From Contra natura

Peruvian poet Rodolfo Hinostroza.

The following translations will soon be published in Anthony Seidman's translation of Rodolfo Hinostroza's Contra natura from Cardboard House Press. 

Cardboard House Press is devoted to the creation of spaces and media for cultural, artistic, and literary development through the publication and circulation of writing, art, and contemporary thought from Latin America and Spain and through bilingual events, community projects and workshops.  Their publications are bilingual - English and Spanish, and they have published authors from Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Spain, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.  Their catalogue includes collections by contemporary poets, overlooked poets from the 20th century, and the well-known, including Omar Pimienta, Néstor Perlongher, Roberto Echavarren, Jotamario Arbeláez, Isaac Goldemberg, and Kyn Taniya.  Their list of translators boasts a lineup including David Shook, Donald Wellman, Anna Rosenwong, and Clare Sullivan. 

 

Dialogue Between A Prisoner And Deaf Man

George:
    Does the bird bell reach us?  Does the dream line up
the dead and the resurrected along some sticky walls?
                The woman smelled of linen.
Say, do you hear that noise?  It’s as if they were bringing 
    a prisoner, and that 
squeaking of chains is the only thing that separates us from the unreal 
    world.
        The woman smelled. 
        And voila, here come
some false sandals in motion, and they speak to us of Europes
we will never glimpse, and now of pagodas; those tracks 
suggest the sandals had trod across red earth, and just where is
    that red earth, George?
A desert, no doubt, something calcified by the sun.  The
    sun.  Remember it?
There’s a sun outside!
            /He says there’s no outside/
                The woman smelled of linen. 
“Clang, clang,” coins ringing against the tin plate,
    you hear it?
Don’t doze off! You want
even more sleep?  George?   Whatever, that idiot clang
    clang
that imagination that continues extinguishing, those words that
    do not wish
to leave,
they leave us closer to reality. 
                Reality, I write your name. 
                The woman is that noise.  The 
universe is that noise, eh, Captain?   The rusty spheres 
emit that noise, Saturn rotates above Scorpio and frazzles
    nerves;
there’s a sea as well, and rain, and sometimes they are tossed to and fro,
    I mean to say
it rains on the sea, lightning bolts strike, urging one on
    to howl
like a madman.    Captain?
    The stocks hold some bones, the icy corridors 
hide barricades of amontillado.
                Reality? 
                        George?
The bird on strike perches atop the apple tree’s branches
                The woman smelled of sandalwood. 
Have you heard that story
the one about the man who falls into a cask and starts to drown,
at first he’s terrified, and he tries to escape,
and then he understands that he has returned to his mother’s womb?
                That man
became pure once again, George. 
The catatonic wander about the city’s center.  A 
multitude of students and decent folk are throwing stones
    But the simple ones follow, exclaiming, praying:
“It’s the Saints, the Saints, don’t you hear them Mommy?”
                She was pulling off her dress over 
her head./ But why do you speak about her!?
        She pushed you with both of her hands
to throw you inside of the cask.
        But she smelled of sandalwood and of onion soup.
That shadow was a bird, a butterfly,
the dream of that dream?  Wake up, George!
            Gather yourself.  The rounds of the sun
can’t be seen from here.   Impossible to make out the time of day.  That
dirty word, Time.  Speak, George.  You once knew a thing
about numbers,
in a song: “Two times one equals two / two times two equals four / two
    times three equals six.” 
Reality?  Is it necessary to steal stakes and drive them
into a reality that’s coming apart?
                    Her.
/He says there’s no outside/
            I would kill you, George.  But no.
I, too, have slept for many years,
Intermittently.  Perhaps I’m asleep now, and you
    are the one who’s awake.  
Oh! Then, yes indeed, I would kill you.  Captain. 
    No noise.  The tinkle bird doesn’t sound like tinkle doesn’t sound.
    The senses rot, they rot.  Tomorrow the examination will take place,
The beautiful eyes of quartz.  George?  You there?
                         Let me hear your voice,
a vocal sound, anything,
that never goes quiet. 

