The House

05-14 Bernal
Jenny Bernal
Colombian
b. 1987

 

Welcome to this house
your home,
here you breathe the bitter cold
of that absent breath.
Welcome to this house
of anger and tears,
indeed you can sit
where your footsteps run out
where your skin dries.
The house has changed a bit
—you’ll forgive me—
but I’ve avoided painting it
so that the cracks of time
will give it a little bit of that familiar tinge.

It is the same house, don’t be afraid,
that same one that we built some time ago,
waiting to be alone enough
to live in it.

 

Translation by Anastasia Ramjag

I Make My Way Through the Deserted City

04-26 Estrada
Lucia Estrada
Colombian
b. 1980

 

At its corners,
there’s no movement to recall
the drawn-out breathing of other days.
Not even air brings news of its dead.
I walk along the secret shore of things
and in them I see myself, in their coat of dust as if to shield them from their own fate.
I think of the men who are now sinking tepidly into sleep. To what uncertain sea do they surrender?
What wind propels their ships? To what port are they pushed?
Dark the moment when my memory tries for a phantom dialogue reflected in stone,
in the vigil of the dispossessed.
Long, silent,
like the death not uttered by these streets.

 

Translation by Olivia Lott

Ms. Bourgeois

02-16 Mattei
Olga Elena Mattei
Colombian
b. 1933

I am a bourgeois lady
and have a swollen belly.
I try to write my thoughts
despite my sore throat.

I behave the way
some others want.
In common ground, the standard lie.
But,
for human beings
it is despicable to bear
labels which say:
“Dry clean only.”
“Handle with care.”

I have been a prodigious child,
a little brat,
a bad student,
a beauty queen,
a fashion model,
and one of those
that advertise
soups or sundries.

I got myself
into this inevitable mess,
by falling in love,
then sacrificing
a handsome man,
turning him
into a husband,
a sad situation.

(Not to mention
what kind of person
I have become!)

I have committed
an inconvenient
social crime:
adding five children to the crowd.

I have failed
as a mother,
and a wife,
as a lover,
as a reader
of philosophy.

All I can do,
with sad mediocrity,
is to be
a bourgeois wife,
unforgivably inconsequential,
deaf and blind:
a useless kind
of human mind.

And that
is
why
I always
have
a swollen belly,
and sometimes I want to scream
with such anger,
that my own raging words
do irritate my throat.

Then I write poetry
which has the sound
of a bass cord
inside my core.
Because
I know the truth:
that there’s a war, and violence, and crime
each single day,
while I am at the same time
sitting here
with no fear…
For dumb,
so doomed.
For deaf
So damned.

Not knowing what to do
I choose inertia.
I look the other way.
But inside myself, I cry.
Because
I remember
the hunger,
the children in tears
watching us
with open eyes…
far away or near,
the children
as real
as I.

At exactly
the same hour
we the ladies,
the socialites
keep sitting here
blinded,
surrounded
by disposable
happiness.

I do nothing
to see
if we can move the world
against poverty and drugs,
against violence and war!

Instead
there’s this insanity,
staying still,
contented with being
just ass holes.

Poetics

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 75th birthday.

12-29 Roca
Juan Manuel Roca
Colombian
b. 1946

 

After writing on paper the word coyote
You must watch out that the meat-craving word
Does not take over the page,
Does not manage to hide
Behind the word jacaranda
To wait for the word hare to pass by
And then tear it apart.
In order to prevent it,
To sound the alarm
When the coyote stealthily
Prepares its ambush,
Some old masters
Who know the spells of language
Recommend tracing the word match
Rubbing it against the word stone
And lighting up the word fire
To scare it away.
There is no coyote or jackal, no hyena or jaguar,
No puma or wolf thar won’t flee
When fire converses with air.

 

Translation by Laura Chalar

The Condemned Man on the Pyramid

William Ospina
Colombian
b. 1954

 

Stone upon stone the earth seeks the sky.
Step by step my soles ascend to the sun.
The hot coal of life still beats in my chest
and idle now is the stone knife among these stones.

If you are all life, why do you need my heart?
If you are the great fire, why do you need my coal?

Each step of the stair erases a memory,
and how like my soul is this long shadow shattering
upon the last stones in the world.

 

Translation by Elaine Fowler Palencia and Michael Palencia-Roth

Invocation

11-14 Obeso
Candelario Obeso
Colombian
1849 – 1884

 

Oh God of mercy! Enlighten my mind a moment
Of the vast universe, you are life, you are glory, you are sun;
To each planet from your invisible Being descends
an impalpable ray – goodness, greatness, love.

