. They’d ignore her question, annoyed like she’d been asking for years, as if she should already know that nobody knew who she was rattling on about. “But how should I know you don’t know? I’m the one who doesn’t know around here,” she was muttering to herself when she came across a man sitting at the foot of a Santa Muerte statue. The shrine stood in front of a little shack, towering over it as if the shack’s only purpose was to prop up the giant altarpiece. He was the one who finally helped her, and he did so as if it were his duty to guide her along her way, telling her in great detail which way to go. “It’s because you still got a long way to go, Miss, I’d take you myself, I would, but I’m here on guard duty.” He drew deeply on his cigarette, inhaling and exhaling a smoke that was so black it disturbed her. He inhaled as if it were as sweet as pure oxygen and then sat back down in front of the shrine like a loyal dog.

When she finally got to the house, she knocked hesitantly. Several lazy, stray dogs were laying in the street, yapping like poorly paid employees, as if being a dog were some boring chore. Not even bothering to wag their tails, they looked distractedly in other directions.

“Good afternoon.”

He appeared at the door which was made of short boards faded by the years, more symbolic than actual barrier, as anyone could have knocked it down with a gentle push. He held a straw hat in hand, which didn’t make much sense because the sun wasn’t out. In fact, no one had seen the sun in a long time. Didn’t seem like anyone around here was a farmer, although she thought that all the townspeople she’d seen so far, including him, were nothing more than country people wandering along these rows of buildings strung together as haphazard streets. 

“Come in, can I get you anything?”

She entered, carrying her worn black purse in front of her like a shield. She said, 

“Aristos, don’t you remember me?”

 Aristeo Magro suddenly felt far outside himself, as if it weren’t him standing there in front of this lonely nobody of a woman. He was transported to that time long ago; the dull, dilapidated warehouse, enveloped in the hot steam, breathing in the smell of the seamstresses’ cold leftovers. All the workers and even the foreman, drowsy and lulled by the enormous clock grinding away the seconds above the door. She gave him a big hug.

“I’ve been looking all over—looking for you. Your Aunt Quintila told me where I’d find you.”

The last afternoon light was dissolving into darkness in the house’s only room. On the kitchen table sat a lamp with Chinese characters printed on the shade. He switched it on and invited her to sit. More out of awkwardness than politeness he turned on the TV. The voices and sounds transmitted from one side of the world to the other seemed to restore some kind of calm in him. He was afraid to hear himself talk, and he was afraid to hear her talk. He was especially afraid of never hearing anything ever again besides her voice and was afraid of losing himself once again in that voice.

He offered her a cushion for her chair, and then they said nothing, only stealing glances at one another as he poured a cup of coffee for her. He lifted the cloth on the breadbasket, pushed a plastic napkin holder within her reach—clearly a party favor from some long-ago wedding—and edged the butter dish closer.

“You still like butter on your bread?” he smiled.

After the first sip and with a hunk of bread between her fingers, she finally spoke.

“Fulgencio Jr. died. I just came from the cemetery.”

Aristeo looked at her, not angrily, but with a feeling of deep rage for having seen this woman go through so much. As if it wasn’t enough, the death of Ful-Gensio Senior, as he always called him, accentuating the syllables. Now this. They were tragedies made even meaner because of their impossibility for revenge. He began to stand.

“No…” She said, extending an open palm towards him, “don’t hug me.”

There was a knock at the door. A young woman with greying hair and a nervous tic of a laugh stuck her head in, bursting through the symbolic door. Instead of walking she sort of skipped, and in three little hops was inside. It was as if some unseen spring-mechanism wouldn’t let her walk normally or discreetly if she’d wanted to and instead made her skip before every step. Just as mechanically, she suddenly stopped, much to their relief. If she’d taken one more step, just one more little hop, she would’ve run straight into the wall.

Atolito, corn drink for the pancito, Atolito. Hot and fresh, atolito. For the little old man…today we got chocolatey champurrado, Don Aris,” she said, fixating her big bug eyes on Aristeo’s visitor, not breaking her gaze for even a second.

“No thanks, not today.”

He rose to make sure the woman was gone as fast as she’d come in and then locked the door behind her.

They took a moment to adjust after the awkward interruption, but then she found her words again. “I’m fine, I just felt like I had to tell you, that I was the one who had to tell you, you wouldn’t have believed it otherwise. Last time he was in Mexico he asked about you, you know. He said to me, You should look him up, let him know. Let him know what? I asked. I told him you’d become a journalist.”

“I sell newspapers. It’s not the same thing.”

“Well he says to me, Tell him dad died, and of course that made him crack up laughing, so he can put it in the paper: Extra Extra! Read all about it, Fulgencio Sr., dead! We’ve got the photo! Read for yourselves, his lovely widow, single again after all these years…”

“No, I don’t do any shouting like that…I don’t know what to say. That was his dad after all. I don’t know why he’d think it was a laughing matter.”

“He was young when his dad died, he barely knew him. And he used to hit him, not hard, just some spanking, but that’s all he remembers. His aunts would tease him and say that he wasn’t his real dad, that he was…you remember? They called him the little bastard boy and he’d get so mad. And bastard Aunt Saula really was a bastard you know, she was born after grandpa died. Too bad Grandpa’s spirit never stopped by on the Candlemas—I don’t know why, but Junior always confused Day of the Dead on November 2nd with the Candlemas on February 2nd. Anyway, toward the end just about everything cracked him up. When he went north he’d write me and his letters would say, How’s the old lady doing? Here’s a little something so you’ll quit working so hard. He’d been a cop for a long time up there, remember? When he’d come down to visit I’d say, Let me see you in uniform, but he’d just laugh. He’d say, I’m a Mexican down here, old lady, I’m only a cop up there, on the other side. He always said I should go with him, What are you still doing here? You’re just making yourself miserable, you don’t even want to go out dancing like you used to, come on, let’s go out for cake and coffee, and he’d drive me in his car because he had his car here, remember? I said Why don’t you get married? Must be a lot of pretty little gringas up there, after all, you’re a gringo now, got to be at least one that thinks you’re alright, then you can bring her down here and I’ll braid her hair just like she were my own daughter, and when you want to come back you can bring her along and I’ll spoil her rotten, except, oh that’s right, you don’t want me in your house! because he’d already told me he wanted to buy his own house. I said to him, you’re getting old, junior, and I’m not getting any younger, don’t you want to give me grandkids? He’d joke back, Yeah, and what about you? Yeah, everyone knows I’m old, so what? You should find somebody, ya old lady. Don’t you want someone that’ll take you out for cake? And he’d bring up that time he wanted cake and was throwing a tantrum and calling out for his dad who’d just died, papa cake papa cake papa cake! and his aunts said, Shut that kid up, give him a spanking or something. His dad always took him to the café on the main drag, so I picked him up and went out with him in my arms, but the café had closed down, so I started wandering. I came across a big house where they were throwing a party, this huge party. The street was blocked off with cars, those extra-long Dodges we always said looked like boats, large as barges, the same kind Fulgencio Sr. had, and the people all started staring at me and then I realized I was crying too, but I couldn’t feel it, I just stood there holding Junior. No more crying, I whispered to him, Papa’s not here anymore but we’re going to find you some cake, and there was this woman, What’s wrong? What’s the matter, why’s the boy crying, and you too? and he says to her, papa, cake! Ah, the little guy wants some cake. Come on in, we have cake. So, they sit us down and give Fulgencio Jr. a piece, I mean, the biggest piece of cake you’ve ever seen. There there honey, don’t cry, tell your momma she should quit crying too. You remember?”

The wind began to howl, sweeping in all the sounds from the street. Mothers calling to their children, the shrill steam-whistle of the yam seller’s cart, car horns, laughing teenagers, shouting, and then the yowling wind itself. It swayed the sun-bleached screens in the windows without dislodging any of the dead flies stuck there. It was as if the flies stuck in the pale screen had sucked up all the color from the outside world, all the green, the blue.

“No, I don’t remember. We haven’t seen each other in a long time, remember?”

“So, all that became sort of a joke. I told Fulgencio Jr. no way in hell, I’m not going to look him up, he should look me up! So why didn’t you ever look me up?”

“What’d you want me to do? Invite you both to dinner?”

“All three of us, sure, why not? Fulgencio Sr. always knew we were friends. He’d tease me, saying, when I die, you’re going to run off and become an Aristocrat. Are you happy, Aristos?”

“I don’t know…you ever watch the soaps? Here, why don’t you come sit over here. The plastic chair is more comfortable. Pull it over, don’t worry if it scuffs the floor, I didn’t get a chance to sweep anyway.”

As night fell the sounds outside changed: sirens, drunken arguing, shattering glass, and wailing children.

