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Piedad Bonnett: Two Poems (with translations)

UN CUENTO ANTIGUO

Los empleados de hotel ya conocen la escena: 

una mujer que llega

de madrugada, o en mitad de un domingo, 

sin equipaje

absorta

todavía humillada

sopesando.

En la habitación llueve, siempre llueve. 

Y ella no trae nada, ni un paraguas

ni un cepillo de dientes, 

ni cuchillas, ni xanax. 

Los empleados de hotel no oyen lo que resuena

en ese cuarto: 

un crepitar de incendio, un canto amargo

que va hacia atrás, hacia su propio origen. 

Alguien allí nos cuenta un cuento antiguo,

alguien solloza y reza 

pidiendo un par de alas.

AN OLD TALE 

Hotel workers know the routine by now:

a woman arriving

at dawn, or on a Sunday afternoon—

no luggage

distracted

still humiliated 

taking stock.

It rains in her room, it is always raining.

And she brings nothing with her: no umbrella

not even a toothbrush

no razor blades no Xanax. 

The hotel workers do not hear 

the echoes coming from that room:

a bonfire, a bitter song

looping back to its own origin.  

Someone is telling us an old tale—

someone is sobbing and praying

to be given a pair of wings.

.

Translated by Yvette Siegert


MURCIÉLAGOS

Creí que un gran dolor desplazaría

los pequeños dolores.

Y sin embargo

chillan allí, debajo de su ala,

hacen

crujir sus dientes, no renuncian

al pedazo de carne al que se aferran

mientras que yo suspiro

me canto una canción

y digo soy la madre que los pare,

tendré que hacer del hueso mi instrumento

y de mis días una pared ardua

para que ya no trepen, ya no aturdan,

y pueda concentrarme en el silencio

donde el Dolor empolla su gran huevo.

BATS

I used to think a great pain would take

the place of all the smaller pains         

but they still

screech beneath its wing

and gnash their teeth—

they won’t give up            

the bit of meat in their grasp,                        

while I sigh

and sing to myself and say 

I’m the mother who bore them, 

I’ll have to make bone 

my instrument and turn my days 

into a daunting wall, to keep them

from climbing up, from deafening me,

so that I may focus on the silence                           

in which Pain is brooding its one great egg. 

.

Translated by Yvette Siegert


Piedad Bonnett was born in Antioquia, Colombia in 1951. She is a poet, playwright, and novelist, and has published eight books of poetry. She holds a degree in Philosophy and Literature from the University of Los Andes, where she later taught as a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities department until 2010. Bonnett was given honorable mention in the Spanish-American Poetry Competition (the Paz Prize) honoring Octavio Paz, the National Poetry Award from the Colombian Institute of Culture in 1994, the Casa de América award for American poetry in 2011, the Poetas del Mundo Latino award honoring Víctor Sandoval “for the contribution of her work to the Spanish language,” and the Honorary Poetry Award of Casa de las Américas in 2014. In 2016, Bonnett was recognized with The Generation of 27 Award for her book Los habitados (The Inhabited). Her poems have been translated into French, English, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, and Swedish. Bonnett is currently a columnist for El Espectador (The Spectator), a newspaper with national circulation in Colombia. Her most recent novel, Lo que no tiene nombre (What Has No Name), describes her experience of her son’s suicide in 2013. She lives in Bogotá, Colombia.

Piedad Bonnett

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.

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