In life we only love the beings passing by like messengers from another world.
Nicolás Gómez Dávila
In the Word
what’s torn down.
But life is a river circling back
the days’ violence
where god exists.
A dog waits for us
in the unthinkable depths that pierce the word,
lingers in the light
in life’s underside
and he’s wounded by his farness here
his song beneath the rain
his worn out flesh, soft tongue.
Poetry can’t put bones and teeth back together
and the dog eyes us from those unthinkable depths that are death;
still, his drive deems him cardinal.
dwell in the force of the unnamed,
certain abysses in life
never touched by language,
things brightened only from inner
held back in their state of latency.
Every so often an outside thing sets them to burn;
poetry that in life is breath
sends us back to the opening
to a dissolved image of the signs they’re called;
the word from far off
loosens them from the past
uproots them from quiet nonbeing.
Yet in this room all things have a proper name;
a dog glimpses days he’s not a part of,
has a name,
since it’s a thing of life to name
all that flames and flows.
We know the past of those lonely things
looking out at us from impossibility,
its strength has singled us out.
We pass among them mindful of the dust
we shake off each week,
they are life
and for them our name
is a fingerprint
or our turning them over so they’re out of the sun.
They keep on unscathed.
they rejoice in a merciful god
who saves them from ruin.
The cow lies down across the grass and waits for the wound
the knife’s glint;
that second of oblivion leading to otherness.
To prevent hunger
the mother plunges her son’s face
into the cow’s warm entrails;
that universe of flesh and insides.
The boy gazes for a moment
into the dead cow’s open eyes
and fathoms his own,
his muffled voice
distorted by his breath
and the last breath of what exists.
From an old ceiba tree
three soldiers hang a brown spotted dog.
As if mirroring gestures of a cruel spirit
they try to tear off the animal’s head
try to separate it from its body.
In turns they tense the chain
joining the dog to the tree
in makeshift cups from a calabash tree.
They kill time in the jungle,
relish when the dog howls
and their flat animal is drawn out dreadfully
until finally the head
separates from the body.
Then they take up their rifles in silence
and go back through the thick jungle
to their nighttime rounds.
Translated by Olivia Lott
Camila Charry Noriega (Bogotá, Colombia, 1979) is a professor of Literary Studies and is working toward a degree in Aesthetics and Art History. She has published the books Detrás de la bruma (Común Presencia Editores); El día de hoy (Garcín Editores); Otros ojos (El Ángel Editor); and El sol y la carne (Ediciones Torremozas). She has received the Tomás Vargas Osorio Poetry Prize, 2016; second place in the Ciro Mendía poetry competition, 2012 and 2015; and the Casa de poesía Silva National Prize for Poetry in 2016. She has participated in various poetry conferences in Colombia, Latin America, and Europe. Some of her poems have been translated to English, French, Romanian, Polish, Portuguese, and Italian. She works as a professor of literature, reading, and critical writing with a focus on art and literature.
Olivia Lott is a doctoral student in Hispanic Language & Literature at Washington University in St. Louis (United States), specializing in contemporary Spanish American poetry and literary translation. In 2015-2016, she received a Fulbright grant to translate contemporary poetry from Colombia. These translations have been published in journals in and beyond the United States, including Mantis, Sakura Review, Círculo de Poesía, La Raíz Invertida and Otro Páramo.