We’ll talk about our youth
We’ll talk about our youth,
we’ll talk later, dead or alive
with so much time on top of us,
with ghostly years that were not ours
and days that came from the sea and returned
to its profound permanence.
We’ll talk about our youth
almost forgetting it,
mixing up the nights and their names,
what was taken from us, the presence
of a turbid battle with dreams.
We’ll talk sitting in the parks
like twenty years before, like thirty years before,
outraged at the world,
not remembering a word, who we were,
where love grew,
in which vague cities we lived.
Reflections of Achilles
For María Cecilia and Julio
You already know, and it’s in the scholarly texts
that cite Homer,
that death resides only in my heel.
No one knew
how vulnerable I really was
despite the grace of the gods.
News of the master Ricardo Latcham, dead in Havana
This is not a poem, it’s an example that took place…
In these months as I approach
your age until I almost touch it,
I think how much I would have liked
or a few afternoons ago
to talk with you about our matters,
about the strange books
you found in your wanderings:
Picón Salas used to talk
about your oceanic memory, which could contain
all the details,
of chapter and page,
like lovers when they recite their story,
be it tragic or happy:
you, the lover of books,
their friend, protected by them.
I return to a winter day in your library,
when you denied with fervor and faith
the existence of heat and cold,
and now I understand that you lived there
in your promised land:
Alfonso Calderón and Óscar Hahn are witnesses,
and they won’t let me lie.
But your library disappeared
in the year of our evil shade,
and from that acid rain
not even the place where you left it escaped.
And we, those charged with its preservation
for those who would come after,
dispersed as well like torn-out, broken pages,
which was the same as disappearing.
Sometimes I surprise myself repeating some gesture,
or one of your sayings:
--read and annotated,
and so I read and annotate,
and continue hearing your stories,
watching how you raise your tower of words
like ghosts and all,
and those instantaneous demolitions
that you used to call
“the men with the bitter shell.”
Jorge Guzmán once said, leaving a class,
that you could ruin the reputation of Pericles
if you put your mind to it,
and you thought it was a good idea,
although a bit exaggerated, when we told you.
No one thought you would stop,
with a certain curtness, upon arriving in Havana
in the summer of seventy-five
(we couldn’t imagine it even in our sleep),
but that’s what happened,
refuting the laws of your Itinerary of Disquiet.
And I remember well that January day
when I felt a little like an orphan,
and that’s what I said
when I said goodbye in the name of your old students,
and what I contradicted on the next line
because we were going to turn to your memory
to inspire ourselves to live.
I do it here in my way
and I already know that it lacks your genius
because I’m approaching your age
having looked at the world much less,
and written even less, and not what you expected.
It’s all a question of time, as they say,
to find you, also as they say,
just around the corner. Then
the disciple and the master
will continue their dialogue:
I will match your age,
but not your knowledge of this world and the other.
Announcements in the workshop of Miguel Loebenstein
Announcement of the day
of the color and form,
of the dream of the light,
of the dream of the shadow.
Your passion lives here
Miguel Loebenstein, my friend,
and in the world outside
it saw the metamorphosis
of the days that once were,
of the day that is being
and still turns in space:
vision of the words
that are poetry,
happiness of being
in the fleetingness
of silence, the chance
of love and music.
From one canvas to another
pass these disperse fragments
that he has seen:
his hands call them together
in unity, in the generous
dream of being
what they are and something else:
an instant in us
of true life.
For Lily and Jorge Soto Mardones
My homeland is a foreign country, in the South,
where a part of me lives
and an image survives.
Some time ago, the country was invaded
by outside forces
that I still feel coming in the night
to settle again in my nightmares.
I also live in a foreign country
where I dedicate myself
to innocent and useless tasks,
and where I will surely die
at the indicated hour,
as tends to happen to people
in what they call their own country
or their foreign country, since there are nothing
but longer or shorter distances from border to border,
with dividing lines that one draws oneself.
Sometimes I remember the country where I was born
and I see, as always,
and I am one more among them, for a time
that seems very long and very fast,
now reduced to simple light years in the memory
of an afternoon in the park,
a conversation in a bar or on the corner
of any old street
crossed over by the shadows of birds,
My days pass one by one in such daydreams,
doing nothing to commend myself to posterity.
Translated by Arthur Dixon
Pedro Lastra (Chile, 1932) is a poet, essayist, Professor Emeritus at SUNY Stony Brook, and Honorary Professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos (Lima, Peru) and the Universidad de San Andrés (La Paz, Bolivia), as well as a member of the Academia Chilena de la Lengua. He is one of the most outstanding members of the "Generation of 1950" in Chile and Latin America. Among many other verse collections, he has published Traslado a la mañana (1959), Y éramos inmortales (1969), Cuaderno de la doble vida (1984), Transparencias (2014), several editions of Noticias del extranjero, and countless anthologies in Latin America and Spain. His Poesía completa (2016) was recently released in Chile. He received the Premio Pedro Henríquez Ureña from the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua for his work and its impact on the Latin American poem and essay.
Arthur Dixon works as a translator and as Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. His translation of Andrés Felipe Solano’s “The Nameless Saints” (WLT, Sept. 2014) was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize, and his most recent project is a book-length translation of Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza’s Cuidados intensivos (see WLT, Sept. 2016).
The fourth issue of LALT highlights underrepresented but deserving voices from across Latin America, with a focus on women writers as well as special sections dedicated to genre-bending science fiction, indigenous-language poetry and prose, and the essential relationship between author and translator.