Bird Language:/ Caupolicán Ovalles

Bird Language:

I need You to snatch the hummingbird from the air
to swathe your word
to sink your teeth in me
to take your soul for a walk with the afternoon of my spirit
to be a tree in a magical stare
to rustle over a flower
I need the pebbles of your river to be sand in my hands
the sea to be yours at the end of the battle
I need you to talk talk talk
like an iris on my forehead.

(small poem to teach a sleepy star how to talk)

Caupolicán Ovalles (Guarenas, 1936 - Caracas, 2001) was one of the most emblematic members of El Techo de la Ballena. ¿Duerme usted, señor presidente? (1962) is a book of poems that criticizes the presidency of Rómulo Betancourt. "Bird Language:" is part of Alfabetarium (2001).


tasco/ alexis romero

i always put my son’s binoculars
in front of the pc keyboard
and he who strongly mistrusts the virtues of the word
puts his left hand on my right shoulder
like giving me the courage that elders need
and says with the grace precision and future of a psalm
it’s tasco
made in thailand
planned designed and tested far away from here
with enough distance to survive ambivalences

it’s good for looking at what’s going on in that window
to witness a crime an orgasm
to testify if a star is moving
or if another one is a UFO watching you while you are writing
to witness the silence of a lady who decides to take a bath
because she longs to clean herself from the breath and the stares destroying her
and understand her hesitance to jump
at the tone of a verse by alfonso costafreda

it’s also good for exercising the chin
every time you look for a light in our mountain
keep in mind that a binocular is like a level
that will help you discover what sinks or raises
at your age the downward slopes are unhealthy
you have told me that a body chooses suicide
spits at God
when it does not learn to exercise the windpipe
or to lift the chin

i don’t know where my son learned to take care of himself
he always arrives early and calm
while hugging me he smells one of the drae volumes
he drops it and glances through a worn encyclopedia
of traditions and treachery

i agonize asking for serenity and joy for his days
i remind him that castile was never an empire
but he who doesn’t blame me anymore for being my parents’s slave
touches the binoculars and repeats
don’t forget about thailand


Natives from Paradise / Vicente Gerbasi

The natives from Paradise
invented the orchids
that move the silence of the hours.
The natives from Paradise
made from a ruby
the bird that made us accustomed
to the sadness
of the somber Orinoco.
The natives from Paradise
the most beautiful butterflies
which fly between the branches
of Canoabo’s old coffee plantations.
And what is Canoabo? Who made it?
The natives from Paradise made it.
Wherever all vastness
resonates in the bushes.

Vicente Gerbasi (Canoabo, 1913 - Caracas, 1992). From Los oriundos del paraíso (1994).


The Dwellers/ Alfredo Silva Estrada

The dwellers project their shadows
On the walls of a happier city

They do not rest in the threshold
They create it
From the roots moved by their footsteps
With gestures, sometimes dramatic,
Of a radiant waiting

Their hands guide the slow rising ivy
Causing winds punctuated by the fervor of the invisible
By the breath of love

In that unnamed eagerness
They make that every evocation has name in the future

While bearing incredible passages
Fields where mirrors echoes flourish and rebound
Meagerly real

Thus, by instant, the dwellers surprise us
When we inhabit the silence of patient signs
And the first persuasion of light touching our skin

From Los moradores (1974). Note of the translators: Silva Estrada's poetry is unique in the spectrum of Venezuelan literature. His work should be studied and translated with such distinctiveness in mind. He did not collaborate or join any literary group. In order to understand his work, it is advisable to read Stéphane Mallarmé. Due to the level of complexity of his poetry, this piece will be in constant revision.


Seventeen/ Luis Alberto Crespo

I do not have to watch that bird
So that it stays there
Giving me beauty

I just need to see it
In my memory

And the branch does not need to be there either
If it shudders

I just have to close my eyes
so that it trembles
so that it is touch by the whisper

From Mediodía o nunca.

