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Cristina Peri Rossi: Three Poems (with translations)

ESCORACIÓN

Herida que queda, luego del amor, al costado del cuerpo.

Tajo profundo, lleno de peces y bocas rojas,

donde la sal duele y arde el iodo,

que corre todo a lo largo del buque,

que deja pasar la espuma,

que tiene un ojo triste en el centro.

En la actividad de navegar,

como en el ejercicio del amor,

ningún marino, ningún capitán,

ningún armador, ningún amante,

han podido evitar esta suerte de heridas,

escoraciones profundas, que tienen el largo del cuerpo

y la profundidad del mar,

cuya cicatriz no desaparece nunca,

y llevamos como estigmas de pasadas navegaciones,

de otras travesías. Por el número de escoraciones

del buque, conocemos la cantidad de sus viajes;

por las escoraciones de nuestra piel,

cuántas veces hemos amado.

EXCORIATION

Wound that stays, after love, in the body’s side.

Deep chasm that fills with fish and red snapper,

where salt aches, and iodine burns,

and it seeps across the ferry’s length

letting the foam swell in,

a sad eye at center-mast.

In the act of sailing,

as in the act of love,

no mariner, no captain,

no shipbuilder, no lover

has been able to avoid these wounds,

deep abrasions, that have 

the body’s length

the ocean’s depth

whose sea-scar is forever unfading,

and which we bear like the stigma

of past navigations, of other travesties.

From the sum of excoriations

borne by the hull, 

we may know of her sojourns;

from the abrasions that braid our skin,

the times we have loved.

Translated by Arturo Desimone 


DESEO

No. No quiero más que esto.

Un blues melancólico y borracho de Tom Waits

una servilleta de papel con el perfil de una galera

—la noche llena de presagios—

la última fila de un cine antiguo

las postales de una ciudad que ya no es

y un café a media tarde,

mientras me cuentas tu infancia

llena de deseos.

Todo el mundo tuvo una infancia

todo el mundo deseó y no se cumplió

¿para qué más?

Ese torpe borracho de Tom Waits

canta como un negro

y la vida es una sucesión de cromos

¿Escuchó alguna vez a Barbara?

¿Prefiere a Renata Tebaldi?

¿Hace el amor de pie o en la cama?

¿Es clienta de algún sex-shop?

Las afinidades son moneda antigua

falsas señas de identidad del deseo:

nunca

en ningún lugar

un deseo fue igual a otro

DESIRE

No. I don’t ask for more than this.

A melancholy and drunken blues by Tom Waits

a paper napkin folded into the shape of a galleon

—night filled with soothsayings—

the last row in an old-fashioned movie theater

the postcards from a city that is no longer.

And a mid-afternoon coffee,

while you recount all of your childhood to me,

filled with wishes.

The whole world had a childhood

the whole world wished, and it didn’t come true

so why more?

That clumsy drunk, Tom Waits

sings like a black man

his blues a succession of chromolithographs

Did she ever listen to Barbara?

Does she prefer Renata Tebaldi?

Does she make love standing or in a bed?

Is she a client of some sex-shop? 

Affinities are outdated currencies

counterfeit designations of the identity of desire:

never

in any place

was one desire identical to another.

Translated by Arturo Desimone 


CAMELLO

Dicen los poetas árabes

que el destino es el vagar de un camello ciego.

Como un camello ciego

he recorrido ciudades anchas como océanos

como un camello ciego

me he perdido en ciudades estrechas como lupanares

como un camello ciego

aprendí lenguas que no eran las mías

y supe su sabor su dulzura su rudeza

su esplendor y su opacidad

como un camello ciego

enfermé hasta morir

y sobreviví hasta renacer

como un camello ciego creí

tuve ideas

tuve sentimientos

y los cambié por otros

los abandoné

Pero ahora

mi camello ya no es ciego

conoce su destino:

las playas húmedas de tus muslos

la arena de tus labios

la seda de tu vientre

el agua dulce del cántaro de tus labios

y el salitre de tu concha marina

entre las piernas.

CAMEL

The Arabian poets say

that fate is the lurch

of a blind stray camel.

as such, a blind camel

have I sauntered 

through cities vast as oceans

as a blind camel

have I gotten lost

in cities as narrow

as red light district alleyways.

as a blind camel

have I learnt tongues not my own

and known their flavors their sweetness their rudeness

their splendour and their opacity

as a blind camel

did I grow sick to death

and survive until rebirth

as a camel, blind, I believed

had ideas,

feelings

and traded them in for others.

I abandoned them.

But now

my camel is no longer blind

and knows its fate:

the humid beaches of your thighs

the sand of your lips

the silk of your womb

freshwater of the flagon

of your lips

salt basin of your marine conch

between the legs.

Translated by Arturo Desimone 


Cristina Peri Rossi was born in 1941 in Montevideo to a family of Italian immigrants. She began publishing at a very young age, winning most of the significant literary prizes in Uruguay before going into exile to Spain in 1972, where she became a citizen in 1975. Peri Rossi is the only female writer linked to the phenomenon known as the Latin American Boom, alongside male colleagues such as Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa. She was also good friends with Julio Cortazar, who dedicated his Six Poems for Criss to her. Cortazar also helped her flee to Paris in 1974 when the Spanish government collaborated with the Uruguayan regime in denying her a Spanish passport. Peri Rossi has continued writing prolifically, publishing over forty books including novels, essays, translations, short stories, and poetry collections. Often focusing on political, social, and gender issues, her work has been translated into more than fifteen languages. She has been honored with the Rafael Alberti International Poetry Prize, the Don Quijote Poetry Prize, the 2019 Jose Donoso Ibero-American Literature award, and the 2021 Miguel de Cervantes Award, among many others.

Cristina Peri Rossi

From The Invisible Borders of Time: Five Female Latin American Poets edited by Nidia Hernández (Arrowsmith, 2022). Included in Vox Populi by courtesy of Arrowsmith Press.

One comment on “Cristina Peri Rossi: Three Poems (with translations)

  1. Barbara Huntington
    May 9, 2022

    Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

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