translated by The Friend

It’s a massive spider who can’t move;
a colorless spider, whose body—
a head and an abdomen—bleed.

Today I saw her up close. And with what effort
all along her flanks
her innumerable feet stiffened.
I have thought of her invisible eyes
the fatal pilots of the spider.

It’s a spider that trembled stuck
at the edge of a stone;
abdomen to one side,
to the other the head.

With so many feet the poor thing, she still can’t
work herself out. When seeing her,
stunned in some trance,
what grief this traveler gave me today.

An enormous spider who blocks
the abdomen from following the head.
I’ve thought about her eyes,
considered her numerous feet...
What grief this traveler’s given me today.



La Araña 


Es una araña enorme que ya no anda;
una araña incolora, cuyo cuerpo,
una cabeza y un abdomen, sangra.

Hoy la he visto de cerca. Y con qué esfuerzo
hacia todos los flancos
sus pies innumerables alargaba.
Y he pensado en sus ojos invisibles,
los pilotos fatales de la araña.

Es una araña que temblaba fija
en un filo de piedra;
el abdomen a un lado,
y al otro la cabeza.

Con tantos pies la pobre, y aún no puede
resolverse. Y, al verla
atónita en tal trance,
hoy me ha dado qué pena esa viajera.

Es una araña enorme, a quien impide
el abdomen seguir a la cabeza.
Y he pensado en sus ojos
y en sus pies numerosos...
¡Y me ha dado qué pena esa viajera!


Copyright © 2022 by The Friend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Recently, I have been trying to translate poems from languages I do not speak as a practice of attention and comparison between existing translations, slowing down to read, study, research each and every syllable. This is the first poem I tried translating at the very beginning of quarantine, around March 2020. I was taken by the combination of Vallejo’s minimalist austerity and haunted affect: simple language in a not-so-simple syntax. I interpret the poem to be about the death of his mother; though, as with so much of reading poetry, it is a private intuition that has no evidence behind it. I am in awe of how real the spider in this poem is: I can feel the poet observing it, its proximate, tangible heft, the pathetic or grotesque whiff of fear it summons, as well as Vallejo’s tenderness shown toward a useless being that is stuck, that is dying.”
The Friend