 

Imitation of Propertius 

I

Oh Caesar, oh demiurge,
you who live immersed in Power, let 
it be that I live immersed in the word.  
        Shall I sing of your power? Shall I comprise my SMO?
Shall I project slides across the nape of my contemporaries? 
            But your assistant approaches
insisting that I enlist in the movement,
if not, I will be abolished by the movement. 
            I will not be recorded in History, not in your
History, oh Caesar.  80 battalions 
will burn my poems, implying that they were useless and crude.
There is no accord with Official History. 
But my poems shall be read by innumerable groups of clochards
sous le Petit Pont 
        and they shall guide me towards Azucena’s thighs
for their temporality will prove
to be an excessive communicating thing.
                    Sous le Petit Pont
talking about Time without political implications,
runs the Seine, river of cherries, limpid river,   
and by six o’clock, evening, things become natural,
and you shall not make it oh Caesar
that I feel particularly racked with guilt
because of the starving millions. 

II

The imbeciles have renounced their Power: I
confess myself to be an imbecile.
                That pragmatic and savage game
causing me to bellow and flee, in which 
I have charred half of my youth
                just to accept Your Reality,
oh, Caesar,
          to call myself a Shakespearean bite.  And thus
the time one passes on earth proves miserable
if one supposes there is no infinity
                and besides
the world for which I fancied myself as mediator 
                never existed, and
my days will never gaze upon it. 
            A useless fag
according to the records of your state, Lord of Great Power, 
a hysterical youth
nonsense.
            I shall sing to the laughter
and the ridicule: those are certainly the immortal things,
not your power, your barbarism, oh Caesar.
            I flee, chucking beer cans at America,
according to the way you understand things
            rambling sous le Petit Pont
where the long-haired youths sing
the most beautiful ballads of this epoch. 

III 

Oh Caesar, your pamphlets keep arriving:
                    “If you don’t deal in politics
politics will deal with you.”
                absolute blackmail. 
What could a centurion do against my smile?
                Threaten me with death?
And my interior kingdoms, my poems, will die, and my name
will be excluded from conversations? 
            Common enough. 
                        You will believe that you have won,
Oh Caesar.
    Eugene Marchbanks exits, but they will never know
which was his secret. 

IV

History is the incessant search for a crystal dome
and one must watch like no else has ever watched
and your eyes are from this land, Oh Caesar
                power corrupted the Idea
but the Idea remained 
a flying buttress and tension over a space of air.
You have those who compose heroic songs for you
a fistful of high ranking to defend oneself against death
and you can raze it all to the ground
                Man who sleeps
                        /Don’t dispatch 
your terrorists to persuade that I sing your celebrated repressive
    continuum 
for tonight I shall repose between Azucena’s thighs
and we will see unicorn on the walls
and our bodies will move towards Hercules & Lyra 
and the energy emanating from a strand of hair will suffice as magic
for tonight.

V

Short of harmony 
        —before an Albers print
yellow on yellow, two squares / knowing
there remain mediators—
        short of harmony.  Oh Caesar
I follow the long hair-strand of Azucena
                the grace and incarnation 
trapped within the St. Severin arch 
                dicing a hand 
entering Shakespeare & Company 
                paper on paper
a hand pausing over a gothic page
                —someplace
this is mortal beauty—
            and we will make love on the paper
 and not war
        and her body will undulate
and she will be distanced from it all
                a drop of sweat 
clearly sliding down her back
                until surrendering her soul.            

VI

To raze Power to the ground
Power is required: I will seek the Tao & Utopia
                        Oh Caesar 
don’t sic your attack dogs on me
perhaps I won’t reach the other margin
                    perhaps the
contemplation of beauty perturbs me
and I remain trapped once again by a body
sensitive to the virtue of a river
        what were they if not the meadow’s dew
what were they if not the verdure of the ages
and lived out their days miserably on earth    
                    My lover awaits me
by the Porte de Lilas 
we will hitchhike to Salzburg 
                Mozart ignites the stars
we will roll around on oat fields
once again making love will be a miracle
                among two or three others
and the Swedish girls with long thighs
                the Nordic winter
                        singing things
lubricous para siempre 
            discovering the sweetness of Acapulco Gold
our own sweetness
beloved nature
        stealing fruit
selling trinkets made by our own hands
traveling until summer
            or autumn 
the alchemical deserts
            beautiful words in foreign tongues
and we will camp out beneath the stars
                orphic rites / dreams
spume of young and mortal seas
             where your lords don’t 
                        Oh Caesar
require that we sing in praise of your Power. 