“Here, I have some lady’s slippers, if you want to wear them. I don’t know why I bought them, on sale, I guess. No, they don’t belong to anybody. Course I slept with a few women, what’d you expect? But not here. I never asked them their names and, well, they’d never tell me anyway. There you go on laughing. I’m not going to promise you nothing. You want a pillow? Sorry they’re not washed. Here, have some newspapers to put your feet up, they’re clean. Hey, you’re still wearing the anklet, is that the same one? Yeah, I remember, from Taxco. I brought it back from Taxco for you. No, I wouldn’t dare touch you. No, never. Want some socks? It’s cold enough, huh? You comfortable? Yeah, it’s not so bad here. It is pretty late. I didn’t mean it like that, but I mean, if no one’s waiting up for you. No, I’ll sleep here in the chair. There’s a big stick over there if I come too close. No, if you get too close I’m not going to beat you with it, well, maybe just a little…I’m not laughing. I’m not hungry, but if you are. Sure, there’s no oven, but the hot plate works fine. There’s a pharmacy, they sell everything, food, drinks, sure, everything. Meat? Yeah, they even sell meat. You don’t want to eat meat? You’re the one who started laughing this time. No need for you to come along, better you wait here, it’s cold out there. No, no ghosts here, not like in your house. Just you wait for the gossip. You’ll see what I mean tomorrow, you’ll leave, but I’ll still be here.”

The walls were bare except for a large poster for an old Mexican movie. A woman wearing an anklet was sprawled out on a bed and a man wearing an expensive-looking suit smoked a cigarette. They looked happy, like they’d just been together or maybe it was moments before they were about to. There was a cassette player on Aristos’ table. She stood up in her bare feet, plugged it in, and pressed play. It started skipping, so she changed out the tape for a clear one with no label. The songs were from her generation, back when she and Aristos used to go dancing. He never came up to the house, but always waited on the corner instead—that was, until Fulgencio showed up, who’d eventually become the father of her son. She liked him from the very beginning, Look, Aristos, if one day he doesn’t want me anymore, then I’ll go out with you again. It’s just…he’s so handsome, and you should see the way he dances. It’s not because he has a car, you know that, right? I’m only going to go out with him for a while, okay? Then you’ll ask me to be your girlfriend again and we’ll get married, so don’t be mad. But Fulgencio wasn’t fooling around; he went straight to her parents as soon as he finished college. The three of them ended up spending time together, even though she doesn’t remember. One day they all ate lunch in the cafeteria together. She told Fulgencio that Aristos was a childhood friend, mentioning that she’d never had a friend quite like him, and it became apparent to Fulgencio that it was no coincidence Aristos was always hanging around. He’d seen him a few times at parties and back then, there weren’t so many dances, not like now. In those days, nice young ladies didn’t go to orchestra dances, but it was fine to go out if a girlfriend had a birthday or got married or invited you to some other celebration. Only then would parents let their daughters out of the house. No, it wasn’t the first time he’d seen Aristeo around. He found him endearing in a way. They invited Aristos to a party that night. He said, You should come along, Aristeo, because he never called him Aristos, but respectfully, Aristeo. As time went on, the two of them stopped running into him and all that remained was a single joke between themselves, especially whenever she got on his nerves about certain things, like the cold, which she always whined about, or the rain, which made her sick. Fulgencio would say to her, You always were such an Aristocrat…

“Took you long enough, I was starting to get cold. The wind here’s terrible, it’s howling.”

She went up to him and stood there looking at him, searching for that place where she knew he’d buried all the memories of those afternoons when school let out and he’d be waiting for her on the sidewalk with his bike. They’d soar over the streets, most of them still unpaved dirt roads at that time, and only when she thought she’d found that place, when she began to feel safe the way she had back then, sitting behind him on the seat while he stood pedaling, her arms wrapped around his waist, back when she believed they could’ve circled the whole world together on that bike, did she begin to speak.

“They said Fulgencio Jr. was in front but his partner went down first. Then they shot him too. Only thing he managed to say was that he wanted to be buried in Mexico. They didn’t bother taking him to the hospital. They kept calling me but couldn’t get a hold of me until they contacted some relatives we have up there who passed my address along. I don’t know how long they kept him for, but all I got were his ashes in an urn, and that’s what we buried, Aristos, just ashes. They showed up and gave them to me along with his badge and papers. Only one spoke Spanish, he had the face of a Mexican and said they were going to do the honor guard and all that, but I didn’t want them to, Aristos, what for? So, I signed some papers and they left.”

It wasn’t long after his death that she’d remembered the umbilical cord. She kept it in a little box her father gave her along with everything else from her wedding: the bouquet, the lasso, the gold coins, all of it.

“There was this little worm in there, Aristos. A little worm like this, tiny, whiter than white, crazy. I untied the silk ribbon where I kept Fulgencio Jrs.’ umbilical cord and there it was. It began to squirm like I’d woken it up, and it had little eyes like this, teeny, black. Hidden right there between the folds of dry flesh, or, I don’t know if it’s flesh, but between the folds of whatever it is. It was like it had a soul. So, there I was, taking care of it, and it kept rolling over and over. Then it crawled up my finger, but it felt so cold, I knew I had to warm it up. It had this way of dragging itself along, kind of slithering, and something about it made me feel so…alive. How do you think it’s possible it lived in there for more than thirty years? How long do little worms live, Aristos? Are you awake?  Don’t fall asleep! I know it’s not him, but, it’s part of him, isn’t it? It was like he’d been born again, reborn in that little worm, right? I didn’t want to just toss it in his urn. I have it here. Don’t be scared, I told it, Fulgencio Jr. isn’t here anymore, but you’re the flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood, and you won’t die because I’m here to take care of you. That’s what I told it. I’ll put you out here in the sunshine, so you can see how good life is, so you can feel the light and sun and sky, so you can feel the warm morning breeze. I’m going to take care of you. I have it here. I’m going to have a locket made so I can always carry it with me. Want to see? It’s dead, but still bright white. See its little eyes? Right there. That’s why I came Aristos, I wanted to show you since you couldn’t be the father of my son. I thought you might want to see how this little worm was born from his umbilical cord, flesh of my flesh. Hold out your hand, there, that’s it, hold it. It’s like it’s alive, right? I mean, it was born from living flesh. Then all the sudden it started to get a little paler. It was dying on me, and I couldn’t bring it back to life. I set it out in the sun. Live, live! I told it, but no. It was gone, and it kept getting stiffer and stiffer, with its dull little eyes that don’t shine anymore. So I put it back in Fulgencio’s umbilical cord. I’ll keep you here, I told it, So you won’t be lonely.”

They were eating breakfast the next morning when the atole lady came back. This time Aristeo bought two atoles and four tamales, two salsa two sweet. The atole lady asked;

“You have a visitor, Don Aris?”

 “No,” he replied, “this is my wife.”

“I’m going to do his novena, Aristos. I’m going to put his umbilical cord and his little worm up there on his altar along with his picture. He brought me a photo once with him in his uniform and all his medals. I’m going to put it on his altar and if you want, I’ll leave one here with you too, if that’s alright.

On the third day, she left Aristeo Magro’s house and went home to prepare her son’s novena.

translator’s note:

I’m thrilled to present to you, for the first time in English, the work of contemporary Mexican author, Noé Blancas-Blancas. This story comes from Blancas-Blancas’ collection, A La Sombra Del Sombrero (Conaculta/Praxis/Gobierno del Estado de Guerrero, 2015). In this story, an unnamed woman goes in search of a long-lost high school sweetheart shortly after her adult son is killed on duty as a police officer in the United States. What is most mesmerizing about this short work is Blancas-Blancas’ ability to quickly create trenchant portrayals of regular people and the monument-sized longing they drag behind them. “Preparation for a Novena” invites the reader to consider the dark edges of regret and what happens when our most intense desires bump against the periphery of our grief. The work of this author is tinged with the threat of disaster; the one-sided dialogue throughout is a howl into the void. I hope it sticks with you the way it stuck with me.

Allana C. Noyes is a literary translator from Reno, Nevada. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and in 2015 was granted a Fulbright to Mexico. In 2018, she was awarded the World Literature Today Translation Prize in Poetry, and in 2020, was selected for the emerging translator fellowship at the Banff Centre Residency program. Her translations have appeared in World Literature Today, Asymptote, Lunch Ticket, Mexico City Lit, Exchanges, and are forthcoming in Literal Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, InTranslation/BrooklynRail, and the Catapult/Soft Skull anthology of short horror fiction, Tiny Nightmares

Noé Blancas-Blancas is an author from the state of Guerrero, Mexico. He is a professor at the UPAEP University in Puebla, Mexico, and has received several awards for his writing, including the Cuca Massieu award, the José Agustín prize for short stories, and the María Luisa Ocampo award for short stories. He was also a recipient of a FOECA grant in 2006 (State funding for arts and culture.) He is the author of two books of short stories and one book of poetry. His work has never before been translated into English. Photo courtesy of Espantajo Films.




Yi Feng translates Shuguang Zhang

Three Poems

Beautiful New World

We kept questioning and peeing
towards Duchamp’s urinal. Mutt brand. But now it is out of production for long.
Had a pleasant breakfast. Rice porridge, corn and cabbage (non-GMO).
Watch the headline news. Big Benz in the Forbidden City. Democratic Party
officially launched impeachment against Trump. It has always been smoggy for more than twenty days.
The sky is gray, as if you were in an old photograph of the Republic of China.
Or peep here from the coming years.
Fall in love with the huge cube of dreams. It’s like a memorial day.
A room or a uterus. In it our desires are growing gaily.
Wishes are packaged, tied with a bow tie, and mimic the good weather.
The card says: Love, your neighbors, if he (she) is of the same sex.
We wear shorts of CK brand and drink Evian mineral water.
We have famous cars and luxurious mansions of tens of millions of yuans.
Although they are a little expensive, we are willing to pay.
We have to pay for the right future. Correct future rather than just future.
We are not living in the Middle Ages. We are just alive.
But this is not the point. Carefully stare at our goals.
It was carefully designed and made. Just like Duchamp’s urinal.
He renamed it “Fountain”, but it was actually very cheap.

