First Letter and the Most Difficult One
Don’t die anymore within me, come out from my tongue.
I’ve seen them fall bare-chested,
Their raised arms, those looks.
I lend them the hands of those who blindfolded their eyes,
The ears that refused to hear their cries,
My lonely mouth in their angry night.
Roll down lying on the hilly pastures of
My tongue, laugh again, allow us to listen
The laughter while you fall, buckle, and name yourselves.
Don’t hide under the cold stones of my tongue,
I’ve seen them in the dead pigeon in the middle of the road,
In the wounded who talk to the geraniums,
In the storm that lies ahead.
Night’s buckled on the table,
The rain that wasn’t spoken about;
And the wait, the stone, the knot.
Come out you all: leave from this mud, this fog, the cold
Of the badlands of my tongue. Sing your return,
Raise your voice from the depths of the Earth.
What’s the purpose of these letters, you ask.
To be born, Antonio, to be reborn.
A letter is a country in the air.
Letter to the Man Who Killed my Son
Every night, prayer after prayer, I wished you the blackest blood.
I said stone, I said mercury, I said wolf, I said rotten tree in your heart.
I cursed your mother’s hands who molded your body with hope,
I cursed the woman who loved you believing that it was love,
I cursed the midwife who saved you from being an angel, from being honey,
from being a tender mouth.
I hurled away from my tongue the cobbled-street village that saw you running,
The country that gave you a name and this right to crush us and throw us into oblivion.
Chained to your hate, I professed all my love and all my emptiness to you.
I used to dream of your face under my fingernails, I used to dream that you dreamed of me
watching you in silence,
I used to dream that the rain was hitting your window with lamb entrails.
But when grief was shattering my bones, life placed you in front of my eyes:
It seemed unreal because in your young face I saw the face of my son,
In your absent stare I saw his last stare, in your disheveled hair I saw his cry
Cheerfully coming home hungry from school with his dogs.
Now that you’re looking for a coin at the bottom of the murky pond,
Now that you’re longing in the grass for another birth, now that your wounded
Hands refuse to wound, tell me, answer to this empty picture frame,
To this abandoned bike, to this lifeless tiger that is your country: Do you want my forgiveness?
What would it save you from? What would destroy, what would lift, what would hide under the
forgotten aspen trees?
Will it do any good if I clean my son’s blood from your hands?
Forgiveness hurts ― it comes out from the manure, it flies above our heads,
It perfumes, but it doesn’t manage to wash away the blood from our orange blossoms.
In the midst of the stale bread and the cruelest acids: I forgive you ― little
Orphan ― I forgive you and release myself from your razor wires,
I forgive you and untie your most hurtful barbs.
Just tell me one final word.
Tell me, under which stone should I look for his name? Tell me, at the bottom of which river
must I sing
His melody? Tell me, in which heart should I dig among those poisoned leaves of grass?
You and I, we are two ravens looking at each other inconsolably.
You and I, we are this garden of the disappeared ―
This violent love.
Letter from the Women of this Country
Here we are, with the foam on our hands in front of the dirty dishes,
Listening to the murmurs of the blood. Through the window, the moonlight
Shines on the metals and the soapsuds.
We are very old women, remembering brittle things. We were all there.
They let us live so we could tell about the bad apples,
So we whisper while our fingers drip, as well:
“They didn’t take love away from us.”
I’d like sorrow to go away like grease goes down the drain.
But sorrow is there like a child growing inside us.
Sorrow tells us: “My daughters, look at how you’ve grown new wings.”
There’s luster on the spoons and forks, but the memory, the lightning,
Our men’s last names are still throbbing in our hands.
While we wash a kettle, a skillet, a sieve, there’s one of us who fancies
Bathing and caressing her man’s chest, hands, and feet.
Others make war, but we roll the wheelbarrows
Of mud from one room to the next,
Between us and the faucet, the moon, and our singing dead.
We won’t go away just like that. We’re delving into the mystery.
We’re looking in the humble jug of our well for simpler words
To accurately tell about their broken ribs, their chopped-off hands, their open, motionless eyes.
How much pain there is in this daily task of washing dishes, glasses, and our syllables.
War is named after a man, but memory has a woman’s quavering vowels.
No one better than us knows that: “We’re all guilty in this nightmare.”
And if we keep quiet (we believe it, almost bending our knees), it’d be like dying
in front of our kids.
Let no one hide in her clean house, let no one say never, let no one stop peeling off her soul.
We, the women of this country, are here burnishing our dead.
We, the women of this country, are here to build love
With suds. We, the women of this country, are here
With the moon in our hands.
Translated by Miguel Falquez Certain
Fredy Yezzed (Bogotá, 1979) is a writer, poet, and human rights advocate. After traveling across Latin America for six months, he settled in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has published the following volumes of poetry: La sal de la locura (Macedonio Fernández National Poetry Prize, Buenos Aires, 2010; Buenos Aires: Qué diría Víctor Hugo, 2016); El diario inédito del filósofo vienés Ludwig Wittgenstein (Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Dock, 2012, 2016); and Carta de las mujeres de este país/Letter from the Women of this Country (New York: Nueva York Poetry Press, 2019; tr. Miguel Falquez-Certain), honorable mention at the Casa de las Américas Literary Competition (Cuba) in 2017. As a literary critic, he edited and wrote the introductions for the following books: Párrafos de aire. Primera antología del poema en prosa colombiano (Medellín: Editorial de la Universidad de Antioquia, 2010), and La risa del ahorcado. Antología poética de Henry Luque Muñoz (Bogotá: Editorial de la Universidad Javeriana, 2015).
Miguel Falquez-Certain is the author of six volumes of poetry, six plays, a novella, and a book of short fiction, Triacas, for which he has received several awards. He has a B.A. in Spanish and French (Hunter College, 1980), did his Ph.D. course work in Comparative Literature at New York University (1981-85), and studied the art and theory of translation with Richard Howard and André Lefebvre at NYU. ATA-certified, and a PEN Club and Proz.com member, he has lived in NYC since the seventies working as a translator in five languages.
In our thirteenth issue, we feature two innovative, hard-to-define figures of Latin American letters: from the present, Mexican writer Mario Bellatin, and from the past, Chilean writer Juan Emar. Together with these authors, we highlight Latin American theatre for the first time with a script by Ramón Griffero, Nahuatl-language poetry by Martín Tonalmeyotl, plus interviews, book reviews, exclusive previews, and more from writers including Rosario Castellanos, César Aira, and Salgado Maranhão.