The Spirits of the Water Carry Me Off

We present this work in honor of the Chilean holiday, Navy Day.

05-21 Chihuailaf
Elicura Chihailaf
Chilean
b. 1952

 

I am old, and from a blooming tree
I look at the horizon
How many airs did I walk?
I do not know
From the other side of the sea
the setting sun
has already sent out its messengers
and I am departing to meet
my ancestors
Blue is the place where we go
The spirits of the water carry me off
step by step
Wenulewfv / the River of the Sky
is barely one small circle
in the universe

In this Dream I shall stay:
Stroke, oarsmen! In Silence
I move away
in the invisible song of life.

 

Translation by Camila Yver

Nocturne

01-21 Caceres
Omar Cáceres
Chilean
1904 – 1943

 

The trees are drunk, from nocturnal lights,
and they drag their shadows, nervous and stiff.

Their shadows, strangling the night’s winds,
shelter and rattle me, as if I were a bird.

And my steps echo in their black boughs,
and the weakest hooks fill me with vertigo;

yet when I cast my eye on them from another, simpler pair,
they respond, swaying, that they remained intact;

The leaves, dilating the communal shadows,
return like ruined boats to their tree.

They cannot, oh, attain the solid banks
that the tips of heavenly bodies announce from above,

yet thick with silence they plow, quivering
through deep and frozen ponds of miracle.

And in the nocturnal trees embracing the earth,
I find oblivion and mercy, when in despair,

while the light runs down their boughs,
thin, diaphanous, like water between my hands.

 

Translation by Mónica de la Torre

Celia

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 105th birthday.

12-20 Rojas
Gonzalo Rojas
Chilean
1916 – 2011

 

I

And no more tears; this transparent woman,
who today is sealed away,
this woman who now is walled
in a niche grave
like a madwoman chained
to a cruel bedstead in an airless room
with neither boat nor boatman, among faceless strangers,
this woman who, alone, is
The One,
who held us all in the heaven
of her body.
Blessed
be her womb.

II

And nothing nothing else; that she bore me and made me
a man with her seventh birth
her figure of fire
and of ivory
in the trials of poverty and sadness
and she knew
how to hear through the silence of my childhood the sign
the Secret
Sign
without ever
breathing
a word.
Blessed
be the fruit of her womb.

III

Let others go instead of me
I can’t go now to put
the red carnations there
the carnations of the Rojases ‚— mine and yours ‚—
today
on the painful thirteenth day of your martyrdom
those family members who are born at dawn
and who are reborn ‚— let them go to that wall for us for Rodrigo
for Tomás for young Gonzalo for Alonso; let them go
or not as they wish
or let them leave you in the dark
alone
alone with the ashes
of your beauty
which are your resurrection Celia
Pizarro
daughter and granddaughter of Pizarros
of late Pizarros Mother;
and may you come with us
into exile dwelling as always in grace
and mutual delight.
Blessed
be thy name.

 

Translation by Tom Boll

Blonde

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 240th birthday.

11-29 Bello
Andres Bello
Chilean
1781 – 1865

 

Do you know, blonde, what favor I solicit
When I cover the altars with offerings?
Not rich furnishings, not superb lands,
Neither a table that flatters the appetite.

At the edge of Aragua I want a parcel
To supply me with simple pleasures,
And close to my rustic home
A brook that runs among the rocks.

To feel good around the summery warmth,
I also want my plot to have a grove,
Where the proud coconut and the willow can grow.

I’ll be happy if in this refuge I die;
And, upon exhaling my fugitive breath,
I stamp on your lips my last goodbye!