Outside the window, heavy snow is falling.
It seemed that the anger and the depression of the whole winter were suddenly spit out.
The light becomes loaded. I’m watching through the window. Listen to Du Pré ’s
Sonata in G minor by Edmund Rubbra, works No. 60.
My heart trembles on the strings. Maybe I should say something
but there is nothing to say. The dead are dead, and they
were allowed to remain silent forever. There is no need to wear a mask in heaven, and
of course
there are no viruses or lies. Living people hiding at home
continue to fear or continue to be shameless. Bats take off in the dark
with a message of death. At the moment there is only music, soothing my sorrow.
There are also poems, recording this moment of pain.
But I will still look out of the window. Snow. Snow. Snow.
A heavy snow covered the world, like death.

This is not a poem

This is the wall. This is a button on the wall. This is a beetle.
This is a cigarette butt. This is a stone. This is a button.
This is cinder on the wall. This is night. The detritus of the night.
This is a button. This is a button on the wall. This is a nail.
Or traces left by nails. This is a stain. This is a virus.
This is the shadow of the lungs. This is time. This is the end of time.
This is a beetle. This is the evidence left by a smashed-dead beetle.
This is death. This is a cigarette butt. This is a button on the wall.
This is sand. A grain of sand or a universe.
This is a virus. This is the shadow left by the virus in the lungs.
This is a beetle. Here is the evidence left after the beetle was smashed to death.
This is night. This is daytime. This is their residue.
This is a stone. This is cinder. This is the carbon core after cinder is burned.
This is a shadow. This is confusion. This is a rag. This is a nail.
This is a nail nailed into the wall. This is a hole left
after a nail is pulled out. This is an ink dot. This is confusion. This is thinking.
This is the excrement of thinking. This is memory. This is the sorrow of memory.
This is grief. This is despair. This is death. This is
the signature of death. This is sand. This is a desert.
This is an earthly world. This is a covenant. This is a button on the wall.
This is the mother’s tears and the baby’s crying. This is a cigarette butt.
This is the glove dropped by death. This is a cookie.
This is a toy. This is a start button. This is a lie.
This is acne and freckles. This is a letter.
This is an engine. A car. A manned spacecraft.
This is a black hole. This is the time to stop. This is a question. This is a miracle.
This is a virus. Conspiracy of virus and lung. This is a wall.
This is a button on the wall. This is a poem. This is not a poem.

A Movie: A Quiet Place

Wear a mask in spring. N95. It imprisons us.
Death. Cold ban. I am a walking virus.
To be exact, a time bomb that ticks constantly and can be detonated at any time.
The soul is withering day by day, like a vase of flowers.
It longs to jump out of its flesh and embraces the scenery outside the window.
But the landscape is a bird, locked in a corroded cage.
In the afternoon, sunlight penetrates into the window like snow, cutting the room into two equal parts.
I curl up on the floor, watching a horror movie.
Monster is killing humans, but humans cannot see it.
It finds us through the air. We dare not make a sound.
We study hard how to keep silent and cover our children’s mouth in due time.
Feel fortunate to be still alive in corpse-like silence.

translator’s note:

Shuguang Zhang is one of the most influential poets active in contemporary Chinese poetry. With their uniqueness and experimental writing styles and the juxtaposition of modern and ancient cultural elements, Shuguang Zhang’s poems reflect both the characteristics of traditional Chinese poetics and aesthetics as well as the influence from Western poetics.

He began to write poetry when he was in college, pursuing a solid and tough poetic style in the past. Tao Yuanming (352/365AD–427AD), a famous recluse poet who is founding father for Chinese pastoral poetry is said to be Shuguang Zhang’s favorite Chinese poet, and he is also influenced by some Western poets such as New York school poets and language poets. Zhang has noted that Chinese Zen-Taoism thinking also serves as a fundamental basis of his poetics.

His poetry covers a wide range of topics, ranging from modern Chinese life and the relationship between nature and humans to profound philosophical inquiry and popular cultures in China and West. His writing styles are various and diverse, and include the brilliant and skillful use of everyday dialogue, narratives, collage, juxtaposition and repetition. Over the past couple of years, Zhang’s poetic style has changed. Whereas narrative style dominated his work, it has more recently been replaced by collage, juxtaposition of fragments and repetitions, in which the poet shows his constant endeavors to modernize Chinese poetry by seeking for a new voice with experimental techniques.

The three poems presented here are new, written during the Covid-19 pandemic, and diverge from his past poetic style. In these poems, Zhang bravely talks about the changes brought by the pandemics, the relationship between nature and humans, and the sorrow caused by human misconduct. Reading these poems, readers can see Zhang’s profound thinking on death, grief, and salvation, and what poetry can do in the post-pandemic era.

Yi Feng is a scholar, translator, poet, and associate professor at Northeastern University, China. Her English poems have been published in The Penn Review, Model Minority, and Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, etc.. Her Chinese poems have been published in Lotus (芙蓉) and Chinese Poetry Website. She has translated Chinese poets and American poets, including Shuguang Zhang, Susan Howe, Rae Armantrout and Charles Bernstein, among other poets. Her translation of poems appeared in journals in China and the US, such as Poetry Monthly (诗歌月刊) in 2019 , and DoubleSpeak in 2020. She was awarded the Hunt Scholarship in 2016. She has won the Bronze Prize in an International Chinese Poetry Competition in 2017. She lives in Shenyang, China.

Shuguang Zhang was born in 1956 in Wangkui County, Heilongjiang Province, China. He is a poet, translator, and a retired professor of Chinese at the School of Literature, Heilongjiang University. Zhang’s poetry collections include The Clown’s Gown, The Snowfall in the Afternoon, Zhang Shuguang’s Poetry, and Haunted House, among others. His more notable collections of translated poetry are Divine Comedy and Czesław Miłosz’s Poetry. Zhang was awarded the first Liu Li’an Poetry Award, the Poetry and People Poetry Award, the “Poetry Construction” Master Award, and in 2019, the Su Shi Poetry Award. His works have been translated into English, Spanish, German, Japanese, Dutch, and other languages.




Cynthia Steele translates Jaime Huenún Villa

From Kawiñtun üyelüwün mew / Ceremonia de los nombres / Ceremony of the Names


We haven’t forgotten you, Huichapán,
sad wandering puma,
we haven’t forgotten you.
Do you still carry 
jerkey and island water
in your flour sack
season after season?
And visions of mushrooms in your eyes
fatally wounded by the distance?
Puma warrior, do you still sing
your mother’s earthly songs
when you dream, drunk and alone,
before the river of dawn?
The wind is the traveler’s 
only homeland, Huichapán,
and the night is the country
of the orphaned child
fragrant of the sea
under the dark waves of trees.
Inché kuñifal meu,
kiñe rümei nga ñi dungun,
küme  huentru ngefuli
epu rumeafui nga ñi dungu.
I wander dejected over your lands, little sister,
I wander dejected.
But I have my word,
but I have my word,
the vagabond riches
I offer your heart.


From Alto Huilío
passing through Freire,
came Margarita
the infidel warria.
Oh, body of oak,
Ancacoy of the forests,
house of the thrush,
nest of the light.
Will you now sweep
the countryside’s leaves,
the mud, the rain,
the dust of the south?
Will you cut firewood,
will you drink mate,
will you make fry bread
for the new sun?
Sad Margarita,
your mother sings to you,
your son dreams about you,
the laurel calls your name.
Sad Margarita,
Ancacoy of the meadow,
raulí tree turned green,
hidden flower.


What will these lands say about me
now that I’m returning
with my face distorted
by the salty pampa winds?
Will you even remember my name,
sorcer’s stones of the hills,
when I pass before you
to plead for my fate?
Are the enemies of travelers aware
I carry potent talismans
under a gray makuñ tehuelche
unraveled by the snow?
As a young man I set out 
for the eastern passes
carefree as the thrushes’ song
illuminated by dawn.
¡Kintupurrai inche pingey!
–I shouted to the heavens—
¡Kintupurrai inche pingey!
Seeker of flowers and waters,
a merchant and a pilgrim,
I got lost with my pouches of liquor
in the immense Land of Apples.
Through fields carpeted with Coirons
where my caciques reign
over sands and lakes,
alone I rode.
Paillacán, Foyel, Sayhueque,
Tereupán, Antuleguén
sat singing before the fire
to drink from my liquor.
Po alué, efkütuaimün, po alué.
Kümelkaimün pu fochüm, kümelkaimün.
Nekelepe kewan,
kuchiyu ñielafimün.
Dead souls, 
join me in a toast.
Dead souls,
Let no brothers quarrel,
we beg you,
Let no knives gleam
in the fickle cup
of night.


We reached the edge of a river,
hot shade of Andean cacti.
The hills were sleeping like condors
beneath the sun’s fierce areolae
stricken with altitude sickness.
In the bread we carried our rituals
along with incessant whispering
of defunct tongues.
Hummingbirds bled in the air
sipping in circling flights
from sudden mountain blossoms.
In the light, stones were rolling
toward the Father of Waters.
They asked, Who is your grandfather? 
Where is your chachay’s horse   
in the dense afternoon fog?
Wallün feytüfa mongen zungu,
wallün feytüfa lan zungun 
– wiñolzunguyiñ.
The word of life is circular,
the word of death is circular
–we responded–,
assembled like burnt birds
in the tallest, leafiest crown
of pain.


