Four Poems from Vivir de oído


Musicians in Granada, Spain. Photo: María Julia Martínez, Unsplash.

Pessimism of Understanding, Optimism of Attention

My attention
steps down from its center
like an oil stain.

Contradictory hand:
while it feigns snatching
specific objects,
its fingers count digressions.
Is to touch to have faith?

I attend to that shoe
that almost frees itself
from a young woman’s heel,
to the deaf-mute debates
on the TV in the back,
to the impatient tics of the light
and, just every so often,
to the time I have left.


Altarpiece with Common Girl

She seeks not to epitomize
nor is her back mythic.

But the punctuation of the hanging foot
while she reads I-don’t-know-which novelist,
the tenuous stammering of sandals,
the fingers hurt
by having said yes,
her exact way of taking a seat
her parenthetic stillness,
the shining, let’s say, of an altarpiece
around her unkempt head,
the hairs that are an opinion,
the studious bags under her eyes
the possible myopia that condenses
her field of interest,
the drop in noise when you watch her,
her weight that is an emphasis,
the time she turns over in her hands.

All of this has brought us together
in this accidental crossing,
in this little matter of us.


Minimal Miniseries of Marksmanship

This insect is the hero
of some resistance movement.
He wheels around
my enemy hand
and dodges every attempt
to interrupt his slight digressions.

As I’m not capable, I admire him instead.
Does admiration
combat this impotence
or confirm it?
Is my compassion the fruit
of missing the mark?

The insect leaves me
his autograph on the air
with the faint buzz of epigrams.


Desert with Baseball Cap

This infinite has no need of you,
orogeny is human:
two forces tearing each other apart.

The spiritual is this indifference
with which time is left to do its work.

The landscape moves,
art of itself.

The rhythm of the rock.
The unisonous wind.
The antecedent cavern.

And a blue baseball cap on the dune.


Poems from Vivir de oído [Living by ear] (La Bella Varsovia, 2018)

Translated by Arthur Malcolm Dixon


Elicura Chihuailaf
Number 16

In our sixteenth issue, we celebrate Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf, who in 2020 became the first indigenous writer to receive Chile's National Prize for Literature. We also feature dossiers dedicated to the work of Andrés Neuman, Latin American literary criticism, and the Latin American essay, plus a bilingual selection of texts from Dispatches from the Republic of Letters: 50 Years of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature commemorating Gabriel García Márquez, the first Latin American author to win the prestigious Neustadt Prize.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Featured Author: Elicura Chihuailaf

Dossier: Andrés Neuman

Dispatches from the Republic of Letters

Latin American Literary Criticism





Brazilian Literature


Translation Previews and New Releases

On Translation: Seeking Publisher

Nota Bene