Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


On Translation

Not to search for meaning, but to reedify a gesture, an intent.

As a translator, one grows attached to originals. Seldom are choices 
   so purposeful.

At midday, the translator meets with the poet at a café at the intersection 
   where for decades whores and cross-dressers have lined up at 
   night for passers-by to peruse.  

Not a monologue, but an implied conversation. The translator's 
   response is delayed. 

The translator asks, the poet answers unrestrictedly. Someone 
   watches the hand movements that punctuate the flow of an 
   incomprehensible dialogue.

They're speaking about the poet's disillusionment with Freud. 

One after another, vivid descriptions of the poet's dreams begin to 
   pour out of his mouth. There's no signal of irony in his voice. 
   Nor a hint of astonishment, nor a suggestion of hidden meanings,
   rather a belief in the detritus theory.

"Se me aparece un gato fosforescente. Lo sostengo en mis brazos 
   sabiendo que no volveré a ser el mismo." 

"Estoy en una fiesta. De pronto veo que el diablo está sentado frente 
   a mí. Viste de negro, lleva una barba puntiaguda y un tridente en 
   la mano izquierda. Es tan amable que nadie se da cuenta de que 
   no es un invitado como los otros." 

"Anuncian en el radio que Octavio Paz leerá su poema más reciente:
   'Vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . .'"

"Entro a un laboratorio y percibo aromas inusitados. Aún los recuerdo." 


The translator knows that nothing the poet has ever said or written 
   reveals as much about him as the expression on his face when he 
   was asked to pose for a picture. He greets posterity with a devilish 
   grin. To the translator's delight, he's forced to repeat the gesture at 
   least three or four times. The camera has no film. 

Credit


Reprinted from American Poet, Fall 2002. Copyright © 2002 by Mónica de la Torre. Reprinted by permission of the poet. All rights reserved.

Author


Mónica de la Torre

Born and raised in Mexico City, Mónica de la Torre is the author of the poetry collections Public Domain (Roof Books, 2008), Talk Shows (Switchback Books, 2007), and The Happy End/All Welcome, forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in 2016. 

Date Published: 2002-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/translation