I know of the sea breaking against a wall
how it scares me when its swell rises too high
when its waters grow cool and it is impossible.
I know of good people crowded on bridges
I contemplate their crystalline gaze and mine turns to glass
my coastline eyes, my coasts
keep sickening me.
I have seen from a balcony
a river that divides three countries
I have often opened my door to greet
I drew out a new tongue
I sat down as far north as possible
I was on the last street of a country
I was as insular as I could be
I have put all my faith in a journey
I have wanted to return and embrace
I run behind a new landscape that crumples in my eyes
I live fleeing from this place I am
but the uprooting doesn’t cure me
doesn’t cure me.
The first suicide is unique
They always ask you if it was an accident
or a firm determination to die
The first escape is unique
they always ask you when you’re coming back
keeping in mind the repeated path
some claim for themselves deeper distances,
silent and senseless.
When the escape becomes a totem
a custom of the sad
there aren’t many questions left
it doesn’t matter when you’re back
there here beyond
opacity if you come back
The first escape is unique
then absolutely everything succumbs to the mirroring of distance
and everything is longing, mi-mi-mi
everything nostalgia, bla-bla-bla
the grimace of those who assume forgetting when they say farewell
impassable languages of goodbye
the most invalid force of embrace.
The first escape is unique.
(from Estatua de sal y otros poemas [Statue of salt and other poems], 2017)
Translated by Arthur Dixon
Cristina Gutiérrez Leal (Coro, 1988) is a poet, essayist, and photographer. She earned a degree in Education with minors in Language, Literature, and Latin as well as a Magister Scientiae in Spanish-American Literature at the Universidad de los Andes, and she is currently completing a doctorate in Comparative Literature at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. She won the second Concurso Nacional de Poesía Joven Rafael Cadenas in 2017. In the same year, she published her first book, titled Estatua de sal y otros poemas [Statue of salt and other poems].
Arthur Malcolm Dixon is co-founder, lead translator, and Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. He has translated the novels Immigration: The Contest by Carlos Gámez Pérez and There Are Not So Many Stars by Isaí Moreno (Katakana Editores), as well as the verse collection Intensive Care by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza (Alliteratïon). He also works as a community interpreter in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2020-2021 Tulsa Artist Fellow.
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.