Selected Poems from Blackbird

Gravedigger

The song of the factory’s fans and the telephone that
announces: life is so fragile like this state in which one
writes. There’s a reason the trees shake at the bottom of this
painting, as if somebody had opened a door through which
the wind is expelled, house distorted by memory.
But like a branch hangs, shaking off the hunger of
falling, the blackbirds that will lose their nests this winter do
what’s possible to prevail over the tumult. It’s probable
that out of all these fights, something more than a tomb
will remain where the water streams off and rises once again.

 


Tesla

To Juan Ignacio

I, who had hoped to invent everything
sleep and let my socks convince me
that the void opens into the void
and further out from this fabric
lies the man exhausted from screwing
hitting the offices
naked like an antenna
or an idea that sails the sea
until resting in your window
capable of leaving the world in a locker
I keep the bolt I tamed in the shade,
archive it, put it to sleep, make it run circles
inside my hat
and I feed myself with this March sun
under which I stay the intensity of my step
I open the bag of bread
and from that nothing I conjure
the crumbs with which I feed
my pigeons.

 


Sarajevo

In memory of Rubén Jacob

The lost pianists in Sarajevo
and all the rest who succumbed
like children
at the bottom of a pit
will learn later than ever
that The Boston Evening Transcript
will one day tell all its debacle
the life that they lost living
on the corner or on a street
where a poet peeks out
to hear snipers
asking himself
why his friends don’t write him anymore
or reliving the luck of that morning
having not lost his legs
in the breadline
but night falls
and he would like to read that evening paper
in some restaurant on the coast
place the napkin on his lap
tulip lampshades lit
sea tumbling
foaming against the rocks.

 


VI

The Buddha is all compassion
Montreal is all compassion
in Chile the night is eternal
lotus flowers close beneath her
the sound of the train like spores
the wind hardens our skin
reality is a touchscreen
the sobriety of its icons
the mantra of the river wakes us every morning
the carpenters spall their hands
energy flows toward industry
all possession is deception
you and I wanted to have personas
collect their gestures and objects
I knew her for four years without getting anywhere
not getting anywhere Jeanne is a vital impulse
the minimalism in which love leaves us
Bertolt Brecht sat on his bed to write
old books explain wisdom:
depart from worldly fights
let elapse without concern the brevity of time
liberate yourself from violence impart good not evil
don’t satisfy desires forget them
and we want to live under a grape arbor on Sundays
have a lake house like hers
see whole summers in dust wrap the thistle
the blackbirds perch on them to trill
their cars enter private land
the road turns to cobblestone
their boats relax on the docks
one time she escaped from those lunches
rounding the banks until falling in with a parade
she ate empanadas staining her suit
while kites plummeted into the willows
now I only find her in dreams
I sleep a little a lot maybe almost never
and I tried to learn tarot to see if she thinks of me
and yet we should nullify all thoughts
let the voice resound to the spine
squint eyes and repeat words without understanding them
discover the veil before the void
science is useless at these points
that’s why I ask you Jeanne forget Buenos Aires
breathe in a regular rhythm
do not force reality
be as the curtains sway in the lake.

 


VIII

Forty years could pass
the sea lions drying their fur on the rocks
and in spite of that I couldn’t say anything new
I think about a crab that breaks to pieces
the sand glistens under the movement of waves
because we were on those beaches so many times
letting the wind shake out our worries
and all of that time passed behind your dark lenses
as one who thinks of the word they withhold
from the depths the dead speak in a language of sand
Dante’s purgatory was also a beach
souls guided by something as a ridiculous as an angel
the train schedules are announced by the speakers
because forty years could pass
form an ellipsis with the names that are still missing
or cross the school’s hallway toward the chapel
the smell of flowers the seats arranged correctly
writing lines of poetry as punishment in the afternoon or the hate born toward verse
but we escaped on bicycles on the gravel
and little pebbles got into our shoes
that was youth Jeanne
afternoons of bread and mashed avocado video games
the valley closing on itself with the movement of the mountains
all the blue poster board for the mes del mar
and the original image fading in photocopies
or the altered depths after the earthquake
the subsequent waves against the breakers
although there was a time that we were in love with each other
the townships turned to dust and the sound of the earth woke us
we knocked down a house to see the river
blackbirds live in a sound that has lost its origin
the English movies we watched can be disposed of
summer heat shine on your face
many times we imagined ourselves at forty
the sea’s language spooning dreams on eight-millimeter film
to arrive at the cabin at night to wash feet.