VII

The quotidian can prove as beautiful as heroism
without leaving one’s house one may know the whole world
the movement of amino acid and the heavenly bodies
            traversed by energy
                        conceiving
how the universe assembled from on high 
by way of incessant change
and an apple once again is an apple
        bitten by the blonde beauty
paradise is taken 
        dripping
    and we will not reach the other margin
mediators between the world of reality and the world
    of dreams
still, in contemplation
    goats grazing among the rhododendrons 
a town of dirty chimneys below
and a hand brushing against oneself can hasten ecstasy 
                        avant-garde
of a world we glimpse
            shredded by Power
which advances on its own self and grows from its own self
yesterday and today
            in its nature there is something malignant
                        for now and forever.

VIII

Oh, Lord of Great Power
            my poetry will end with me
                        mortal animal
made by a mortal animal
            but it will be read by the youth so young
that they will believe it was an old man who writes 
                              for them
not deteriorated by barbarism and power
                    crystal-clear
                    better
they wait in large groups for the Metro at 6 o’clock
                    androgynous and beautiful
the night was love and marijuana
                they arrive form the North and the East
who needs a fatherland?
insults do them no harm
        semblances of dawn
                Oh Caesar
            ignoring power.

IX

I will not sing praises of your undertakings, Caesar:
        there is only one singer for the ascent
and a thousand for the descent
            discover among your people the chosen
and let it not be late
            bludgeoned dead
                         wizened mute
inside & out
        a crossroads
nailed to an inverted cross
              eyes which looked upon the dispute over Power
and accepted the horrid mélange 
            while we, the thousand strong
from the East and the West
            un rêve, a vision
of a pulsating History which closes and casts us out
                    the time of the Power
our time is diaspora 
        the Idea trudges the earth and rumbles
like a barrel 
    the germ of what is old lives in what is new &
vice versa
    and the final undertaking takes on defined forms
                    the bottleneck
opens towards the infinite
        and we will not sing, Caesar, of temporary powers
but rather of the total dialogue
                or rien du tout.

X     

Facing Normandie
the tide withdraws 13 kilometers 
    and the flooded road 
to Monte St. Michel rises
        a rêve, a vision
                Azucena
washes her long legs humming songs of the Goliards
                                                                       waits
an endless delay
        but the sea withdraws and maybe we will
reach the other margin
    no longer the story of Power but of harmony.
millions of utopists march silently
                  N.S.E.&W.
stone embedded in the blood we weep
                oh stones raised
by love
        maybe we will reach the other margin
            the sea has withdrawn and Azucena
awaits
    tireless and lithe lover.

XI

Beneath the sign of Scorpio
            cycle of truth and putrefaction
with the option of suicide within the ring of fire
to putrefy and beget anew.  

 

Celebration of Lysistrata 

War, he sung, is toil and trouble
honour but an empty bubble

and that summer we stretched out on the beaches of Spain
incandescence of eyes
    I took a shell and place it over my sex
told it to stay still and to my friend that Turner light 
which erases us scoops us off the planet
                    fleeting smoke of azure
I stood up and stretched between three whitewashed walls 
     of lime plaster and I thought
and I turned over again in bed 
                he was asleep
                        and I saw:
boots   a kepi    a correhuela flower
                 a weapon somewhere  
a cluster of arrows crossing the room
    but his body was like a rainbow
putrefied from the violence 
    no way of telling what slept with him
make love not war
        make love to me
                  not war
I repeated in his ear
            he promised, made an oath
but he doesn’t know and he slept indefinitely 

II

Never ending
    still beginning 
fighting still and still destroying 
        I advised and said It is not heroism 
 I do not love that breed of heroes
    1.83 meters tall 21 years old in good health believes in Hell’s Angels
he wrote and said: “Marga, the military life is for me;
    comradery 
is a treasure.  I feel more like a man in your arms—etc.”
    I made love to a Hindu; his arms were cool
and his tongue most sweet
              we rolled in the hay
                the wild birds surrounded us
chirping and he spoke of the constellations
                        again
and on Silver Street they insulted us: I opened his shirt and I kissed
his Hindu chest: “Impregnate me,” I murmured “before 
    he returns”
        & I awaited him on a long night of weeping
calling myself a whore a hooker 
        or the US dog tag: “At 23 hours and 10 klicks
                               from Da Nang…”

