translated by Rosa Alcalá
To bear another, to be a pair
To be torn apart
I heard it said,
“Evil was invented
to give us something
to talk about”
But how to speak
if each syllable
falls into the sea
The m of mother
where have you gone?
The f of father
sinking further down
where have you gone?
They didn’t fall
They were thrown
to leave us
to drown our words.
par han sido
“el mal se inventó
para tener de qué hablar”
Pero cómo hablar
si las sílabas
caen al mar?
La m de madre
La p de padre
se hunde un poco más allá
dejándonos sin hablar.
Copyright © 2021 by Cecilia Vicuña and Rosa Alcalá. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin
In mountains I grew up,
three dozen peaks around me.
I seem never, never,
though I hear my steps departing,
to have lost them, not in the day,
not in the starlit night,
and though in pools I see
myself with snowy hair,
I never left them, they never left me
like a child forsaken.
And though they might call me
I had them and I have them
And their gaze follows me.
En montañas me crié
con tres docenas alzadas.
Parece que nunca, nunca,
aunque me escuche la marcha,
las perdí, ni cuando es día
ni cuando es noche estrellada,
y aunque me vea en las fuentes
la cabellera nevada,
las dejé ni me dejaron
como a hija trascordada.
Y aunque me digan el mote
de ausente y de renegada,
me las tuve y me las tengo
y me sigue su mirada.
From Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral: Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin. Copyright © 2003 Ursula K. Le Guin. Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press.
translated from the Spanish by John Keene
Dagmaris walking away on the beach.
Asunción, her fan, her trim do.
Gloria two days before dying.
Roberto, pointing to nothing.
Idermis behind Oscar, after Jorge.
I so far away I almost cannot make myself out.
My brother wasting a smile.
My aunt as ugly as the word itself.
Grandmother in her best days.
Grandfather with a festive tie.
My father drunk again.
My mother like a distantly spilled perfume.
Dagmaris alejándose en la playa.
Asunción su abanico su peinado breve.
Gloria dos días antes de morir.
Roberto señalando nada.
Idermis detrás Oscar después Jorge.
Yo tan lejos que casi no me distingo.
Mi hermano gastando una sonrisa.
Mi tía fea hasta el fondo de la palabra.
Abuela en sus mejores tiempos.
Abuelo con una corbata contenta.
Mi padre embriagado otra vez.
Mi madre como un perfume derramado distante.
Copyright © 2021 by Jesús Cos Causse and John Keene. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 24, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
We dress my daughter in amarillo, not butter
or sunlight or mirasol, maybe an Easter yellow,
maybe a Dia de los muertos yellow, a baby chick
yellow, it doesn’t matter. She flickers
around the house all bare-foot. She takes you
by the hand and makes you play
La Suavecita on repeat, her hair in brown
bouncy pig-tails. All day. She watches
your mouth, the way you say tambores,
the way you say cumbia. She won’t stop smiling.
When she laughs I hear my mother. I am
back in her house, all bare-foot, dancing
to the same song.
My mother dresses in a teal bata, not Miami
or peacock or Tiffany Blue, maybe an Easter teal,
maybe a Dia de los muertos teal, a robin egg
teal, it doesn’t matter. She flitters
around the house. She takes me
by the hand and teaches me how to spring
my arms, how to move my hips,
how to follow the beat already in my legs.
She tells me,
ay mijo, one day, las muchachas
will want to spend the night with you
on the dance floor. Find those feather feet.
Carry a smile and laugh, mijo laugh.
I ask to play the song again and run
to rewind the cassette tape. All day.
My mother is all baila, baila,
all brown curls of bobbing hair
abriendo sus brazos the moment
I learn how to spin her in
our shot-gun house. She won’t stop smiling.
My mother loves the color yellow.
There is a sing, a flow around inside.
My daughter ooooos the color teal.
When they lay eyes on each other, they watch
each others’ mouths, see just who smiles first.
I’m just here, waiting to see who wants to dance
—si no la invito, me invita ella.
Copyright © 2021 by Lupe Mendez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.