 

 

Sepulturero

El canto de los ventiladores de la fábrica y el teléfono que
anuncia: la vida es tan frágil como este estado en que se
escribe. Por algo se sacuden los árboles al fondo de esta
pintura, como si alguien hubiese abierto una puerta por la
que el viento se desplaza, casa curvada por la memoria.
Pero así como una rama cuelga despistando el hambre de
caer, los tordos que perderán sus nidos este invierno hacen
lo posible por predominar sobre el tumulto. Es probable
que sobre todas estas luchas quede algo más que una
tumba donde el agua resbale y vuelva a ascender.

 


Tesla

A Juan Ignacio

Yo, que lo quise inventar todo
duermo y me dejo convencer por mis calcetines de
que el vacío se abre hacia el vacío
y que más allá de esta tela
yace el hombre agotado de atornillar
golpeando las oficinas
desnudo como una antena o una
idea que surca el mar
hasta descansar en tu ventana
capaz de echar el mundo en una gaveta
Guardo el rayo que domé en la sombra lo
archivo lo acuesto lo hago circular dentro
de mi sombrero
y me alimento de este sol de marzo
en que detengo la intensidad de mi paso
Abro la bolsa de pan
y hago surgir desde esa nada las
migas con que doy a comer a mis
palomas.

 


Sarajevo

In memoriam Rubén Jacob

Los pianistas perdidos en Sarajevo y
todos aquellos que sucumbieron
como niños
al fondo de una fosa
sabrán más tarde que nunca
que The Boston Evening Transcript contará
algún día su debacle
la vida que perdieron viviendo en
la esquina o en una calle donde un
poeta se asoma
a oír francotiradores
preguntándose
por qué los amigos ya no escriben
o reviviendo la suerte de esa mañana al
no perder las piernas
en la fila para el pan pero
la noche cae
y desearía leer ese vespertino
en algún restaurant frente a la costa
posar la servilleta en las rodillas
encendidas las lámparas de tulipas el
mar revolcándose
espumando contra las rocas.

 


VI

El Buda es toda compasión
Montreal es toda compasión en
Chile la noche es eterna
bajo ella se cierran las flores del loto el
sonido del tren como esporas
el viento curte nuestra piel
la realidad es una pantalla táctil la
sobriedad de sus íconos
el mantra del río nos levanta cada mañana
carpinteros astillan sus manos
la energía fluye hacia las industrias toda
posesión es engaño
tú y yo quisimos tener personas
coleccionar sus gestos y objetos
la conocí por cuatros años sin llegar a nada llegar
a nada Jeanne es un impulso vital
el minimalismo en que nos deja el amor Bertolt
Brecht se sentaba en su cama a escribir los viejos
libros explican la sabiduría:
apartarse de las luchas del mundo
transcurrir sin inquietudes la brevedad del tiempo librarse
de la violencia dar bien por mal
no satisfacer los deseos olvidarlos
y quisiéramos vivir bajo un parrón los domingos tener
una casa en el lago como la de ella
ver veranos enteros el polvo envolver al cardo los
tordos se posan en ellos a trinar
sus autos entran a terrenos privados
el camino se adoquina
sus lanchas descansan en los muelles una
vez se escapó de esos almuerzos
rodeando la orilla hasta mezclarse en un desfile
comió empanadas manchando su vestido
mientras volantines se desplomaban en los sauces
ahora solo me la encuentro en los sueños
duermo poco mucho tal vez casi nada
y he intentado aprender las cartas del tarot para saber si me piensa
y sin embargo debemos anular todo pensamiento
dejar que la voz retumbe hasta la espalda
entrecerrar los ojos repetir palabras sin sentirlas
descubrir el velo hacia el vacío
la ciencia es inútil en esos puntos
es por eso te pido Jeanne olvida Buenos Aires
respira con ritmo regular
no violentes la realidad
se como las cortinas sacudirse en el lago.

