Three Poems from Tundra


Video editing: María Gabriela Gutiérrez. 


By the Horns 

Like those who dance in a swamp 
and do not fear sinking 
there are those who draw an abyss 
and do not fear falling 
like the seam of life  
in the body of death 
stitch by stitch, the threads will burst 
one day the flood will come  
so, in the meantime 
I think of someone 
a persistent image of blood  
to take hold of the day 
like a bull to his steps 
with a knife and closed eyes 
piercing with a dirty face  
the ravenous glare 
from the night of the powerful  
who gnaw off our backs  
wheat not yet harvested. 



Look into the wind 
the direction they float 
the leaves 
that bear their names 
without a care 
the gust surges, storms 
and so the mistake is made: 
open wound on the face 
blood that sees 
discovers the unknown 
whisper of the whirlwind 

A hurricane, a downpour: 
a tremor 
a moment sees itself 
devouring the path 
axe that carves the trees 

Wooded tongue of the world.  


Fig and Stale Bread 

The fig tree on San Blas street 
spans majestically 
to another city 
at its roots 
grows green aloe vera 
—I snag some— 
the house is for sale 
the shutters latched 
stealing seems fair  
for something that helps 
to heal 
entrenched scars 
that do not fade 
and resist 
the chemical subjugation 
of pharmaceuticals 

The skin reacts before 
what I do not wish to see 
sometimes the eyes 
are an old theater 
now closed 

The answer is within me 

I am my own medicine 
the diagnosis resides 
in the depths of the heart. 


This translation was made collaboratively by the students in Denise Kripper’s Literary Translation Workshop at Lake Forest College: Lindsey Contreras, Yasmin Corrales, Shaye Gauthier, Yanna Glaspy, Cassidy Herberth, Nathaniel Kregar, Jared Peterson, Stephanie Salgado, and Teagan Wolf.


LALT No. 18
Number 18

In our eighteenth issue, we feature the work of beloved Cuban poet Reina María Rodríguez alongside that of João Cabral de Melo Neto, renowned Brazilian poet and third Latin American winner of the Neustadt Prize. We also highlight Latin American women poets, indigenous literature from Brazil, new works in translation, and a return to the essay through the words of Mariano Picón Salas.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Featured Author: Reina María Rodríguez

Dossier: João Cabral de Melo Neto





Brazilian Literature

Indigenous Literature

Translation Previews and New Releases

On Translation

On Translation: Seeking Publisher

On the Essay

Nota Bene