No te hemos olvidado, Huichapán,
andariego puma triste,
no te hemos olvidado.
¿Llevas todavía en tu saco harinero
charqui y lluvia isleña
de estación en estación?
¿Y visiones de dihueñes en tus ojos
malheridos por la lejanía?
¿Cantas aún, puma guerrero,
las canciones terrenales de tu madre
cuando sueñas ebrio y solo
frente al río del amanecer?
Sólo el viento es la patria del viajero, Huichapán,
y la noche
el país del hijo huérfano
que huele a mar
bajo el oleaje oscuro de los árboles.
Inché kuñifal meu,
kiñe rümei nga ñi dungun,
küme  huentru ngefuli
epu rumeafui nga ñi dungu.
Pobre ando por tus tierras, hermanita,
pobre ando.
Pero tengo mi palabra,
pero tengo mi palabra,
la riqueza vagabunda
que le ofrezco a tu corazón.


Desde Alto Huilío
pasando por Freire,
vino Margarita
a la warria infiel.
Oh, Cuerpo de roble,
Ancacoy del bosque,
casa de zorzales,
nido de la luz.
¿Barrerás ahora
las hojas del campo,
el barro, la lluvia,
el polvo del sur?
¿Cortarás la leña,
tomarás el mate,
harás sopaipillas
para el nuevo sol?
Triste, Margarita,
te canta tu madre,
te sueña tu hijo,
te llama el laurel.
Triste Margarita,
Ancacoy del prado,
pellín verdecido,
escondida flor.


¿Qué dirán estas tierras sobre mí
ahora que regreso
con el rostro trastornado
por los vientos salinos de la pampa?
¿Recordarán mi nombre acaso,
piedras brujas de los cerros,
cuando pase frente a ustedes
a pedir por mi destino?
¿Sabrán los enemigos del viajero
que llevo poderosos talismanes
bajo un gris makuñ tehuelche
destejido por la nieve?
Joven fui hacia los pasos del oriente,
alegre como canto de wilquiles
iluminados por el amanecer.
¡Kintupurrai inche pingey!
-grité a los cielos-
¡Kintupurrai inche pingey!
Yo, buscador de flores y agua,
comerciante y peregrino,
me perdí con mis garrafas de aguardiente
en el inmenso País de las Manzanas.
Por los campos alfombrados de coirones
donde reinan mis caciques
sobre arenas y lagunas,
solitario cabalgué.
Paillacán, Foyel, Sayhueque,
Tereupán, Antuleguén
se sentaron cantando frente al fuego
a beber de mi licor.
Po alué, efkütuaimün, po alué.
Kümelkaimün pu fochüm, kümelkaimün.
Nekelepe kewan,
kuchiyu ñielafimün.
Almas muertas,
ayúdenme a brindar.
Almas muertas,
haced bien a los hijos.
Que no haya pelea entre hermanos,
les pedimos.
Que no brillen los cuchillos
en la copa veleidosa
de la noche.


Llegamos al borde de un río,
a la sombra caliente
de los cactus andinos.
Los cerros dormían como cóndores
bajo las apunadas y violentas
areolas del sol.
Trajimos nuestros ritos en el pan
y el susurro incesante
de las lenguas occisas.
Pu pinza müpüyngün traf kürüfmew
iyefingün ta ñi wallünmew
ta chi tripachi rayen mawiza mew.
Colibríes sangraban contra el aire
comiéndose en sus giros
las abruptas flores de montaña.
Piedras hubo que rodaron en la luz,
sigilosas hacia el Padre de las Aguas.
¿Quién es tu abuela?- preguntaron-.
¿Dónde va el caballo que monta tu chachay
en plena y densa niebla vespertina?
Wallün feytüfa mongen zungu,
wallün feytüfa lan zungun 
– wiñolzunguyiñ.
Circular es la palabra de la vida,
circular es la palabra de la muerte
reunidos como pájaros quemados
en la copa más alta y más frondosa
del dolor.

Translator’s Note:

These poems are drawn from the book Kawiñtun üyelüwün mew / Ceremonia de los nombres / Ceremony of the Names, which forms part of Jaime Huenún Villa’s project to orchestrate a chorus of popular voices derived from anonymous people within the Huilliche-Mapuche communities of southern Chile and of urban migrant neighborhoods in Santiago and other cities. In his earlier prize-winning book Reducciones (2013), Huenún interrogated the cycles of conquest and colonization that have laid siege to Mapuche lands and culture, whether in the form of military or religious campaigns, first by Spaniards, then by Chileans, or of economic servitude and social marginalization. Even as the Mapuches have been relegated first to “reductions” (similar to U.S. reservations), and then to the poorest shantytowns of Chile’s cities, they have struggled to maintain a sense of their genealogical and cultural integrity, including command of their native language, Mapudungun. While Huenún writes primarily in Spanish, he also interweaves verses in Mapudungun into his poems, in such a way that they are comprehensible to speakers of either language (and now, with these translations, to speakers of English). The unsung heroes of the poems in Kawiñtun üyelüwün mew / Ceremonia de los nombres / Ceremony of the Names tell us the stories of their families, their work history, their travels, their religious experiences and revelations, their loves and conflicts, even of their deaths. Above all these are stories of resilience and celebration, incorporating the musicality and rhythms of popular song. 

Cynthia Steele is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her translations include Inés Arredondo, Underground Rivers (Nebraska, 1996), José Emilio Pacheco, City of Memory (City Lights, 2001, with David Lauer), and María Gudín, Open Sea (Amazon Crossings, 2018). They have also appeared in The Chicago Review, TriQuarterly, The Seattle Review, Gulf Coast, Lunch Ticket, Trinity Journal of Literary Translation, Southern Review, Exchanges,  Latin American Literary Review, and other journals. Photo by Carolyn Cullen.

Jaime Luis Huenún is a Chilean Mapuche-Huilliche poet, born in 1967, who has received numerous awards, including the Pablo Neruda Prize (2003), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005), and the Chilean National Council on Arts and Culture’s Literature Award in 2013. Two of his books are available in English: Port Trakl (Diálogos, 2008) and Fanon City Meu (Action Books, 2018). Translations of his poems have also appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Washington Square Review, and other journals. Huenún lives in Santiago, where he works for the Chilean Ministry of Culture. Photo by Alvaro de la Fuente Farré.




Gabor G. Gyukics and Terri Carrion translate Zsuka Nagy

Two in the street

as a finale he threw a chair into the middle of the dive,
he wanted to throw two, but they held him down.

it was a cheesy, faceless dive, a Pepsi-ad color eclectic poverty,
at dawn blue and shit colored flowers bloom at the edge of the city.
of course, they were standing on their two legs pushing each other the way they played with their dump-trucks, ragdolls and pillow cases in their childhood, and later with the thrown out clothes of their lovers.

but now they are in the Villonesque loathsomeness, ready to steal and destroy.
at night they eat the moon, fried eggs they say, it’s enough for them.
fuck reality but mix the moon with hard liquor.
street smelling incense, mint cigarette that they bite, tear and rip
they cannot compare the stars, become uneasy, start scratching,
the stars are scratched out pimples on our bodies they say, and calm down a bit.

they sit in a box at Gajdos’, feeling cold already gobbled the moon up, need something solid.
they stand up swaying like trees in the wind, they’re bony, their skins hang on them like stretched t-shirts, yet it’s starry they say then drop, their skin turns to urine and vomit like gooey substance.

they have their own table in their dreams, they’re free to take.
their blouse and shirts are ironed, their jeans are clean, their shoes are shining
there is a roof above their heads, simple small rooms and everyone minds their own business, things only they know, aren’t drunk, clinking their tall glasses
because there is some kind of holiday or other good happening or just because.

two persons in the street, both easily transplantable, lie on a kind of asphalt rug
going wild like grown children and know that they are only similes and metaphors.
they get up, cut the throat of reality, get disguised,
walk in blue and shit colored eclectic poverty, in the gypsy row, and then they put all of it in writing.


dad is a shell
mom is a fuzzy heart root
when the rain comes, we drench together
when the sun shines we are together
in the light

sometimes I bury them in the woods
to save them from trouble
I call them to hold hands and
whisper into each other’s ears

dad and mom are whispering
earth is guarding them
we practice resurrection
they come out of the ground
wash their bodies
dress up and go to work

they call me Sunday saying
lunch is ready for Wednesday
they ask if I have anything to eat
then I invite them to the woods again
they say it’s awkward for them
but they will do it if I want to

Translators’ note:

Zsuka Nagy’s idiosyncrasy is apparent in her free verse, where form is determined by the dynamics of strong emotions, lightened by a whimsical rhyme here and there. Her poems stand out for their bravery and vocabulary, even in a contemporary environment with fewer taboos, and for their unflinching take on the great themes: love, family, illness, poverty, rural life, old age, and death. A major motif in her work is the attention given to people living on the periphery of the mainstream. Her poems are at once intense and gentle, sometimes coarse, mixing everyday speech with lyrical imagery. Pigment, her third and most recent book of poetry, was published in 2018.