 


VIII

Podrían pasar cuarenta años
los lobos secar su pelaje en las rocas
y así y todo yo no podría decir nada nuevo
pienso en un cangrejo que se despedaza
la arena brilla bajo el movimiento de las olas porque
estuvimos tantas veces en esas playas dejando que
el viento sacudiera las preocupaciones y todo el
tiempo pasó por sus lentes oscuros
como quien piensa la palabra que esconde
del fondo los muertos hablan con un lenguaje de arena el
Purgatorio para Dante era también una playa
las almas guiadas por algo tan ridículo como un ángel
de los altavoces indican el itinerario de los trenes
porque podrían pasar cuarenta años
hacer una elipsis con los nombres que faltan o
cruzar el pasillo del colegio hacia la capilla
su olor a flores asientos correctamente ordenados
el castigo de copiar poesía por la tarde o el odio parido al verso
pero escapábamos en bicicletas por el ripio
y piedritas entraban en los zapatos
esa fue la infancia Jeanne
tardes de pan con palta videojuegos
el valle cerrándose con el movimiento de las montañas
todas las cartulinas azules del mes del mar
y las fotocopias desgastan el rostro original
o como la profundidad alterada tras el terremoto
las olas sucesivas en la rompiente
aunque un día estuvimos enamorados uno del otro
los pueblos se volvían polvo y nos despertaba el sonido de la tierra
derribamos una casa para ver el río
los tordos habitar un sonido que perdió su origen
las películas inglesas que vimos pueden eliminarse
el calor de un verano dar en tu cara
nos imaginamos varias veces a los cuarenta años
el idioma del mar acurrucando sueños en ocho milímetros
llegar por la noche a la cabaña a limpiarse los pies.

 

Translator’s Note:

Growing up in a bilingual household, I’ve been acquainted with translation throughout my life. For the most part, English was a public language and Spanish a language of the home, more hidden away. When I lived in Santiago, Chile, the opposite was true, and poetics further expanded the roles of both languages as I began translating Neruda, Parra, and Mistral as a hobby. A year ago, I made a serious decision to translate a poet who is around my age and currently publishing in South America. As a publishing poet myself, I am very interested in proliferating work by South American poets in similar stations of their careers to encourage a more global dialogue among literary cultures. While I mostly read poets in translation who have already established themselves as heavy hitters in their respective cultures and continents, I want to contribute to a push for literary presses and journals to be more internationally driven as a means of promoting more current and expansive contemporary voices.

This particular selection of translations represents the opposing styles found in the larger work. In Blackbird, Palma writes in two distinct voices, demarcated by the two sections of the collection. The first voice is concise, cerebral, and shrewd in its construction, the second more expansive, romantic, and beat-influenced. In the poems, we see the collision of the natural world with that of the invasive and urban; between real and void, human with animal, spiritual and scientific, each dichotomous notion explored on personal and political planes. While the two halves differ greatly, there is a clean sense of awareness and dependence between the two, without offering it obviously or cheaply to the reader.

 

Lucian Mattison is an Argentinean-American poet and author of Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014) and Reaper’s Milonga, forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2017. He is the winner of the 2016 Puerto Del Sol Poetry Prize and his poems appear or are forthcoming in The Adroit JournalThe Boiler, Hinchas de Poesia, Hobart, Muzzle, Nashville Review, Pinwheel, and elsewhere online and in print. His fiction appears in Fiddleblack, Nano Fiction, and Per Contra. His poetry translations are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review and Newfound. He works at George Washington University and is an associate editor for Big Lucks. To read more, visit Lucianmattison.com; Twitter: @luciannumerouno

Diego Alfaro Palma (Limache, Chile, 1984) is a poet and editor. He is the author of two poetry books: Paseantes (2009, Ediciones del Temple) and Tordo, winner of the Santiago Literary Prize 2015 (Ediciones del Dock, Argentina, 2016 | Editorial Cuneta, Chile, 2014). He edited Homage to Ezra Pound (Universitaria, 2010) and the Collected Poems of Cecilia Casanova (Universidad de Valparaíso, 2013). His forthcoming work Litoral Central, recently won publication in 2017 by the National Book Fund in his native Chile. He is the founder of publisher Limache250 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he currently resides.