Eternal that ray is the focus of mysterious light,
The fruitful fount of what always is said to emanate.
Happy the one that walks lit by God in the world,
not whipped by the terrible, searing storm.

This is what I want to sing. Between the applauses, the century’s genius
curses your name. And another tower of Babel begins.
Oh! Never in the heavens will it touch the proud head;
It leaves not doubt, rather a sad, barren pain.

What haughty and ignorant pride with sage smoke
that insults your glory and the nothing here below stand-offish?
Denied, he toils; but only to know the reach always
that the effort is in vain that attempts to sweep you up in his action.

The so fertile field to offered science returns
without you in a desert. Only the man never progressed;

In vain he shouts and endeavors in his sterile pride
Breaking your altars and erasing your name among farces.

Oh God of mercy! Enlighten my mind a moment
Of the vast universe, you are life, you are glory, you are sun;
Give to the world the prestigious sight of your ineffable Being,
And achieve, under your protection, thrust your nascent splendor.

Your divine breath dissipates the ominous storm;
Do not leave this century to its blindness and terrible ambition.
Progress, hopes… everything! Ay! All of the new in the nothingness,
If you do not avoid, it will return to bury us! What horror!

My lyre divulges that the triumphs that some receive;
Their ancient greatness false and the lie of illusion;
Here they vegetate. More what they reach for? Only shadows;
Never managing to lift themselves up from the dust.

It is an inviolable law. Those that you, in your wisdom chose,
If at the weight they succumb to your noble and excelling mission,
They will be like the lost ship in the tempestuous sea,
It is a birth that falles in the waves from the winging north.
Happy he that is pious and obedient to your law as shown
And the fool does not affir,
That the gas and the phosphorus brighten more than your eternal blaze…

 

Translation by Raina J. León

Head Over Heels with Life

10-17 Carranza
María Mercedes Carranza
Colombian
1945 – 2003

 

I will die mortal,
that is to say having passed
through this world
without breaking or staining it.
I didn’t invent a single vice,
but I tasted all the virtues:
I leased my soul
to hypocrisy: I have trafficked
with words,
with signs, with silence;
I surrendered to the lie:
I have hoped for hope,
I have loved love,
and one day I even pronounced
the words My Country;
I accepted the hoax:
I have been mother, citizen,
daughter, friend,
companion, lover;
I believed in the truth:
two and two are four,
María Mercedes ought to be born,
ought to grow, reproduce herself and die
and that’s what I’m doing.
I am the sampler of the 20th century.
And when fear arrives
I go to watch television
to have a dialogue with my lies.

Serenata

09-05 Florez
Alejandro A. Flórez Roa
Colombian
1866 – 1901

 

Put your head out the window
so that my soul doesn’t pain,
so that my soul doesn’t pain.

Look out as it comes
the fresh light tomorrow,
the fresh light tomorrow.

Appear, and if I look at you,
I’ll confess to you my ardent love,
in the rumors of a kiss
and in the swing of a sigh,
and in the swing of a sigh.

You will know that I keep a treasure
for you inside my chest,
for you inside my chest,

get up from your bed
and you will know how much I adore you,
and you will know how much I adore you.

Streets are deserted
clouds wander lost,
and stars are awake
and stars are awake.

This Rose Was a Witness

We present this work in honor of the 45th anniversary of the poet’s death.

07-11 Greiff
León de Greiff
Colombian
1895 – 1976

 

Of this, that if this was not love
No other love could be.
This rose was a witness
From when you gave yourself to me!
On that day, I don’t know when it was
(Well I do, but won’t say),
This rose was a witness.

Such lilting sweetness
Poured from your lips
This rose was a witness
Of your smiles of love!
For me it was nothing less
Than all I’d ever dreamt of,
This rose was a witness.

I drowned in your eyes
So deep like the night!
This rose was a witness;
My arms holding you tight,
Finding in your arm’s nest
Myself, then a warmer place…
This rose was a witness.

I kissed your fresh lips
Where happiness frolics!
This rose was a witness
Of your loving pain
As I joyfully made love
With you for the first time!

This rose was a witness.

This rose was a witness
Of this, that if this was not love
No other love could be.
This rose was a witness
From when you gave yourself to me!

On that day, I don’t know when it was
(Well I do, but won’t say),
This rose was a witness.