Terri Carrion was conceived in Venezuela and born in New York to a Galician mother and Cuban father. Her work has appeared and disappeared in print and online. She is co-founder of the global grassroots movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change.


Gabor G Gyukics, a poet and translator from Budapest, is the author of eleven books of original poetry; six in Hungarian, two in English, one in Arabic, one in Bulgarian, one in Czech. He is the translator of eleven books including A Transparent Lion, selected poetry of Attila József, and Swimming in the Ground: Contemporary Hungarian Poetry (in English, both with co-translator Michael Castro) and an anthology of North American Indigenous poets translated into Hungarian under the title Medvefelhő a város felett.

Zsuka Nagy was born in 1977 in Nyíregyháza, Hungary and is a poet, writer, teacher, and the author of four collections of poetry. She lives and works as a teacher in Nyíregyháza. She likes poetic images just as she likes riding her bicycle which she calls Rozi. She is the recipient of several prizes.




Allison A. deFreese translates Verónica G. Arredondo

_ _ _
_ _ _
_ _ _


There are
Green ghost fires in the black rooms.

Tu Fu
(Translation of Tu Fu’s verse by Kenneth Rexroth.)


I learned to sing in the desert

To interpret those voices  

To transcribe the sound of hours
scratching between bones and teeth

I held the piano in my hands,
then put it away under my tongue
locked away in a little box

Childhood was pursuing me
a spiral staircase like a snail’s shell
a half-opened door
with jaws in its depths

a recurrent

yellow trembling

My eyes inhabit a desert without stars

There is a green breeze in the open black window
In the black window there are green wings
                                               in the black there is green
                                                       the lights of insomnia

When someone turns on the lights
in the green room there are black feathers


I descend to the bottom on a spiral staircase  

A rip in the belly

The trembling sets in
at the knees
            and thighs

My hand touches
the body with the gutted hollow

When it comes tonight, my body won’t be empty

It will come for me, and I will be breathless
the tide has taken away my breath


the typhoon is coming for me

                             Since when do puppets pray?

Mamá, and what is this thirst?

             what about this silence?

            : and your blue flowers
the violet of your lips?

Mamá, what if I open my eyes
                 in the middle of a dream?

Translator’s Note

Green Fires of the Spirits is “at once one book and many,” Verónica González Arredondo announces in the thin-as-a-damselfly-wing, half-paragraph long introduction to the book in which “[Sky]” first appeared in Spanish. Verónica’s poems, all referencing the weather or water and other elements, are occasionally reminiscent of the best of Octavio Paz, and the reader may find strains of Issa or Tu Fu, notes from a Victorian parlor, or motifs of Modernist imagists such as Ezra Pound. Yet the crisp and unflinching music of this poetry forges a new, and altogether original, score that is unique in world poetry. Through a series of short reflections, narrated in the voice of a young girl from the deserts of Northern Mexico, Verónica González Arredondo debuts an unmistakably beautiful and haunting style all her own. Her poems take me back to the original Grimms’ fairy tales, with all the grizzly bits intact, revealing a chaotic and inexplicable universe through the eyes of a child who sees all too clearly its beauty and horrors: “Childhood was pursuing me/a spiral staircase like a snail’s shell/a half-opened door/with jaws in its depths,” (“[Sky]”). Though the writing in Green Fires is often light, magical, and entrancing, this is also a world where teeth hide in flowers and jaws are waiting at the bottom of the stairs; where a cherry tree may produce both cheerful red fruit and ash as gray as the fog that transports us back to WWII, the Holocaust, or Hiroshima; an airy dream of dragonflies may end abruptly when the dreamer opens a bedroom door and finds herself perched at the edge of a precipice as “the abyss returns my scream.” For three years, I had wanted to translate poetry that addressed immigration from Central America and Mexico, while acknowledging the women and girls who disappear while making this journey. I found those poems here, in Verónica’s deserts that once were oceans, as she guides us through underworlds and the heavens while providing a voice for those who are often silenced.

Poet and translator Allison A. deFreese is based in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and coordinates literary translation workshops for the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters. She has previously lived in Mexico and South America. She holds a BA from Ottawa University, an MFA and MA from the University of Texas at Austin (James A. Michener Center for Writers), and an MA in Spanish Translation from the University of Texas at Brownsville (now UT Rio Grande Valley). She has several book-length literary translations forthcoming later this year, including works by María Negroni and Luis Chitarroni (Argentina). Her translation of Verónica González Arredondo’s book I Am Not That Body won the 2020 Pub House Press (Quebec) international chapbook manuscript competition and is forthcoming this June.

Verónica González Arredondo (Guanajuato, Mexico) holds a PhD in Arts from the Universidad de Guanajuato and a Master’s in Philosophy from the Universidad de Zacatecas. She has received several prestigious Latin American literary awards, including Mexico’s National Ramón López Velarde Prize in Poetry/Premio Nacional de Poesía “Ramón López Velarde,” for her book of poems Ese cuerpo no soy/I Am Not That Body (Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, 2015) as well as the Dolores Castro Prize in Poetry /Premio Dolores Castro en Poesía, an annual prize awarded to a woman writing exceptional and socially conscious work in Spanish, for her book Verde Fuegos de Espíritus/Green Fires of the Spirits (Ayuntamiento de Aguascalientes, 2014). Voracidad, grito y belleza animal/Voraciousness, Screams and Animal Beauty, a book of essays, was also published by Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas in 2014. Verónica González Arredondo’s books of verse have previously been translated into, and published in, French and Portuguese. From 2017-2018 she held a FONCA fellowship for younger artists through the Fondo Nacional para la Culturas y las Artes/National Fund for Arts and Culture.               




Agnieszka Gabor da Silva translates Anna Adamowicz

peeling off

the hairless skin that isolates me from the world
is a few millimeters thick
(thicker on finger tips
thinner in elbow pits)
the only contact with the world I have is
through membranes of mucous (glass, opal)

through here you can come in
lay eggs
come out

a fruit fly is isolated from the universe
by a golden exoskeleton
complete with a pair of wings (opal, glass)

the fruit fly hit the space
pierced right through it
the fruit fly can roll its eyes inward
to see its own chromosome

I am in contact with the universe
through the red eyes of a fruit fly

Tumulus the mole builds a house underneath the cemetery in the town of Szklary Gorne

moving through the water with the shovels of his paws,
sliding through claylike layers with his missile-slender body,
patiently pushing soil out of the soil.
work results are beautiful and good: a moss-carpeted bedroom,
a pantry full of earthworms with slashed nerves.
time to dig a well, says Tumulus
and he drills down, more swiftly than a gannet, his rough fingers seeking humidity.
but instead he senses emptiness. a feeling alien to moles.
cold, bitterness, failure fill his nostrils. a hum,
impossible to mute, arises in his head.
carefully, he enters the musty coffin, crawls,
curls up into a ball under the ribbed vault.

crossing over

philosophy is a ponderous column polished over thousands of years
which always lacked a capital but soon
it shall be capped by

Laika, a soviet scientist and astronaut, the pride of the nation.
she has just reached Earth orbit (perigee of 211 km,
apogee of 1659 km) on board Sputnik 2. soon
she will share her reflections and the microphones fitted to the capsule
will capture every word she says.

first lap
cosmos abandoned basement
tastes of iron rod

second lap
stars rocks hurt my paws
can’t hear any others

third lap
home a hard capsule
cosmos streets of Moscow

fourth lap
my name is Kudryavka
I’m a soup made of dog

recitativo of a tapeworm stuck to Maria Callas’s intestine

for O.F

I can hear her sing
this is my body which I love and I don’t which I love and I don’t which I

I soak up the bitter night mantra
rough Greek words cut glass pane
I grow

when you’re up on stage
it’s not you they applaud
oh Violetta, Tosca, Norma, Aida
but the ribbon in your guts that
squeezes your waist from the inside
I made you into a slender fruit
from the tree of the knowledge of bel canto and brutta vita

my children are thriving in your flesh

systems. dissociation

the most beautiful organ is the brain
enveloped with meninges, covered with the cranium can,
fitting in its tracts stability, drive,
and identity, which you must rip off like a used
band-aid, uncover the wounds for the salt to corrode.
you’re all salt, my love, and you must
fall apart; out of your body Europe will
precipitate a golden residue, where
lead, silver, consciousness dance together

Ksenia Bolotnikova recalls Holodomor

in nineteen thirty-two, sir, there was nothing left.
no crop, no potatoes, no farm or domestic animals,
no wool, no sickles, no flails, no passports, no wagons,
no roads, no stars—we ate everything but the knife.

the spring was cold, windy and rainy. one day,
from the water collected in the hollow of my cheek a devil emerged
assuring me that once I eat my daughter,
I will throw up everything:
the crop, the potatoes, the animals, the wool, the sickles, the flails,
the passports, the wagons, the roads, the stars—
I will turn the whole world inside out like a pillowcase
and the famine will be over.
my daughter will come back, too, safe and sound, so no loss there.

the knife was left uneaten in fear that its blade would reveal
the shame hidden in-between the folds.
the hand, unstopped by the angel
(if an angel came down, sir, from the heavenly sky to Sofievka
we would’ve eaten him inevitably, not even caring for
plucking his wings), a hand, twenty-seven
tiny fragile bones shining through the skin like a firefly,
the hand slit the throat.

go ahead and tell them, please,
to give me some bishop’s wort rootstalk.
for all these years I have been trying to throw up,
save Ukraine


Translator’s note:

The poems by Anna Adamowicz talk about the kingdom of Animalia but, surprisingly, it is not the human species that constitutes the main focus of her work. Although she does describe in detail a series of biological systems found in the human body, she dedicates a lot of attention to the world of insects, arthropods, reptiles, worms and, finally, mammals, where we can observe things from their perspective. In the background there is Europe, sometimes as a place or an organism.

