AMP. Always Electric.

Volume 3, No. 1

TWO POEMS

XIII

I saw my first dead body one afternoon, walking
up from Sabana Grande toward Avenida Libertador
along one of those narrow,
claustrophobic streets.
It was three or maybe fourp.m.;
the day was limp, the light
like a pale sweat
slicking everything.
A group of quiet people were huddled
on the righthand sidewalk. And in the middle, a man,
facedown, limbs sprawled akimbo.
No one said a word; no one
wept or shouted. They were speaking very softly,
as if they were already at the wake.
It didn’t seem like the scene of
a death, but something else altogether, an unsettling event,
a problem it would be necessary
to solve. I could have sworn they were waiting, with some
impatience, for a sign.
Between heaven and earth,
only the angels of boredom intercede.

No one had brought a sheet
to cover him with, no one
had draped a jacket across his body.
It was impossible to see his face; the bullet
had shattered his skull from behind,
now resting in a pool
of blood and piss and shit
(his sphincter had slackened).
No one caught the stench;
the cold light had hidden it away.
It wasn’t a body; it was something else,
folded up, crossed out.
Something that had lost its every alliance.

When you die, people say, you finally
look like yourself,
as if someone had done you the favor
of collecting all your shadows.
But that’s a lie.
In the end, you don’t look like anything at all:
the mass of you, the heap of wasted muscles
and useless bones,
says nothing. Death is not
an art, like everything else,
and no one does it well.

Vi mi primer muerto una tarde, subiendo
de Sabana Grande a la Avenida Libertador,
en una de esas calles estrechas
y claustrofóbicas.
Eran las tres o las cuatro, algo así,
el día estaba flojo, la luz era
como un sudor pálido,
sobre las cosas.
En la acera derecha había un grupo
de gente callada. Y en medio, un hombre boca abajo,
los miembros regados de cualquier manera.
No había un solo comentario, nadie
lloraba o gritaba. Hablaban en voz muy baja,
como si vivieran por adelantado el velorio.
No parecía la escena de una
muerte, sino otra cosa, un suceso desconcertante,
un problema que era necesario
resolver. Hubiera jurado que esperaban, incluso
con un poco de fastidio, alguna señal.
Entre el cielo y la tierra
solamente median los ángeles del aburrimiento.

No habían traído una sábana
para cubrirlo ni le habían puesto
una chaqueta encima.
Era imposible ver su rostro, la bala
le había partido el cráneo desde atrás,
y ahora estaba en el centro de un charco
de sangre y orina y mierda
(se le habían relajado los esfínteres).
Nadie notaba el olor,
la luz fría lo había escondido.
Eso no era un cuerpo, era algo más,
replegado, tachado.
Algo que había perdido todas sus alianzas.
Dicen que al morir te pareces
finalmente a ti mismo,
como si alguien te hubiera hecho el favor
de recoger cada una de tus sombras.
Pero es mentira.
Al final no te pareces a nada,
la masa de músculos atrofiados
y huesos inservibles que eres
no dice nada. La muerte no es
un arte, como todo lo demás,
y nadie lo hace bien.




XVII

(Ecopoetry)

It’s a kind of poetry that emerges as an
everyday need, without preparations, pleasures,
or disturbances of existence...like someone readying
himself to ingest food or defecate.

–Adriano González León

La Bonanza is the name
of this country’s only legal garbage dump.
But there are around a hundred twenty more, scattered about
its terrain like small scabs across a still
and bitter body, mapless towns farming in tin
and copper, inhabited by the futile silence
of things. You start to see how wrong
they were, some of our writers, bar-stool Odysseuses
of unruly nights—they didn’t really know what they were asking for
when they talked about investigating trash.
Although it’s true: who else could understand
the ravages of global warming in a whiskey on
the rocks, the modest glaciers of these tropics.
Glass can take over four thousand
years to decompose. As luck would have it,
poetry takes less.
It’s perfectly biodegradable.
You can scrap as many poems as you like
without a second thought, your conscience clean: no need
to recycle them. Poetry rots without complaint,
like a sad, drunk whale, run aground
on some untouristed coast.
I’m sure this poem will come to rest
in one of the dumps (not all poets
are lucky enough to live out their days in a bonanza),
received by those angels
who rub their wings together like flies.

(Ecopoesía)

Se trata de una poesía que se da como una necesidad
cotidiana, sin preparaciones, regodeos o perturbaciones
de la existencia [...]como quien se dispone a ingerir
los alimentos o a defecar.

–Adriano González León

La Bonanza es el nombre
del único vertedero legal de este país.
Pero hay unos ciento veinte más, dispersos por su
geografía como breves costras sobre un cuerpo quieto
y desabrido, pueblos sin mapa donde se cultiva cobre
y aluminio, donde se vive del silencio inútil
de las cosas. Uno empieza a comprender lo errados que
estaban algunos de nuestros escritores, odiseos de tasca
y noche patas arriba—no sabían realmentelo que pedían cuando
hablaban de una investigación de las basuras.
Aunque es verdad, nadie como ellos para entender
los estragos del calentamiento global en el hielo
de los whiskeys, los modestos glaciares de este trópico.
El vidrio puede tomar más de cuatro mil
años en descomponerse. Por fortuna,
la poesía no tarda tanto.
Es perfectamente biodegradable.
Uno puede botar cuantos poemas quiera
sin temor, con buena conciencia: no es necesario
reciclarlos. La poesía se pudre sin quejarse,
como una ballena triste y ebria, encallada
en alguna costa sin turistas.
Seguramente el texto va a dar
a uno de los vertederos (no todos los poetas
tienen la buena suerte de terminar sus días en la bonanza),
donde será recibido por esos ángeles
que frotan sus alas como moscas.

Adalber Salas Hernández with English translation by Robin Myers

Adalber Salas Hernández (Caracas, 1987) is a poet, essayist and translator. He is the author of numerous books of poems: La arena, el vidrio: ascenso en tres movimientos (2008), Extranjero (2010; 2012), Suturas (2011), Heredar la tierra (2013), Salvoconducto (2015, winner of the XXXVI Arcipreste de Hita Prize), Río en blanco (2016), mínimos (2016) and Materia intacta (2017). He has also published Insomnios. Ensayos sobre poesía venezolana, a volume of essays on Venezuelan poetry, and Estábamos muertos y podíamos respirar, a reflection on Paul Celan’s poetics. He has published translations of Marguerite Duras, Antonin Artaud, Charles Wright, Yusef Komunyakaa, Pascal Quignard, and Mário de Andrade, among others. In collaboration with Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza, he is responsible for the volume Poetas venezolanos contemporáneos. Tramas cruzadas, destinos comunes, an anthology of contemporary Venezuelan poetry. He currently works as Co-Director of the publishing house Bid&co., and as an editor of POESIA, a literary magazine published at Carabobo University, and of Buenos Aires Poetry. 

Translator Robin Myers is the author of several poetry collections published as bilingual editions in Mexico, Argentina, and Spain. Her translations have appeared in AnomalyBeloit Poetry JournalAsymptote, the Los Angeles Review of BooksWaxwingInventory, and elsewhere. She has been a fellow of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) and a resident translator at the Banff Literary Translation Centre (BILTC). Her translation of Ezequiel Zaidenwerg’s book La lírica está muerta / Lyric Poetry is Dead is forthcoming this year from Cardboard House Press. 

Photo of author by Susanna Bozzetto