To The Boga that never was.
The Magdalena River
is comprised of twelve million liters of golden sluggishness,
seducing the mountains
until her embrace with the sea.
Her languid course
harbors once-white hulls;
smugglers’ logs nourished the fish,
the now sandy rifle charges never knew justice in the battles of
On the river’s bottom sways what never was.
Names of ships, drowsy enslaved punters, and clubbed gators
circle storms of
forgetting their ages.
Plastic bags drift down among the traveling sands
like victorious flags waved by the currents in celebration.
Schools of fishes swim among golden shadows,
the most terrible and beautiful colony in the kingdom of the blind.
Over the river’s shadowless body
float cattle, gasoline, contraband, mutilated corpses,
but no tourist ever visits the bottom, the submerged attractions,
desolate boardwalks where no one sits
telling lies about how they were founded.
Across the river’s bottom spread her inhabitants, robbing her
body of all they can, feeding on what, day after day, is lost to us.
Translation by Sally Station
Robert Max Steenkist (Bogotá, Colombia, 1982) studied literature the Universidad de los Andes and earned a Master's degree in Publishing Studies from Leiden University. He is the author of the short story collection Caja de piedras (Editorial el Astillero, 2001), the verse collections Las excusas del desterrado (Común Presencia, 2006) and After the sea (Colegio José Max León, 2016), and the graphic novel Fietsicleta (LatinLover 2016). He also published a ,multinational anthology praising the butterfly, Antología para la mariposa (Colegio José Max León, 2017), which features poets from Slavic and Latin American countries.
His articles have been published by several newspapers and magazines in Colombia. He has been invited to poetry festivals and cultural events in Latin America, Europe, and the United States. He has translated literature from Dutch, German and English. As a photographer, he has published many graphic reports for several Colombian outlets, and his work has been exhibited in Bogotá, New York, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. Currently he works at the Colegio José Max León.
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.