Apart from allowing us to witness the world from such a distinct position, Adamowicz’s poems play another important role: they give voice to the voiceless. In this way, we are able to observe Tumulus the mole building a house or accompany Laika the dog in her short and tragic journey into space.

Moreover, Adamowicz also gives voice to those who never had a chance to speak up. One of her poems talks about Ksenia Bolotnikova, a young Ukrainian woman who lived during the man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s and who murdered her own daughter with the intention to feed her son and herself. Ksenia’s powerful confession enwrapped in Adamowicz’s poem is an attempt to describe the horrors of starvation without any traces of judgement because—who would dare to do that?

The biological aspect of Adamowicz’s texts was a meaningful lesson in how to translate a poem without making it sound like an encyclopedia entry. While the author incorporates biology into verse in the most harmonious way possible, as a translator, I often found it challenging to recreate the novelty of her perception as well as her carefully crafted poetic language.

Another difficulty I encountered is related to the choice of poems to submit. Adamowicz covers a wide array of themes in her volume by touching upon biological, environmental, historical, social, and cultural aspects of the world. On the one hand, I wanted to give the reader a sample of each of these factors; on the other hand, I could not help but translate the poems which affected me personally, hoping that they will likewise appeal to the reader.


Aga Gabor da Silva graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studied Lusophone Literatures and Cultures. Aga also holds a Master of Arts in English from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. Her first translation from Polish into English—two poems “Tights” and “Buttons” written by Bronka Nowicka—was published in the Winter/Spring 2019 issue of Lunch Ticket. Aga currently lives in sunny New Mexico with her family. When she’s not busy chasing after her three-year old, she translates literature.


Anna Adamowicz was born in 1993 in Lubin, in south-western Poland. She is a poet and a laboratory diagnostician. Her first volume of poetry, Wątpia (Doubt), published in 2016 by Kwadratura, was nominated for the Gdynia Literary Award and won third place in the “Browar za debiut” (Beer for Debut) poll. Her second collection of poetry, Animalia, was published in January of 2019 by Biuro Literackie, and a few poems from the volume have been translated into Hungarian, Slovenian, and English. You can follow Anna Adamowicz on Facebook.




Calvin Olsen and Antonio Ladeira translate João Luís Barreto Guimarães

The painter of Altamira

painter of Altamira (in the darkness of the cave) knows
the shadows he sees on the wall
are real. For him the real and apparent
are indistinct
for he knows the shadows undulating on the wall
are (in fact) bison
passing in front of the cave. Ten thousand years
will have to pass twice
before another bearded man can affirm
something different and in another cave
(by the light of another light) rethink
from the start. But for now they are shadows
(with the profiles of bison) that
the painter of Altamira copies all over the cave –
asking the stone gods that they
may reproduce
so there’s never a shortage of shadows (and
for that matter bison) to hunt
and eat.

O pintor de Altamira

pintor de Altamira (na escuridão da caverna) sabe
que as sombras que vê na parede
são reais. Para si são indistintos o
real e o aparente
porque sabe que as sombras que cintilam na parede são
(de facto) de bisontes
que passam defronte à caverna. Será preciso que
passem duas vezes
dez mil anos para que outro homem de barba afirme
coisa diferente e numa outra caverna
(à luz de uma outra luz) pense
do início. Mas por agora são sombras
(com o recorte de bisontes) que o
pintor de Altamira copia por toda a caverna –
pedindo aos deuses de pedra que elas
se multipliquem
para que nunca faltem sombras (e já
agora bisontes) para caçar
e comer.

The motion of the world

Through the church door I’d hear people’s prayers recited
like someone’s times tables. I wandered the world and
it was funny) the more I wandered the more
I had it right (life
itself seemed like it wanted to hold
onto me). In a world gone belly up
bats are the wise ones –
I came back from the world and never admired
the return
(the color of the sea was the same
the light in the sky was the same
envy was exactly the same). Seen top 
to bottom
each illusion is small –
through the school window I’d hear times tables recited
like someone’s prayers.

Movimento do mundo

Pela porta da igreja ouvia dizer orações
como quem diz tabuadas. Eu errava pelo mundo e
era engraçado) quanto mais errava mais
estava certo (a
própria vida parecia que me queria
preso a si). Num mundo de pernas para o ar
os sábios são os morcegos –
eu regressava do mundo e nunca estranhava
o regresso
(a cor do mar era a mesma
a luz do céu era a mesma
a inveja era a mesma). Vista de cima
para baixo
toda a ilusão é pequena –
pela janela da escola ouvia dizer tabuadas como
quem diz orações.

Wild apples

More than the first verse I am unsettled
by this: who provides
the second one? I scan the world with my eyelids
(opening and closing my eyes)
to select is to exclude
to exclude is to understand
to understand is to preserve. Each poem written is
an opportunity
like touching someone who without warning
shocks you
(a fish bone in your throat) nails
scratching on a black board. Creating poems is like
wild apples
(you’re expecting sweetness but what you taste is
acidity). Inside the poem:
(around them: white space)
silence put to work.

Maçãs selvagens

Mais do que o primeiro verso inquieta-me
o seguinte: o segundo
quem o dá? Escolho o mundo com as pálpebras
(abrindo e fechando os olhos)
escolher é excluir
excluir é entender
entender é preservar. Cada poema escrito é
uma oportunidade
como alguém em quem se toca e sem que se conte
dá choque
(uma espinha na garganta) a unha
num quadro de ardósia. Fazer poemas é como ir
maçãs selvagens
(vais à espera de doçura mas o provas é
a acidez). Dentro do poema:
(em redor: espaço branco)
silêncio a trabalhar.

Translators’ note:

Professionally, João is a doctor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and he’s a perfect addition to the long line of physician-poets. His poetry has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in Portugal, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States (and probably a few more I’m not remembering). He and I were introduced by my mentor, Robert Pinsky, who knew of my ongoing work translating the collected works of the late Alberto de Lacerda. I immediately loved João’s voice: it is inclusive without being pedestrian, and his often-tongue-in-cheek tone is very engaging. He’s also incredibly adept at packing ideas and emotion into a concise poem (almost nothing he writes goes beyond a single page), and the first-person narration puts the reader right in the middle of the action.

These three poems come from Nomad, João’s tenth book, which attests to his popularity and success in his home country of Portugal and abroad. He gave me the opportunity to work alongside Antonio Ladeira to translate the collection, which is an honor in and of itself. We are thrilled for Anomaly to be the first journal to publish part of our work—there is plenty more where this came from.

– Calvin Olsen

Antonio Ladeira was born in Portugal in 1969. He currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, where he is an Associate Professor of Portuguese and Spanish at Texas Tech University. He holds a Licenciatura degree in Portuguese Studies from Nova University in Lisbon, and a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California in Santa Barbara. He has published five volumes of his own poetry in Portugal and two books of short stories in Portugal, Brazil and Colombia. He is also a lyricist for Jazz singer Stacey Kent.

Calvin Olsen’s poetry and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Asymptote, The Comstock Review, Ezra Translation, The London Magazine, and The National Poetry Review, among others. A former Robert Pinsky Global Fellow and recent Pushcart Prize nominee, Calvin now lives in North Carolina, where he is a doctoral student in Communication, Rhetoric, & Digital Media and the poetry editor at The Carolina Quarterly. More of his work can be found at his website (

João Luís Barreto Guimarães was born in Porto, Portugal, where he graduated in medicine. He is a breast reconstructive plastic surgeon and author of ten poetry books, the most recent of which are Mediterrâneo (Mediterranean, 2016), winner of Portugal’s António Ramos Rosa Award for Poetry; Nómada (Nomad, 2018), which was voted a Book of the Year by Livraria Bertrand (the oldest bookstore in the world); and O Tempo Avança por Sílabas (Time Advances by Syllables, 2019). He is also a chronicler and a translator, mainly for his blog Poesia & Lda.




Claire Hirsch translates Nicolás Poblete Pardo

the reunion

My mother had disinherited me, that’s the word she used. However she forgave me and came to my rescue upon learning of my return to Chile and reading in the newspaper what had happened to me. And she wasn’t repulsed when she saw me and realized that…

I had vague memories, not especially tender or good, of my mother. Her indifferent, or simple-minded, apathetic face. The rolls of fat on her back, her short legs. So surprised when she saw my bruised cheek (despite the thick layer of foundation that I had applied), but at least she didn’t notice my “new hairstyle,” outlandish bangs covering the left side of my face, a plastered down lock of hair covering my temple: a ruse. One of many.

“What happened to you?” Blinking with those hideous eyelashes. No matter how often she saw me sharpening a spoon to curl my eyelashes in front of the bathroom mirror, nothing; no matter how much I would attempt to communicate to her, “don’t let yourself go, Mom,” nothing.

