Palabras Errantes Latin American Literature in Translation

Palabras Errantes
1. Lyric Poetry is Dead

By Ezequiel Zaidenwerg. Translated by Robin Myers.
versión en español


1. Lyric Poetry is Dead


I. Lyric Poetry is Dead:[1]


left marooned

in a hypnotic backwater of sleep, while,

beyond the final clot of consciousness,

around the silver-canopied four-poster,

beside the shoddy bed of wood and thorns,

the family gathered,

waiting for the moment to initiate

the succession.

With all the human senses spent, the capsule

of wind that held her spirit

rose up, bound for the gales, dissolved into

a centrifugal gust of light, just like Elijah in the whirlwind,

raised skyward in a chariot of fire.

And though her life had died,

her memory left little consolation: the waters went unparted,

and no Elisha came forth as successor.

Oblivious to the omen

and conspiring, they took away the body

and an imposter came to dictate a false will,

and covered himself in her bedclothes,

which were still warm.

Lyric poetry

is dead. “Of natural causes,” as

the spokesman stated, “after battling

a cruel disease

for many years.”

(End of press release.)

“With great

regret, her sons and daughters,

her grandsons, granddaughters, and loving husband

inform the public of her passing, humbly requesting

prayers in her memory.”

Lyric poetry

is dead. A century and a half ago,

although her heirs still seem to be the same

–their skin’s still smooth; they walk erect and unassisted–,

only now, after a thousand

and one judicial onslaughts, has the case


been closed, and is it possible

to proceed with the final liquidation of the estate.


Great opportunity. Tower for sale. .

Façade engraved with striking marble accents. Purpose:

state or commercial offices. To be recycled.

No windows and no bathrooms.

Incredible variety of mirrors.




II. The Slaughterhouse[2]


Lyric poetry is dead. They came for her

after they had come for the communists, the Catholics,

the Jews, et cetera; in short, as soon

as they’d obliterated everyone who still

believed in something. Me, I wasn’t worried when

they captured her. (I bet you know by now

where this is headed.) It’s a lie that everyone

is necessary, guys, and anyway, it wasn’t Brecht

who wrote that poem.

(But what was it that happened,

you ask? Forgive me; I digress.) It was around Eastertime

and in broad daylight. I was there, coincidentally,

and witnessed everything: she

was in her car (expensive, I must say,

to roam around those neighborhoods);

suddenly, a refrigerated truck

pulled out in front. Both hit the brakes.

A toothless man with greasy hair

and thick-rimmed glasses gets out of the truck

and starts to tell her off. (Actually, all

was engineered

ahead of time.) She steps out of the car. “Please,”

she says, “calm down.” “I won’t calm down,”

replies the toothless man, abruptly pulling out

a gun he’d hidden in his clothes, now shimmering

beneath the sun.

And from that moment forward,

as I remember, everything moves faster.

He yelled at her to get inside,

in back, to keep the cattle company.

But she refused. And facing the denial,

he struck her with the handle of the gun

and threw her onto the hood of the car.

They struggled, and the toothless man

seizes at her from behind,

pulled up her dress. She shouted something

I can’t recall, and then a stream of blood

gushed from her mouth (exploding out of nowhere, like

blood sausage when it’s left too long

to cook. I thought

–this part I do remember– of poetic


The final image

still branded in my memory is one

of her high heels, split open, on the pavement,

and then the gem-like moon that glistened in

the pool of blood.




III. Alfredo Yabrán[3]


Lyric poetry is dead. And don’t forget it.

For my part, I prefer to think of her

as in the only photo leaked

to the press: eyes so blue that they seemed

empty, the bronzed belly,

the proud head covered with a thicket

of silver; the same one that, in the vast

solitude of the plains, knowing she was surrounded,

exploded in a deep red blot.

Don’t you forget it,

don’t you deny her death: it’s literal, the proof

is plain, and although some still speculate that she’s alive,

that they’d replaced her with the body of a double (or a dummy!),

and that she’d crossed the border and is safe,

is laughing at us as she drinks a daiquiri

that lasts forever in the eternal postcard

of summer in the tropics, it was you who killed her:

your provocations, your repeated sieges on

her privacy, the accusations

–ghostly businesses

and legion of protean dummies, links

to sundry mafias, connections with the government

and security forces of a dozen countries—

they pushed her slowly, inch by inch, until

she went over the edge;

and though they may maintain that, if indeed she died,

oblivious to the facts, they deem it necessary even so,

a time bomb that could detonate in anybody’s

face (and whose better than her own?), denying that

they found their scapegoat,

you are to blame,

it was you who killed her.




