My Father's Black Motorcycle
My Father’s Black Motorcycle
Words yes, but poetry no. Thousands of words, but poetry
no. Hard words, real, seeping from the pores and stuck
to them. Words yes, but no immobile earth or labyrinth.
Words, thousands of them, everywhere breathing
like a savage who doesn’t drag his reflection. Words yes,
but not like packaged meat, but like real meat.
Words with open teeth fighting for a fragment
of future. Words yes, interminable and wide and dancing,
but poetry no. Poetry never again.
Ernesto Carrión, Manual de ruido [Noise manual]
We leave life behind when my father and I cross the tropics like a bullet
on his black motorcycle
pressing rays of sunlight melt as we go and the breeze blows strong
around this black metal colt, it seems that time stops
that it stays intact at 3:00pm on a desolate January first.
My father and I plow down the highway that joins San Josecito with San Cristóbal.
The trees swirl like stains trembling under the sky.
The trees know the axis of perpetual flight that I must still love without leaving.
The trees break the suffocating rustle of the city and grip it tight, a root that blurs
the trunk as it burns down.
My father and I move in the sound of the wind, slowly with no destination.
His green eyes shine in the broken glass of the rear-view mirror
like two scars opening before me.
One by one, sunken in silence, our memories press on the asphalt.
And suddenly, his voice rising, he tells me the future.
And I think my father is a survivor, that infancy must be far away,
like so many things.
And in that momentary image that can only weave a journey,
where the future is past and the past is past and the present innocence,
the city begins to return, to be dragged back,
like a dark body without us.
I know every bend in his impossible road
border and edge of the night, able to dream
a thin line where things end up breaking.
Now, nothing returns to its course.
Some told me, slow down kid,
and I remained suspended in the afternoon like a dog, opening
the sky with my eyes before the steppes or the streets or the illuminated sidewalks.
So much thunder to say that my friends awaited me there
drawing short the breath of the day when I silently wrote;
but who would care
if I didn’t trace the geography of that immemorial hamlet if I sang no more than a frozen portrait
asleep in time if I hanged myself like a flower abandoned on that courtyard
before the long faces of the family,
if my words shone amid the dead leaves that my mother tore up when she saw.
Dazzling sands and blizzards in the country,
corners of cold daggers, open-mouthed cadavers corner after corner
were part of that voice that in its blindness
spilled the melodic stridence of the neighborhood I passed through like a ghost.
No one had a name, I had no need to have one.
Even though I hid, driven crazy, in the name
even in the name of Rosalina’s terrace I ascended on her stairway to heaven
when Juan Diego died, and I heard in full:
a blank page is a closed door.
Name of the cross that annihilates the wind under La Loma
name of the songs of the holy trinity of neighborhood drunks, I listened
Walker of San Cristóbal, I owe something to someone and I don’t remember who or how to pay them.
The plain of San Josecito and its putrid odor stretch for miles.
Do I have something to say? Death, like poetry, is inconfessable.
Really, do I have something to say? My father’s motorcycle lets out smoke
like a dream, the smoke is the fruit of ash; the dream, of some voice.
My father’s voice doesn’t know the past, that is another of the kingdoms that burns down.
His murmur interrupts the future to close one window and open another: son, behind that
is the biggest trash dump in San Cristóbal. Cheo, my father. I will write. His eyes made soft.
Where does life take us when. I will write. The wind is a shadow between us. I will write.
A slender shadow we pass through on his black motorcycle.
And I imagined I was wandering from door to door without myself.
And the rain fell down harder and we took off splendidly again.
And I believed in this poem but another music was hurled into the storm.
And silent, I crossed the black land I was naming.
And black were its houses with broken roofs along the path
black the bright star that inspired the highway to Santa Ana,
black the immobile stammering of the window toward me
an old shopkeeper growing with the smoke, diluted in his portrait,
black the chorus of prayers that rise toward me.
Some told me sing young man,
and I rose my voice like a bleeding bird
this land with no history of mountains crashed into the sky,
of words like mine adhering to the muteness of our dead,
this land that locks in abandonment of our uninhabited paths
that bows in the greenness and putrefaction
that is neither town nor city nor hunger all gathered in the gaze
of he who dreams until it burns,
this land of sordid emotions like grains of sand that the wind drags without carrying us off
this land where the present is not eternal nor a stain nor burning happiness,
this sleepwalking land where I write with my tongue cut since the past
pronouncing the same traitorous prayer for years,
this land where my living memory is still too young to invent some wintry perfume,
this stinking land of bells and loose doves as huge as a closed house,
this noisy land that my father and I cross at top speed on his black motorcycle.
(from Hay un sitio detrás de los incendios [There is a place behind the fires], 2017)
Translated by Arthur Dixon
Jesús Montoya (Tovar, Venezuela, 1993) is a poet and essayist. He earned his degree in Letters from the Universidad de Los Andes. He has published the verse collections Las noches de mis años [The nights of my years] (2016) and Hay un sitio detrás de los incendios [There is a place behind the fires] (2017), which won the first Premio Hispanoamericano de Poesía Francisco Ruiz Udiel. He is currently part of the editorial team of the journal Poesía at the Universidad de Carabobo and is editor of the journal Insilio. He is currently completing a doctorate in Literature in Brazil.
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.