However, now comes a sweet moment, an image that has unwittingly resurfaced. We were traveling in our car, on a drive, a picnic, my brother and me in the back seat. My dad drove and my mom, the co-pilot, had her arm stretched out behind my dad’s seat, her palm on the driver’s headrest. My dad driving and my mom holding the back of the headrest in her hand, as if supporting my father’s actual head. A family, a feeling of warmth, inclusion, protection. That is the image I now treasure. A legacy.

My mother is here. Her face is all weepy, glistening tears welling up in her eyes. Some droplets remain trapped in those thick and stubby eyelashes. “Daughter, how has this happened? You could have been killed. What is that wound you have over there? What ever happened to that guy you said you loved? And Eduarda? What happened to her? Such a pretty girl, my God, I remember that red dress, the spitting image of Raquel Welch. I don’t know what it is to be beautiful, I never had to please anybody. But you, both of you. It’s true that you resemble each other, you look so much alike, what happened? We have to look for the best doctor and we have to take steps, Conce. Maybe it’s for the best to no longer be so beautiful and to not have to satisfy anyone.”

I listen to my mother and I am a petal, I am a bird, I am very fragile and I cry heedlessly. Her tenderness hurts my soul and I take note of her “we have to.” It is my mother who includes me in this healing project, and I remember that lovely breeze, like in a movie, the drive, the picnic, and my mother’s left arm stretching out to rest her palm on my father’s curious seat cushion. Her “we have to” is similar to the arm that included us all.

“Daughter, what illness are you suffering from? What did they say?”

I cannot listen to that “daughter, daughter” which splits my soul and makes me cry even more, a profound sadness, from deep in my gut. “Daughter, daughter,” stabs that pierce me and knock me down.

“Daughter, you cannot imagine how much I have cried. There is a plague here, everything is falling apart. You don’t know it, but we have been helping here, we have to.”

My mother’s words bring solace, but at the same time they wound me, I cannot begin to fathom why.

“Do you understand me, daughter? You weren’t here and I had to do something, I was going to come unglued if I didn’t direct my energy to helping others. We mothers have stuck together. Waiting for our children, the missing, the drug addicts, the dying. And you? What about you, my love?”

I am lying on a gurney, on a mat; my mother and I are now together in the middle of a wasteland, or deep in a forest, it is a beautiful scenario, impossible. The bed has penetrated the forest, it has made its way among the trees and there is a white rectangle that stands out; dark trunks, almost black, cylinders that confine us; we are at the edge of a beach, the waves dodge our silhouettes as they approach; they pass us by, profiling our bodies; I see that my mother and I have defined contours. On the sand, lying on some towels. My mother is beside me, nearly stooped over, in a solicitous posture, ready to assist me, bent over to attend to me, and I am stretched out, I have been resting here for a long time.

“And you, dear?” repeats my mother.

I tell her after all this time. “I had a husband, yes, I did. I registered to study French… a teacher… But he wanted kids… I no longer could. Then those transfusions. And now this illness…”

I cry when I speak the word “kids.” No one understands this pain and I want something to drink, I need to take my pills. My mom knits, between her fingers a garment begins to take shape; there is a tangle of pink yarn covering her knuckles; I see a needle. She also has a sewing basket where she sometimes places her hand and, from it, she extracts a thimble, a needle. How sad, the pink yarn that may transform into a vest for a little girl, but I am not going to have any little girls, that I know… Or is it that my mother is thinking of a solution? But that’s impossible, I have nothing inside me. The others have perceived it. I understood as much when my mother and I crossed the square. I saw a group of grandmothers blowing soap bubbles into the air. The children watched them, they were learning. I passed by and I understood that they were looking at me as if I were nothing. And they were right; I was nothing. At another time I would have crossed the park, smug and disdainful, smiling to myself, you can’t imagine how much they paid me.

Not then.

Not now.

My mother knits, patient. She wants me to take my time and she needs me to transform what has occurred into a narrative. “Yes, Mom, this illness,” I resume. “It’s been worse than you can possibly imagine and I am grateful to be alive.”

“And Eduarda? What happened to Eduarda?”

I don’t know how to explain what happened, I cannot find the words and, in reality, I am terrified to tell her. I murmur a fragmented episode, because it is impossible to find a straight line in all of this. After losing the notion of time, of space, after spending who knows how many centuries in a basement with its own climate and changing my clothes a thousand times, after crossing an ocean and feeling that time will never be the same, there is little that I can articulate. I am a woman in the world, I have no country, I have no anchor, save my own blood. Eduarda? She said, “Do you think that I would fix myself up for that loser? This effort is for other men, for someone who might transform my life.” I laughed, but he looked at us with pity. And that was good, because if compassion and pity are extreme, then they might not blame you. Eduarda laughed too, saying that she was happy because she had started her “period,” in quotation marks, as she put it, as if it were a stupid term. And she concluded, triumphant, defiant, “Women are born to bleed, I bet you agree with that, don’t you?”

But of course there is a line. Follow the yellow line! My head down and my small fingers instantly enormous, as if I had taken LSD. Then in that place of horror. How to face up to that, there is no dress rehearsal, there is no Operation D.E.I.S.Y*, to prepare one for that. Operation “Daisy,” as we called it, and an undercover voice in the mouthpiece commanding, “Obey!”

The bogus call from some classmate absent from school that day, centuries before cell phones. Back then impossible to trace a number. An exciting game that we finally got accustomed to, even after the earthquake of ’85, an opportunity to miss classes, to hear another type of breathing among schoolmates, a distant scenario where you could even discern a slight terror in one eye or another. But for us there was no danger in the possibility of a tremor. We would not die in an earthquake, that was clear. St. Mary’s: the best education, high-quality facility. Ready to confront the highest number on the Richter scale. That’s what I thought when: “Follow the yellow line!” I wonder whether anyone, anywhere teaches about how to deal with the eventuality: Follow the yellow line?

What happened to Eduarda? What happened to Eduarda?

Sometimes I am able to see more. The pool of black ink: a lacquered table, a leather armchair, a cone of a light. No, not that last one. Your damp hair, your skull, my love, your head hidden, you do not want me to see your face, your eyes. I do not wish to see your face. What would happen if I should recognize your eyes? And the blood so bright, so red, maybe it’s artificial, hopefully it is, it was; fake blood, theater prop blood and that leg, a mannequin. I approach the glass table and the reflection is not my face, but hers, I swear to them. I cannot see your eyes, I think there are flies. Just a few flies, not many. It’s good that there aren’t many. But you resist turning your face, you don’t want me to see you. Then I understand that the worst has begun to occur.

My mother is still knitting. She asks me if I remember my first menstruation, when she went to look for me at school and I seemed extremely embarrassed, I didn’t want anybody to know what had happened and I made her promise me, I made her swear that this was a secret she would never reveal. She says that this day is etched in her memory. Me with my school sweatpants, hiding among the bushes at the entrance of St. Mary’s, near the gates, praying that no one would spot me, my sweatshirt tied around my waist, the sleeves hanging, and mortified from discovering the reddened fabric.

I don’t understand why my mother recounts that episode. My recollection is of having been with Eduarda, at her house, and everything was summarized in two words: “Thank goodness.” That was the key that marked the rite of passage. That and not my mother’s story. “Thank goodness,” that was the reaction of my friend/sister who had a hard time understanding me. However, days after that, “thank goodness” was a pet phrase that we were rolling around our tongues, accompanied by coughing, half-closed eyes and explosions of laughter. I smile recalling that day. My mother seems happy when she sees me smile. Conce, you have beautiful teeth, is what her smile says.

So many times, so many people. Many variations:
“Pretty teeth, natural.”
“A spontaneous smile.”
“Your teeth are so even!”
“I love it when you laugh.”
And more degrading, like that saying about the horse:
“Conce, what would you be without your teeth?”

What fury. How would it be to elevate myself, surpass those heels, a sword, the sharpest one in this city. To elongate the muscles in my arms, drawing circles in the air, to strike the fatal blow. To decapitate one after another, one head after another rolling on the floor. Eyes. Looking everywhere in search of those eyeballs. Unable to follow their trajectory, a film, and watching the horror with authentic shock, then with condemnation, finally with resignation. Murmuring, almost spitting out a couple of reproaches, and concluding: they had it coming. How could they think that nobody would punish them? Somebody has to pay. Justice for sins: someone.

“Mom, what happened to Dad?” I ask, craning my neck so that she understands that I am making an extra effort and that the question is not intended to offend her or to make her feel uncomfortable. This is a unique moment, I doubt that it will be repeated in this life. I need her to tell me, and even when she has no response, I need to try to find an explanation. However it is I who speaks: “Eduarda… crazy for the guys. I just think I remember it, so maybe my recollection is not even true. Yes, the same, the two of us. So similar. Crazy about that man who treated me like shit. High, I wanted to escape my body, to stop feeling it. At that time I was nothing, only what he saw. Whatever his eyes registered, that was who I was. But I felt a kind of cowardice and discomfort to notice the smell of the perspiration under my arms, and I tried not to raise them. It was sad to know that behind or beneath the perfume sprayed around my head was a poor camouflage, unsuccessful in masking the stink that emanated from my armpits. Terrified, thinking about how to prevent him from smelling me and then punishing me. He alone could dispense the appropriate punishment. Never ridicule him, because a man’s shame is the most dangerous; it is instantly converted into rage, transmuted into the need to inflict even more hurt, and in an irrevocable manner. They say that it is one’s own father for whom one looks. Hopefully it will be like that; hopefully I will find him.”

