The Disappeared

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
                     drifting away
                                  other, other
                                            where have you gone?

The f of father
                     sinking further down
                                  ather, ather
                                            where have you gone?

They didn’t fall
                     They were thrown

to leave us
           without speech
           to drown our words.

 


Los desaparecidos

                          par han sido

Oí decir
“el mal se inventó
para tener de qué hablar”

Pero cómo hablar
si las sílabas
caen al mar?

La m de madre
                     se va
                                  adre, adre
                                                                         ¿dónde estás?

La p de padre
                     se hunde un poco más allá
                                                                         adre, adre
                                                                                                ¿dónde estás?

Los lanzaron
                     de adré
dejándonos sin hablar.

Three Fragments of Instan

alba saliva
el instan

time bending
tongue

entwine
the betwixt

double
thread

madre
del habla

imán
del gen

palabra
estrella

mother
of time

 

time awakes

inside words

awayo

mi away

voy a tejer
mis tres
lenguas

away

 

el instante
es la cuerda
vital

seco fluir

dry elixir

words
are the loom
of the stars

life's breath

la palabra
es la estrella
interior
del estar

words
are
the inner
star.

Related Poems

Ferrum [excerpt]

s no s                        laves s                          in nest/s with
                in come sir                                  my lie
                                                ge lord it i
                                 s now y/                                 our turn co
                me b                        e me rains fa
                            ll no wa                            ter in t me and p
lay your p
                                          art the sun ros                                  he t
                ub                                                                under sk
                            in sin for                          ty days fo
     rty nigh                          ts forty ce                             dis for forty
                sins j'aim                            faim j'ai
                                faim god of                            spire spes and p
          raise turn and                          turn the bo                               nes sing
                               a son                                  g of wa
                                         ter a wat                                er so
                     ng sin                         g song sin                          g song de
                               fend the d                           ead & sin n
         o sin sin                           g the bo                               nes h/o
                        me what w                         ill my b                               ones say h
                                         ow do the                        y forty we
               eks come to t                        erm shh au                                  di can you
                                       not he                           ar from the de
                                                  ep the voi
                        ces not sir                                                ens we are a
      t sea the d                                            art of my sto
                                         ry stings i me
                      ant no harm                                         no hurt res







                                          cue us rag                                        and bone men in
               dict the a                                           ge pears in g
                              in in                    wine win                                ter wine and y
                                      ou Ruth                              this story ne
                   sts in the ne               t the we                                    b of ti
                                       me tam                p it down do
                                                  use the flam                 e of this ta
               le what pro                                      fit me if mon               coeur non est
                                 we wind o                                       ur way sub
                                                                    water o
                                       nly the bone                                       s of the sh
                     ip their e                          yes dart this
                                   way and th                                                              at soft so
                                                                                   ft they ro
                         am the ship                                                            their cri
                                                            es grate on me
                                          y ears drag                                the dee
                                                            p for the b                            ones of my so
                              ul their sou                                  ls cast the n
                                                    et wide to the d                             eep men to the
                     p and a                                             tot of ru
                                           m...

Close Reading

One for tree, two for woods,        
                                                            I-Goo wrote the characters           
                             Character  Character
                                               out for me. Dehiscent & reminiscent:
what wood made
                                               Ng Ng’s hope-chest

that she immigrated with
                                                                     —cargo from Guangzho

to Phoenix? In Spanish, Nana tells me

                                                           hope & waiting are one word.

                                        _____

In her own hand, she keeps
                                         a list of dichos—for your poems, she says.

Estan mas cerca los dientes
                      que los parentes, she recites her mother

& mother’s mother. It rhymes, she says.
                                                         
                                   Dee-say—the verb with its sound turned
down looks like dice
                                              to throw & dice, to cut. Shift after shift,

 

she inspected the die of integrated circuits
                                       beneath an assembly line of microscopes—            

the connections over time
                                                        getting smaller & smaller.

                                          _____
                                                                        
                                                To enter words in order to see
                                                                             —Cecilia Vicuña

In the classroom, we learn iambic words
                                          that leaf on the board with diacritics—

about, aloft, aggrieved. What over years

          accrues within one’s words? What immanent
                                                                        sprung with what rhythm?

