From Contra natura
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
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
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
that imagination that continues extinguishing, those words that
do not wish
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
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
like a madman. Captain?
The stocks hold some bones, the icy corridors
hide barricades of amontillado.
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?
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
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?
/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
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.
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,
to call myself a Shakespearean bite. And thus
the time one passes on earth proves miserable
if one supposes there is no infinity
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
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.
Oh Caesar, your pamphlets keep arriving:
“If you don’t deal in politics
politics will deal with you.”
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?
You will believe that you have won,
Eugene Marchbanks exits, but they will never know
which was his secret.
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
your terrorists to persuade that I sing your celebrated repressive
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
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
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.
To raze Power to the ground
Power is required: I will seek the Tao & Utopia
don’t sic your attack dogs on me
perhaps I won’t reach the other margin
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
lubricous para siempre
discovering the sweetness of Acapulco Gold
our own sweetness
selling trinkets made by our own hands
traveling until summer
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
require that we sing in praise of your Power.
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
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
and we will not reach the other margin
mediators between the world of reality and the world
still, in contemplation
goats grazing among the rhododendrons
a town of dirty chimneys below
and a hand brushing against oneself can hasten ecstasy
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.
Oh, Lord of Great Power
my poetry will end with me
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
not deteriorated by barbarism and power
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
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
inside & out
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 &
and the final undertaking takes on defined forms
opens towards the infinite
and we will not sing, Caesar, of temporary powers
but rather of the total dialogue
or rien du tout.
the tide withdraws 13 kilometers
and the flooded road
to Monte St. Michel rises
a rêve, a vision
washes her long legs humming songs of the Goliards
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
stone embedded in the blood we weep
oh stones raised
maybe we will reach the other margin
the sea has withdrawn and Azucena
tireless and lithe lover.
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
I repeated in his ear
he promised, made an oath
but he doesn’t know and he slept indefinitely
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;
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
and on Silver Street they insulted us: I opened his shirt and I kissed
his Hindu chest: “Impregnate me,” I murmured “before
& 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…”
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
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
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
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
the fragile roe deer fears the earth
and you neared the doors of la Cité
the guards stripped you & you asked Have you seen
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
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.
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.
& my tribe circumcised the skulls
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:
Byzantium Babylonia Texacoalt
Jerusalem O Jerusalem
& there were virgins in
blue tresses copper belly
flowers consumed during the feast
a tongue an odor
thus sang the poets
lost syllables babbling dead tongues
& 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
The Earth is one.
There were no countries
Anatolia Brittany Pomerania
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
Keeping watch numbs me
you chuck 21 stones into the sea
Yom Kippur this morning
girl from the orange trees was you
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
One man than another man
I have spoken Love
the call deep in the night
torn from dreams
Translated by Anthony Seidman
Rodolfo Hinostroza (Peru, 1941-2016) is one of Latin America’s most celebrated poets from the 20th century. His groundbreaking poetry is noted for its vast sweep which includes astronomy, history, counterculture, alchemy, the occult, politics, and which is usually rendered in erudite, yet highly lyrical open sequences. He is recognized as a bridge between such earlier poets as Vallejo and contemporary poets from Peru. Indeed, his most acclaimed collection of poetry, Contra natura (1971) made an impression as indelible as Vallejo’s Trilce. Contra natura, from which this selection of poems is taken, won the Maldoror prize in 1972 with none other than Octavio Paz as head judge. Hinostroza was awarded a Guggenheim in 2009, and the National Award of Culture from Peru in 2013. At the time of his death in 2016, he was revered by younger poets and was a central part of literary life in Lima. In 2019, Cardboard House Press will publish Anthony Seidman’s translation of Contra natura.
Anthony Seidman (Los Angeles, 1973) is the author of three verse collections, including Where Thirsts Intersect (2006). In 2015, he published Confetti-Ash: Selected Poems of Salvador Novo with translator David Shook. He has translated and published poetry from the northern border region of Mexico, and his work has appeared in many journals, including World Literature Today, the parent publication of Latin American Literature Today, Nimrod, Modern Poetry In Translation, and Huizache, among others. He has collaborated with French artist Jean-Claude Loubieres on three books, all published by AdeLeo in Paris, France, and these works are included in collections such as the Kandinsky Library in the Pompidou Center. His poetry has been published in the United States, England, France, Mexico, Romania, Bangladesh, and Nicaragua, in journals such as Ambit, Luvina, Bengal Lights, The Black Herald Review, and La Prensa de Managua, among others. His work is included in the anthologies Transatlantic Steamer: Vapor Trasatlántico (2008), California Prose Directory (2013), and The Ecopoetry Anthology (2013).
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.