One day I placed a rock on top of your name
and I said to myself: I’ll go singing all the way home.
And I sang
like a wild woman on powerful legs
like a wild river I sang.
Until the song began turning into a tiny trickle
(that wouldn’t even feed the peas)
And with every step
my feet started stumbling.
I can’t see the tiled roof of my house
or the tallest tree
did I leave my heart under that rock?
my stupid heart, beside your name?
I know I’ll never make it home now.
I also know I can’t turn back.
The moon hangs over the sea
hard and round like desire.
The night is scarcely able to cover my one eye
the other is stubbornly fixed on the calm sea
but different winds link together
to blow through the hole in my heart
to tattoo signs in the water that are your name
shapes that are your arms around this descent.
Desire is so painful.
That I know; nothing more and nothing less.
On this bridge, I fold and unfold my crossbones
and with every movement something departs into the darkness
and with every movement something returns, and it’s you
and it isn’t you, but rather the fury of not being
here and in plain sight.
The tiller falls overboard, the sails pull back like fists
and then fear
that all you are is this ocean
that all you are is this heart telling itself tales
because nobody knows you and I’m up to my neck with you
because I sink in your water
hard and round like desire, like the moon,
like it has to be.
Oh the many ropes and whale teeth
adorning me as I wait for combat or in my war cry
only baby teeth against the beast
and the forecastle, the stern,
the bowsprit, the mainmast
or the swelling sails
better to have simply been a coffin
or to have never left the port
never felled the trees that made me
I could give a damn about
the oil that moves the world
I vomit overboard
because of the turns
the world makes
ah if many hands
would have waited in their place
from the start
in stays, fixed
(like your beautiful heart:
against the water trails)
motionless since forever
I still would see carrying on
in the forests of Arrowhead
happy, tiny, light butterflies
and not these petulant vultures,
surging, insatiable waves…
Translated by Amy Olen
Amy Olen is Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her Ph.D. is in Spanish and Portuguese from The University of Texas at Austin. She holds Master’s Degrees in Translation Studies and Spanish and Portuguese, both from UW-Milwaukee. Her research interests include Latin American Indigenous writing and Translation Studies.
Rossella Di Paolo (Lima, 1960) studied Literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and has published the poetry collections Prueba de galera (1985), Continuidad de los cuadros (1988), Piel alzada (1993), Tablillas de San Lázaro (2001), and La silla en el mar, which won the “Luces” Prize awarded by the Peruvian daily El Comercio for 2016 Best Book of Poetry. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of anthologies of Peruvian and Latin American poetry. In 2020, she won the Casa de la Literatura Peruana Prize and was distinguished as a Personalidad Meritoria de la Cultura (Admirable Cultural Personality) by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.
In our seventeenth issue, we highlight the work of groundbreaking Colombian writer Albalucía Ángel, alongside Octavio Paz, a towering figure of Mexican letters and the second Latin American winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. We also feature Peruvian poet Eduardo Chirinos, a series of photo portraits of writers in the pandemic, a selection of new translations seeking publisher, plus writing in the Murui, Quechua, and Tseltal lenguages in our ongoing Indigenous Literature section.