One/ Luis Alberto Crespo

I know that turtledove
Does not sing for me
Neither is land in the language
To say goodbye
But if I closed my eyes
And went somewhere else
If I crossed into the deepest of the splendor
Promise me that we would go together to the shoreline
Of its sorrow
And you would give me to taste that teardrop flavor
The word forgetfulness has

Luis Alberto Crespo (Carora, 1941). From the book Mediodía o nunca (Ex Libris, 1989). Some of his titles are Si el verano es dilatado, Entreabierto (1984), Señores de la distancia (1988), Sentimentales (1990), Más afuera (1993), Duro (1995), Solamente (1996).

I'm back from running errands for you/ Eleonora Requena

I'm back from running errands for you
I barely zigzagged on the road and I had to open new ways
for my relief I sum up and acknowledge
I helped myself to your desires            and that voice
imposed your appetences    that were also
ravine of my pleasures
I'm frequent in the slight pretension of forgetfulness
and didn't stop hoisting flags and understanding defeats
take this thistle as barely sweet
as disgrace and swallow it
just like that

Eleonora Requena (Caracas, 1968). This poem is from Mandados (La liebre Libre, 2000). She has also published Sed (Eclepsidra, 1998), Es de día (El Pez Soluble, 2004), La noche sin agüeros (2007), and Ética del aire (Bid&Co, 2008). Her blog: Noctura, mas no funesta.


My Daughter’s Fish/ Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza

A fishbowl of 20 inches of perimeter
And 5 inches of diameter
(16 ounces of cloudy water approximately),
To that comes down Alfonso’s
Universe (my daughter’s fish).

We feed him once a day.

He opens the mouth like fishes do,
Like a mime learning to bubble.
I look at him with pity,
with fake compassion
and I tell Gaby: “what a cute little fish”.

At night, when everybody is asleep,
I get up and go to the kitchen.
Alfonso remains insomniac,
He looks at me firmly
(Not just because he lacks eyelids).
He interrogates me with his huge eyes
As convex as the fishbowl that holds him.
He consoles me, grieves me
And keeps spinning around distracted
On itself.

Just like me.

Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza (Caracas, 1962). This poem is part of Principios de contabilidad (Conaculta, 2000).


On Translation/ Mónica de la Torre

Not to search for meaning, but to reedify a gesture, an intent.

As a translator, one grows attached to originals. Seldom are choices
     so purposeful.

At midday, the translator meets with the poet at a café at the intersection
    where for decades whores and cross-dressers have lined up at
    night for passers-by to peruse.

Not a monologue, but an implied conversation. The translator's
    response is delayed.

The translator asks, the poet answers unrestrictedly. Someone
    watches the hand movements that punctuate the flow of an
    incomprehensible dialogue.

They're speaking about the poet's disillusionment with Freud.

One after another, vivid descriptions of the poet's dreams begin to
    pour out of his mouth. There's no signal of irony in his voice.
    Nor a hint of astonishment, nor a suggestion of hidden meanings,
    rather a belief in the detritus theory.

"Se me aparece un gato fosforescente. Lo sostengo en mis brazos
sabiendo que no volveré a ser el mismo."

"Estoy en una fiesta. De pronto veo que el diablo está sentado frente
a mí. Viste de negro, lleva una barba puntiaguda y un tridente en
la mano izquierda. Es tan amable que nadie se da cuenta de que
no es un invitado como los otros."

"Anuncian en el radio que Octavio Paz leerá su poema más reciente:
'Vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . .'"

"Entro a un laboratorio y percibo aromas inusitados. Aún los recuerdo."

The translator knows that nothing the poet has ever said or written
    reveals as much about him as the expression on his face when he
    was asked to pose for a picture. He greets posterity with a devilish
    grin. To the translator's delight, he's forced to repeat the gesture at
    least three or four times. The camera has no film.