Agave—a lie in the lion, the maenad made mad

by Dionysus awoke to find her son
                                    dead by her hand. The figure is gaslit

even if anachronistic. Data & river banks—
           memory’s figure is often riparian.  I hear Llorona’s agony

echo in the succulent. What’s the circuit in cerca to short

          or rewire the far & close—to map
                                                   Ng Ng & I-Goo to Nana’s carpool?

                                         ______

I read a sprig of evergreen, a symbol
                                               of everlasting, is sometimes packed

with a new bride’s trousseau. It was thirteen years
                                             
before Yeh Yeh could bring
                                                Ng Ng & I-Goo over. Evergreen
                     
& Empire were names of corner-stores
                                             
where they first worked—
                                             stores on corners of Nana’s barrio.

Chinito, Chinito! Toca la malaca
                                                             she might have sung in ’49

after hearing Don Tosti’s  
                                    recording—an l where the r would be

in the Spanish rattle filled with beans or seed or as
                                                                         the song suggests

change in the laundryman’s till.

                                         ______

I have read diviners
                       use stems of yarrow when consulting
                                                                                    the I-Ching.

What happens to the woods in a maiden name?

Two hyphens make a dash—
                                                the long signal in the binary code.
                                             
Attentive antennae: a monocot

—seed to single leaf—the agave store years
                                             for the stalk. My two grandmothers:
                                                         
one’s name keeps a pasture,
                       the other a forest. If they spoke to one another,
                     
it was with short, forced words
                                    like first strokes when sawing—
                                             
                                              trying to set the teeth into the grain.

In the ن of it all

two arms in air, 
in dance, after catastrophe. 

  the body                     the universe                       the body

the fabric held at two points:

i am lamb.                                   i am shepherd.

a star waits.
the stars are a map in the noon of it all.

a letter, a relic from a gone civilization.
a ن holds the tail of the snake.
a ن holds a star in its ark.
a ن is a prayer before Time.

hearsay: the whale swallowed the sun.
there, an eclipse, the sun’s wispy corona.

ن

hearsay: the whale spit it out.
returned our sun to us, this time.

a small circle silences.
a set of small teeth doubles.
this, the machine,
my grandmother’s language,
gifted her by holy fish,
forbidden her by man.
in a dream, she and i, 
two pisces fish, whispering friends
in the noon of it all.

a ن today
on my brother’s door.
a ن between my legs.
a ن on my neighbor’s cheek.
you, you hold the broken in me.
you, you hold the setting sun.
you, you escape 
the mouth of death.
reconstituted 
in the noon 
of the universe.

single seed. bijou in float.
there, there waits the ark. 

ن

A note on this poem, an invitation:

Oh noon, the letter ن, intoning the -n- sound, pronounced noon. 
A Semitic letter, really, in Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, and through some 
starcrossed lineage, it has a cousin in Sanskrit, maybe even the same DNA. 
Some say the letter got its shape from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a snake. 
Some say the snake morphed into a whale, a fish, a dolphin. In the Qur’an, 
the Surah of The Pen begins by saying that the
ن and the pen are in the act of 
writing, as if the ن were capable of script, were it not script itself. Were it not 
a snake, a whale, a palimpsest. What writes us as we write it. In Arabic class, 
Professor Hani drew a
ن on the board and asked us what it looked like. 
He wanted us to say a cup. We saw an ark instead, a boat. And true, 
the ancients believed it might be a cup. And true, the scholars 
believe it to be a boat, holding a seed, the seed of the universe, 
awaiting rebirth after apocalypse. Birth, as in pregnant 
womb, though this isn’t in the scholarly texts. 
Some liken it to a setting sun. 
And Jonah, prophet who found God in the whale. 
The floating diacritical dot, Jonah escaping death. 
A noon as the beginning and end of existence. 
These days, in Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere 
being ravaged by death squads, 
a symbol is painted on people’s doors. 

ن 
for Nazarene. 
For anyone who does not submit to tyranny. 
There, there waits the ark.