Simple Singer

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.

José Eustasio Rivera
1888 – 1928


Simple singer of a great discontent,
Among the shrubs the canopy keeps hidden,
Troubling the foliage with soft lament,
Nibbling myrtle, sour grape pips – wood pigeon!

Sings coo-roo-roo, glimpsing day’s first ascent
And later evening’s brief reflected vision,
Sees from the gúaimaro’s¹ overspreading tent
Silent peace fill the slopes, that tree’s dominion.

Half-open the wings iridescent in the light,
Solitude – poor soul! – saddens its delight,
And it fluffs up its head feathers, a light hood.

To the maternal heartbeat of domains it holds
In its own entrails, it croons to mountains, folds
Them in sleep; light drowns in a dark wood.

Translation by Ranald Barnicot and Felipe Botero Quintana


We present this work in honor of the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Julio Flórez
1867 – 1923


Blue… blue… blue was the sky.
You aroused the gentle breeze of summer.
The velvet of the prairie had started
to brown where the river formed a pool.

At a distance, the smoke of a chimney,
like the untouched veil of a bride,
rose until it lost itself in the void
in an ondulant and silent flight.

Suddenly you said: “My love is
pure and gentle, somewhat like that river
that rolls yonder, over that far terrain”

and you looked at me, quiet, serene,
with your soul peeking out of your pupil.
And your soul was as blue as the sky.

Translation by José Wan Díaz

Vanity of Vanities

We present this work in honor of the 160th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Julio Arboleda Pombo
1817 – 1862


Unhappy who seeks in appearance
bliss and ephemeral praise,
and changes his mind with the change
of the versatile public conscience!

The present is your only providence;
yields to the blowing of the wind that throws him
to good without faith and evil without hope;
that in erring with the world is his science.

And happy the independent male
who, free from worldly bondage,
aspires, between pain and sorrow,

to the eternal truth, not to the present one,
knowing that the world and its truths
they are only vanity of vanities!


We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

Meira Delmar
1922 – 2009


There’s nothing like this bliss
of feeling so alone
in mid-afternoon
and in the middle of the wheat field;
under the summer sky
and in the arms of the wind
I am one more ear of wheat.

I have nothing in my soul,not even a small sorrow,
nor an old remembrance
that would make me dream…
I only have this bliss
of being alone in the afternoon,
just with the afternoon!

A very long silence
is falling on the field,
for already the sun is leaving
and already the wind is leaving;
who would give me forever
this inexpressible bliss
of being, alone and serene,
a miracle of peace!

Translation by Nicolás Suescún

I Saw the Red Sun

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 205th birthday.

06-09 Pombo
Julio Arboleda Pombo
1817 – 1862

I saw the red sun’s serene light
troubled and at one point its brilliant face
disappeared and the sky darkened,
with a darkness full of horror.

The stormy South winds sound angry,
their anger grows, and the storm grows,
and the shoulders of Atlas shudder
high Olympus, with a dreadful thunderclap.

But then I saw the black veil
of rain part, and by the previous light
the brilliant and clear day was restored.

And again I looked upon the sky’s ornate splendor,
and I said “Who knows if I should expect an equal
change in my fortune?”

The House

05-14 Bernal
Jenny Bernal
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
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
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.
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
I always
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.
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.
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
by disposable

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

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


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

12-29 Roca
Juan Manuel Roca
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