My mom says, “I’m sure that some day you will find him.”

Her response worries me because it reminds me of the past, years earlier, when I learned that when my mother said “I’m sure” it meant that she doubted, but that she had hope. A line crosses her eyes and like a reflex her lips synchronize with them. My mother remembers, with joyful longing, “It was a pretty day, that afternoon, when you went to the movies with your friends and you called me on the phone. You didn’t want to say what had occurred. I looked for you at the movie theater exit and you approached me, practically running. And crying. In the movie, you said, they had offered you some sanitary napkins. But you were a hopeless mess. Disconsolate, you left the dark theater to look for a pay phone, saying that you wanted to go home, that they shouldn’t worry. You managed to tell your friends that you would call them and that you wanted to know how the movie ended. But to me you insisted, ‘I don’t want anybody to know.’ Remember? I clearly recall that we stopped at a pharmacy and that I bought you some of those new disposable sanitary napkins. I felt so happy, I don’t know, almost proud, to be able to buy the latest thing for you, and also grateful, inside, that you didn’t have to use those infernal belts that we used when we were girls, to hold the napkin in place. How wonderful, an adhesive strip solved this tremendous problem. And when we got home you locked yourself in the bathroom, and then emerged, my beautiful, bleeding girl, yes, my anguished girl. And then I felt my heart break a little bit, desolation and a kind of vanity at the same time, because I knew that your childhood was gone forever. And, do you see, Conce? I kept your secret. I kept it.”

Thank goodness!

There is sadness in those eyes. And in mine, like holes in the sand and the water draining into them. We have to get up and get out of here soon. Before the tide comes up we have to escape. Yes, the water has approached, threatening to soak us. That is to say, the darkness has already descended on this forest; the edges of the sheets have darkened, the bed is barely visible among the darkening trunks. My mother says that she is going to take care of me from now on. She is going to heal and pamper me, she says. We’re going to take care of each other and she is going to be responsible for my well-being. She takes me by the arm, I stand up, summoning an external strength, and I shake off the sand. The moist crystals glisten, they are stones, quartz, pulverized glass. I slap them from my skin, like a macabre mermaid shedding scales. We walk on the particles like two zombies in an apocalyptic horror movie. From my hair my mother takes some eucalyptus leaves and fine green needles that the spruce trees have sprinkled on my head. It doesn’t take long to reach the street and my mother opens the door to her house and makes me enter. I feel sad and kind of embarrassed when my mother sees me dialing numbers on my phone, and she gently reproaches me, “Why are you ordering a pizza if I’m preparing rice and getting ready to bake a chicken breast?”

Like a historian, searching for a faithful account… Our paths have crossed. It’s one of those confusing moments in which I don’t know where I am and thus the past falls on me in the form of ancestors. But why does it have to be surprising or unexpected if the past has always been there? Our origins… A secret? I must sniff around. The need to investigate, to endow this insipid present with meaning. Those ancestors are all I have in order to endure what happens now, otherwise the only solution would be suicide. And no, I cannot follow you there, Eduarda.

The voice of the detective with the hawk-eyes whispers, “Does God know?

* an emergency drill

translator’s note:

The Reunion is a chapter from Concepciones, a novel published by Furtiva Editorial in 2017. The excerpt offers us a look at the complex relationship between a damaged young woman and her mother. As with much Chilean fiction, the story is set against the background of the Pinochet dictatorship, which had such a profound effect on all who lived through it. We get a glimpse of how reality is sometimes an individual’s invention, with memories either warped or fabricated. As a result of the trauma the two women experienced living through the Pinochet years, they now struggle with their conflicting memories as they try to find a way to move forward together.


Claire Hirsch is a graduate of Tufts University. She has translated several pieces of fiction, specializing in Chilean narrative. Along with the author, she tackled the translation of the avant-garde novel, No Me Ignores, which received critical acclaim in Chile (Publishing House Cuarto Propio). She also collaborated with the author on the bilingual translation of En La Isla/On The Island. Previous translations by Ms. Hirsch have been published in K1N Journal of Literary Translation (Canada) and The Stinging Fly (Ireland).

Nicolás Poblete Pardo lives in Santiago de Chile. He is a full-time professor at the Universidad Chileno-Británica de Cultura, as well as Coordinator of the Cultural Studies Area. Dr. Poblete has published numerous novels and short story collections. Additionally he frequently contributes La Panera, a cultural magazine, and the journal as a part of his very productive career. Dr. Poblete received his Masters and PhD from Washington University in St. Louis, where he also did a post-doctoral research project on the Latin American Gothic novel. He has received a number of honors and awards, including fellowships for his writing as well as teaching awards.




Jacob Rogers translates María do Cebreiro


The difference between slowness and speed
is a matter of degree. You could spend
your whole life at the threshold to your house,
watching the sun go up and down each day,
or you could spend your whole life
in a rush. The two lives aren’t so unlike.
The sun comes up for us all. We all need bread
and we all need roses. We never eat
roses and we braid bread to remember
wheat’s flower, which, in a way, remains
alive within. Roses prick and some people
still bless bread. The difference between
slowness and speed is a matter of degree.
The rush of roses and the tranquility of the sun.
The speed of bread and the slowness of wheat. 


His eyes were wet but he crossed
his arms as if to shield his
heart. She wanted to ask him:
have you ever thought how music
is like water? Once the first note
is played, it’s impossible to tell it apart
from the second. No one has ever found
the dividing line between a sandbank and
a grain of sand. And when it rains in
the ocean, all of its mouths become one.
In such a state of calm, not even
the truth can shock you. Bonds can’t
be made by force. A man
and a woman can go to bed together
and wake up apart. Heartbreak is never
love’s last act. We label as continuous
movement anything that’s unaware of
the lines dividing it. She wanted to tell
him all that but didn’t say anything.
That was when he opened his arms
and closed his eyes. All the arms
and all the eyes in the world were his.


translator’s note:

Both of these poems come from María do Cebreiro’s 2017 collection, A lentitude (Slowness). An accomplished poet with ten books to her name, this is one of her best (or at least, one of my favorites), dealing with themes of nature and the body familiar to poetry, and literature in general, but taking them and making them entirely her own. And while some of the poems are more anecdotal, using little bits of story and narrative to make meaning, the two here represent some of the more abstract, idea-bound pieces in the collection.

Still, for all that abstractness, Cebreiro uses very concrete, clear imagery, and even these “abstract” poems don’t read as confounded, esoteric philosophical treatises so much as conceptual vignettes. Many of them are also quite difficult to translate, at times quite frankly because simplicity can be hard to render well in another language. At other moments it’s because she uses repetition in a way that doesn’t always come off convincingly in English, but lends a forceful, reverential, hymn-like feeling to the poems, shrouding them in a veil of mysticism. That’s no accident. Almost every single one of the poems invokes nature, and almost every single one invokes the body.

Cebreiro does not always interrelate the two, but when she does, such as in “Dissolution,” the poems read like atheistic, pagan prayers, like the worship of something ethereal and sacred, yet simultaneously corporeal and mundane. If “Dissolution” reads like a prayer, “Slowness” feels more like the conversational wisdom of a down-to-earth priest. It’s a wonderful interweaving of the simultaneously religious, quotidian, and natural imagery of wheat, bread, and braiding it “to remember,” in a poem that acts as a reminder that time is relative, that however fast or slow a human life moves, it’s still just that: human.

Ultimately, I’ve tried to translate these poems in a way that maintains that spark, liveliness, and plain-spokenness of the language, while also keeping that rhythmic repetition alive where I can. This often required a bit of creativity in terms of finding syntaxes and word choices that lent themselves to repetition in English.  Though in the case of these two poems I didn’t have to veer too far from the original, there are times, though, where I found it less productive to force a repetition for the sake of “fidelity,” or for the sake of keeping the moving parts where they were in the original. So, in some cases, I attempted to shift those parts around a bit and re-create that force and power through rhyme and alliteration, losing, maybe, something of the original, but perhaps getting it back in a way more inherent to English, to my own poetic voice.


Jacob Rogers (Haifa, 1994) is a translator of Galician prose and poetry. He was selected as one of the winners of the Words Without Borders Poems in Translation Contest, and his translations have appeared in Asymptote, Best European Fiction 2019, PRISM International, Cagibi, Lunch Ticket, Your Impossible Voice, Nashville Review, The Brooklyn Rail InTranslation, and the Portico of Galician Literature, with work forthcoming in Columbia Journal, Asymptote, and Copper Nickel. His translation of Carlos Casares’ novel, HIS EXCELLENCY, came out from Small Stations Press in 2017. Photo by Danielle Rogers.

María do Cebreiro (Santiago de Compostela, 1976) is a Galician poet, translator, and critic. She has published over ten books of poetry, co-authored two, and has won several awards, most recently the Galician Critics’ Prize for her collection, O deserto (The Desert, 2016). Her collections, The Desert (tr. Keith Payne) and I Am Not From Here (tr. Helena Miguélez-Carballeira) have been published in English by Shearsman books, and her work has appeared in Asymptote and various anthologies. She holds a Ph.D in Literary Theory from the University of Santiago de Compostela and currently teaches in the Philology department at the same university. Photo by Laura Dalama.