 

Translation by José Wan Díaz

Armor

09-30 Valenzuela
Francisca Valenzuela
Chilean
b. 1987

 

Of metal
The city reflects
On my clothing

All equally alone
(Between) the sound and the inertia

Sometimes I only want
A contact
The time
Enough to feel like I’m doing something
Something that makes me special
(Someone that makes me special)

I take off the armor
I remain exposed, I remain in doubt
What I was pretending to be
Melts in my feet
I take off the armor
I remain exposed, I remain in doubt
There’s only organs and skin
And so I let myself fall
My feet are tired from running

Of crystal
The city

I watch as
The secret life
Collapses
Brilliant courage

All equally alone
The carry the bones on the outside

Boys

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

09-29 Griffor
Mariela Griffor
Chilean
b. 1961

 

A torturer does not redeem himself through suicide.
But it does help. – Mario Benedetti

The boys from the neighbourhood, some of them,
stay behind the mud and the rain.

I ask myself what has become of
Romero, Quezada, Coleman?
Did their bodies and souls
escape deterioration?

Did they go into the army
to do their duty as soldiers
of the fatherland, the ones
who protect us from hate and
foreign tyrants?

Did they climb like the General
by usurping through disloyalty,
lies, secret codes and
finally through money?

Did they have families and
continue living in the city
as if nothing had happened?

Or did they sell their modest houses,
move to another neighbourhood where
no one knows anything about them?

There they will come in the evening and
will wash the remnants of dried blood
from their fingers.

Will they look for their wives,
give them a kiss, touch their bodies
with those same hands?

Will their daytime nightmares
be cast upon those who
know nothing of where they
come at the end of the night?

Will they return their heads,
smashed by the memories they left
in the cells, streets, apartments to a soft warm
pillow that washes away their sacrileges?

What happened to the men
I knew and never saw again?

Did they turn themselves into
men hungry for justice or did
they leave little by little in silence?

Did they put on their clothes
in the morning without knowing
whether they would return in
the evening to their dear ones?

Did they learn to kill in clandestine training or
did they become more men with the
passing of these hard times?

Did they love like those
pure men
I met on those evenings
when to play was
all our universe?

From Me to Death

In honor of Chilean Independence Day, we present this work of independence by one of Chile’s great poets.

Guillermo Blest Gana
Chilean
1829 – 1904

 

I observed when you snatched viciously me away
my loved ones, and then I judged you:
relentless like misfortune, inexorable
like pain and cruel like the doubt…

But today that you, cold, mute, approach me
without hate and without love, neither sullen nor affable,
my spirit greets your majesty
of the unfathomable and your eternity.

I, without the impatience of the suicide,
neither the dread of the happy, nor the inert fear
of the criminal, I await your coming;

that equal to everyone’s luck is my fortune:
if nothing is expected of life,
something must be expected from death.

Small Prophecies

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

Delia Domínguez
Chilean
b. 1931

 

Tomorrow, a God I don’t know
will offer me salvation if I don’t blindfold my soul
as your shadow passes by.

Tomorrow, a mist
will rise from the cornfields
and we’ll know another season is upon us
because our clothing will stick to our ribs,
and you’ll depart forever
like those visitors from the city
who don’t know the sense of belonging or the scent of rotting leaves
—or even less—
the desolation of the hillsides
after an infernal rain.

Tomorrow I’ll be silent,
turned toward my solitary pillow
like a schoolgirl punished in the farthest corner of the world,
while the nettles at the back of the garden
will open their milky buttons in the midst of this silence
when it’s all much too late.

 

Translation by Robert Gordenstein and Marjorie Agosín

Antique Scene with Malopoeia

We present this work in honor of the 70th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Winétt de Rokha
Chilean
1892 – 1951

 

A cave, with stalactites and stalagmites,
all white, like the index finger of the morning.
A tapestry, blood-spattered, repetitive,
my slipper but one seed in the watermelon.

Every eye doubles itself in the little mirrors of my toe-nails;
my arms fall, lift themselves, and fall again through autumn.

The word becomes a butterfly of the night,
bats its wings, stops, opens itself to unforeseen pearls —
catches at an echo that rolls slowly
away, dividing and dividing again, and chases after its own flight
like the mane of a comet as it dissolves.

 

Translation by J. Mark Smith