Asthma

 

and if today just maybe we could find something

perhaps a hollow of dust in which to bury

the bloomed eardrums

the unaccounted hours that now that now that now were never

the touch of those other breathings

the other light that shatters between temples

 

if just for just

for just an instant just—

 

ice rumbles barren in the lung

a tongue wary of this weight

                                                      stammering

this cannot-help but exist under a common sky

foreign and without conditionals

 

why the marrow tethered to the clock

why the sleepless moss between these bones

why all this innocence

 

 

Eyes Wide Open Only Know to Shush

 

perhaps the gift of dusk remains

in the way of hope—to hush the names

once and for all to open them

                                                        inward

 

in the flesh of a vanquished bird

you discern the halo of another flame

eye that peers from charred bone

ruin that summons the voices of other days

trace of a trace that resonates silent lost

            here

            in the light dwelling of the verb

 

still

 

the sun shimmers at the air’s limit

only silence blooms in the midst of the fire

 

 

Triptych

 

1.

 

thirsty

the ploughman kneads

damp earth between his fingers

the clay’s crimson highlights swell

with the blood

of his wasted labor

 

there are shelterless traces the light does not touch

cannot reach

 

2.

 

the world’s legibility

 

like water disappearing

into the stones’ fractures

the slithering echo

your unnamed

                         calligraphy

 

3.

 

the petals exude their open memory

the thread of loss blossoming

between their bones

 

of air

 

 

Night–Presence

 

                           Night open. Night-presence. 

                                         Alejandra Pizarnik

 

lift your tired eyes

the firmament’s orbit

opens the cavern of its black mouth

 

something—someone ascends

sets their feet of fresh wax

at your door’s opening

 

someone reads the furtive letters

of your face

            the eyelids’ tremor

            perhaps the angle of the mandible

in the creases of their hand

 

upon the tunic of the wind returning

something

 

someone names you

 

 

Gravity

 

                           Write what silence there is here

                                          Wislawa Szymborska

 

remains of the dwelling

the ignited stake

and the anonymous bodies

            some small perhaps corpulent

            light like smoke petals

seeking their graves in the open air

they took everything in their path they took

 

everything write the brilliance of its ruin yes write

the breeze that assaults the widowed house

still awaits the dream of a return

between the plucked walls the breeze

            —hardly audible your breath

collects

the scraps of ice and forgetting

in which eyes beat uncountable

flowers slumber over the new field

witness to the final glances

write here there is no springtime

 

oh how the scent of pain weighs in the air

locked breath mute voice

of no one

 

 

It Is Finished 

 

the last death rattle of this earth

the deaf blow of the last collapse

plucked music of grief

 

birds rain numberless

how to bear witness to this infinite hour

the end of everything 

 

may the mountain’s thirst shelter their sleep

may your hand and mine seek each other in their song

may our eyes eclipse each other once again

you tell me once again the sun takes flight

in the eye of the wreckage

 

 

Until the Light Is Only Light

 

and so we will annihilate everything—everything

                     the flower and the thorn and the rock

                     the wing in the leaf its stunned flight

until not even urns of neglect remain

until each shadow ignites

on the pyre of nothingness

until the light is only light

 

free at last from the hours and their hunger

free from the withered fingertips in the air

free at last free

from the weight of the pleas

that nest in our temples

 

I close your eyes with me

the animals still sleep

 

fire will be fire for the first time



View Original Work ↓

Asma

 

y si tan sólo hoy halláramos algo

acaso un hueco de polvo donde enterrar

los tímpanos floridos

las horas sin cuenta que ya que ya que ya no fueron

el tacto de las otras respiraciones

la otra luz que se quiebra entre las sienes

 

si tan sólo tan

sólo por un instante tan—

 

yermo ruge el hielo en el pulmón

la lengua cansada de este peso

                                                        balbuceante

este no poder sino ser bajo un mismo cielo

ajeno y sin condicionales

 

por qué la médula atada a los relojes

por qué el musgo insomne entre estos huesos

por qué tanta inocencia

 

 

Los ojos abiertos sólo saben callar

 

acaso quede el don de la penumbra

a modo de esperanza—callar los nombres

de una vez por todas abrirlos

                                                      hacia adentro

 

entre la carne de un pájaro vencido

adivinas el halo de otra llama

ojo que se asoma en un hueso calcinado

ruina que convoca las voces de otros días

rastro de un paso que resuena silente perdido

            aquí

            en la ligera habitación del verbo

 

todavía

 

el sol brilla en lo más alto del aire

sólo el silencio aflora en medio del incendio

 

 

Tríptico

 

1.

 

sediento

el labrador amasa

la tierra húmeda entre sus dedos

los visos bermejos de la arcilla se hinchan

con la sangre

de sus trabajos perdidos

 

hay huellas sin abrigo que la luz no toca

no alcanza

 

2.