III

If the world be worth thy winning
Think, O think it worth enjoying 

    & several of those magnesium lights swung 
                    over the beach
and I saw: we were among 5,000 who were sleeping or
    making love
or smoking in silence
        only the waves plac roar plac roar
and Antoine: “You had better get dressed, they’ll be here shorter.”
I folded up the Acapulco Gold and hid it beneath my slip
                I laughed: creeping shadows: I laughed
& the din / furi / buses / jeeps / soldiers /gases 
                    and an imbecile shouting: 
“Who is Russell?  Grab Russell!”
        We handed them flowers and smiles
And the pure chant of Giovinetta 
            We were stunned watching the flares splutter down
two dragged me off & I felt his hand tremble
    on my thighs
“Do you want to?” I said
“Not now” he said sweating
    I laughed: “No never” and he struck me with the back of his hand

IV

Lovely Thais sits beside thee
take the good the gods provide thee

but Spring has yet to end
        the Youth without cunning
Don’t trust anyone over 30
        Water-blue eyes
and the sailboats were made of crystal
        aerial meadows of Mars & Etoile        
I took her by the waist and said our bodies are gardens
let us pluck beauty from the world
let us use this merciless dialectic
    startled by the sports in winter
that white was in the flowers and the bougainvillea were 
    bloody
the fragile roe deer fears the earth
    and you neared the doors of la Cité
the guards stripped you & you asked Have you seen
my lover
    displacing ourselves within a parenthesis of air

lilacs grow in Dachau 
    oh see oh see
        and to no isolate one’s self to meditate
someone hummed the Fergus song at night     deserters 
US Army
        War is good business     $ invest your son
I won’t shut up not even my finger
                    O my Youz!

 

Problems of Brabantio 

O thou foul thief! Where hast though
Stow’d my daughter?  Damn’d as thou
Art thou hast enchanted her.

Shakespeare

A wave of migratory birds flew over your forehead
girl from the orange trees was you
                nothing is true except for exile
a band / some music / seashells
            I more dead than alive
kicking horse skulls across the beach
                & it called unto me
the watch will last all night 
            I will not seek sleep beneath the stars
counting the chords of the crickets
            as such: ba bek brak bek
Nobody: my name is Nobody
              I amble about and I lose myself on the planet
the borders are closed
                I say América América 
my memory is not the memory
        nothing suffices there is no past
dust off old news place there one’s finger
                    spawn and die.

II

& my tribe circumcised the skulls
                ingested aphrodisiacs 
herbs to glimpse the great beyond
                the shadow of a car something
you don’t hear me come stronger than the night
you haven’t found some names crossed out on the wall:
                            Palmyra
Byzantium  Babylonia Texacoalt 
                Jerusalem O Jerusalem
                        & there were virgins in 
the walls
    blue tresses copper belly
            flowers consumed during the feast
a tongue an odor
            thus sang the poets

lost syllables babbling dead tongues 
                races crossbred
& one Power triumphed over another Power
                    one tongue slew another tongue
the conquistadors danced the sweet canticles of the enemy
my head stammers
        girl from the orange trees was you
I washed floors in Amsterdam 
                I praised the technique
                    Oh Most potent, grave and
reverent signiors

          The Earth is one.  

III

There were no countries
            Anatolia   Brittany   Pomerania 
                    incessant migrations
slow waves of birds / flooded landscapes
we are all Black / Jewish / Homeless 
                no God is worth so much
The doors will not remain shut
            we will drag away the totality a force
the meadows will not die with me
                I have left behind a voice a call
the oranges of Wesselmann
            the sun’s ovule
                    Mater dolcissima.

IV 

Keeping watch numbs me
        América América
            you chuck 21 stones into the sea
Yom Kippur this morning
        girl from the orange trees was you
sunken civilizations
there is no past I have no memory
no master no tradition
    everything is reborn at dawn
                    the heavens have rotated
I don’t recognize myself
             no one has authority
                a serpent is no better than
a camel 
    One man than another man
            I have spoken Love
Esselentíssimos signores
            the call deep in the night
                        torn from dreams
sluggish. 

Translated by Anthony Seidman

Languages

LALT No. 6
Number 6

LALT No. 6 goes from the gripping true stories of literary journalism to the strange worlds of fantastic short stories and graphic literature. We highlight chronicles by Colombian journalist Alberto Salcedo Ramos, speculative fiction in a dossier curated by Mexican writer Alberto Chimal, and Yucatec Maya poetry and prose in our ongoing Indigenous Literature series. 

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