 

legibilidad del mundo

 

como el agua que se desvanece 

en los resquicios de las piedras

el eco reptante

tu caligrafia

                      desnombrada

 

3.

 

los pétalos exudan su memoria abierta 

el hilo de la pérdida florece

entre sus huesos

 

de aire

 

 

Noche presencia

 

                           Noche abierta. Noche presencia. 

                                               Alejandra Pizarnik

 

levanta tus ojos dormidos

la órbita del firmamento

abre la gruta de su boca negra

 

algo—alguien asciende

posa sus pies de cera fresca

en la estancia de tu puerta

 

alguien lee las letras furtivas

de tu rostro

                      el temblor de los párpados

                      tal vez el ángulo de la mandíbula

en los pliegues de su mano

 

sobre la túnica del viento que regresa

algo

 

alguien te nombra

 

 

Gravedad

 

                           Escribe qué silencio hay aquí

                                      Wislawa Szymborska

 

los despojos de la habitación

la estaca enardecida

y los cuerpos anónimos

            algunos pequeños tal vez gruesos

            ligeros como pétalos de humo

buscando sus tumbas en el aire

se lo llevaron todo a su paso se lo llevaron

 

todo escribe el brillo de su ruina escribe sí

la brisa que asedia a la casa viuda

aún espera el sueño de un retorno

entre los muros deshojados la brisa

            —apenas audible tu aliento

recoge

los trozos de hielo y olvido 

en los que innumerables ojos laten

las flores duermen sobre el campo nuevo

testigos de las últimas miradas

escribe aquí no hay primavera

 

cuánto pesa en el aire el perfume del dolor

el suspiro encerrado sorda voz

de nadie

 

 

Todo ha terminado

 

el último estertor de esta tierra

el golpe sordo del último desplome  

música desplumada de desconsuelo  

 

llueven pájaros sin número

cómo ser testigo de esta hora infinita

el final de todo  

 

que la sed de la montaña cobije su sueño

que tu mano y la mía se busquen en su canto

que nuestros ojos se eclipsen una vez más

me dices una vez más el sol alza el vuelo

en el ojo de la destrucción

 

 

Hasta que la luz sea sólo luz

 

y entonces lo devastaremos todo—todo

            la flor y la espina y la roca

            el ala en la hoja su vuelo alucinado

hasta que no queden ya urnas de abandono

hasta que todas las sombras se enciendan

en la pira de la nada

hasta que la luz sea sólo luz

 

libres por fin de las horas y su hambre

libres de las yemas desgastadas en el aire

libres por fin libres

del peso de las súplicas

que anidan en nuestros templos 

 

cierro tus ojos conmigo

los animales duermen todavía

 

fuego será el fuego por vez primera

Translator Notes

Juan Diego Pérez and I collaborated in the editing and translation of his poems, written in Colombia and the United States between 2010 and 2019. After I drafted a preliminary translation, Pérez and I scrutinized the English and Spanish line by line, word by word, together. We reveled in the strange proximities, ambiguities, and new insights into language that struck us during the process of translation.

I took great joy in playing with neologisms when the text demanded it. In “Asthma,” este no poder sino ser bajo un mismo cielo mobilizes the amazing ability of a verb to become nominalized in Spanish with the simple use of an article or the demonstrative this. In English, I created the compound this cannot-help to address this (“this cannot-help but exist under a common sky”). Likewise, las respiraciones (“el tacto de las otras respiraciones”) did not read to me like breaths in English, nor did the singular breathing feel right.  It had to be plural: the touch of those other breathings. What devastates in this line is the same feeling the reader carries from the previous one: “the unaccounted hours that…now were never.” What was once habitual to this body—its experience of time, of connectivity—is now inaccessible, if it ever existed in the first place.

In several cases, my conversations with Pérez led him to revise the original text in Spanish. In “Gravity,” my observation that the dream of the return felt too “the” heavy in English led me to experiment with indefinite articles. What became the dream of a return in English prompted Pérez to change this line in the original to el sueño de un retorno. The indefinite article here speaks to an increased sense of impossibility; the likelihood of a return feels even more miniscule, more unimaginable than the return. Likewise, when discussing the right pronoun in English for en in the original line en las líneas de su mano (“in the lines of their hand”), Pérez rethought the original image, changing the lines of their hand into the creases of their hand. These verses gained a third dimension in the original, all because of a translator’s battle with a preposition. 

It is tempting to think of the translator’s labor as one of transference, of moving meaning from one language into another in the noble but damned pursuit of perfect equivalence. In working with Pérez, I experienced translation not only as a search for equivalencies but also as a kind of dialogue between texts and grammars, a process that invited the mutual revision not only of our texts, but also of how we understand our languages more broadly.


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Hannah Kauders

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