IV. The Hands[4]


Inside the crypt, they didn’t want

to speak, and they could only hear,

within the vault’s deep silence,

the rumble of the generator. They

went down the narrow spiral staircase,

carved from white marble, leading

below the ground. A baleful omen soon

appeared: they saw

that there were roughly twenty blows

dealt to the armored glass; a hole

lay at the center. They would later note

the absence of the hand-penned poem

the widow had deposited (“your hand

of love draws near / like snow-white butterflies”),

which should have been upon

the casket.

Right away, the judge

instructed them to open up the niche’s

four locks, and as it neared

nine-thirty at night, they started in

on opening the coffin. At first

they thought it closed, but soon

the evidence proved otherwise: it too

was pierced with holes. However,

the experts judged that the profaners

had made the opening in the glass

as a distraction: they’d most likely reached

the body using keys alone

and the complicity of the cemetery


Once they’d removed the lid,

they saw the corpse at last, which wore

the ornaments of a lieutenant general

in blue and red and gold;

the presidential sash still lay across

her chest, joined at the belt.

Those present noticed instantly

that the cadaver’s wrists, injected with

formaldehyde after her death

so that she wouldn’t decompose,

were now exposed, and found

a coating of fine dust between the body and

the box.

Her face and flesh remained,

incredibly, nearly intact,

as if they had been mummified.

Her skin was of a greenish brown;

her hair, still black, stuck to

her skull. In the sarcophagus,

they saw the hat of a superior officer, but

the sword was gone.

The flag that previously cloaked

the outside of the coffin now

appeared inside it. On her chest

was placed the rosary that she had held

between her hands before. The left wrist

was cut along the boundary of

the lower edge. By contrast, on the other wrist,

the cut was higher.




V. Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna[5]


Lyric poetry is dead.

In that one photograph

that went around the world, the strangest company

encircles the cadaver: three

civilians (two observe it, curious, while the third

averts his eyes); a pair of soldiers

with frightened faces; one photographer,

back to the camera, with three quarters of his body

out of the frame; and two

officials dressed in ornamented uniforms:

one glances to the camera pointed at him

while he supports the lifeless head,

posed like a hunter with his trophy;

the other, who appears of higher rank,

points with his right-hand index finger

to where the heart had beat,

as if he could revive it with his touch.

With open eyes and a clear stare,

the body seems like it could rise, a Lazarus

returned to life for just an instant,

if only to sink back at once

in death.

Lyric poetry is dead.

And I imagine

what they’ll be saying, those who had believed in her

to justify it

(the same as always):

that she was not herself the light,

that she came only as a witness to the light;

and that she came to that which was her own,

and yet her own did not receive her.

What’s certain is, it went like this:

we captured her at dawn,

maimed by a bullet in the leg

after an ambush that had lasted

from noon till late,

the night far gone.

In those conditions, even so,

—not just the leg; the asthma too, oppressing

the lungs—, she’d persevered in combat,

until her rifle was destroyed completely

after a shot that crushed the barrel;

in any case, the pistol’s magazine

was empty.

Moved to the barracks

(which used to be a school), to be interrogated,

she said beauty was patience

and spoke of lilies—what

are lilies like? I’ve never seen one—,

which, in the field,

after so many nights under the earth,

break through one day

from straight green stalk to white corolla.

But here, in these parts,

everything grows chaotically and without purpose,

and I, who came to the world and grew up

ferociously, against and then despite it all,

like grass that struggles up between the pavement cracks,

flattened by passing cars—but here

the roads aren’t paved, and there are hardly any cars—,

I couldn’t understand that she, delivered into everything,

her parents’ own investment in the future

—and time, to her, was like an arrow moving deliberately

toward its conclusion, while to me it was a sequence regulated

not by the urgency of longing, nor the instinct’s deaf impressions,

but rather something sacred, though remote—;

I couldn’t understand how she’d abandon

what she had left behind (the aimlessness

of comfortable existence, or perhaps an excess

of arbitration?) to come to this wilderness

where everything can grow,

but only hunger thrives,

to go in circles, and to witness how her comrades fell

one by one, in combat with an adversary

innumerable in its members

and their invisible divisions,

battling for the triumphant glory

of an Idea: we, born here

in this wild place,

where nature still

exists distinctly from the will of man,

learn early in our lives that liberty

is never of this world, and love

is act, not potency.

But I said nothing.

And then there was a silence:

while we interrogated her, we heard

the charge to kill her. (Whatever happened to her hands

was after she had died. I didn’t see it. I even heard

about an order to cut off her head,

which was defied.)

Some hours passed.

A captain told us we should wait

in case there were a counter-order,

which never came (the radio already informing of her death).

Midday arrived. We had to kill her.

And as for how the facts were given,

it isn’t true: that we could hardly bear it,

and so we drank to give us courage,

and even then we couldn’t.

We simply did

what they had ordered us to do:

we went into the room where we were keeping her

and killed her as you’d kill an animal

that you had raised to eat.




VI. Dr. Pedro Ara[6]


…and so, after that false alarm

the week before, the days went on

without a single symptom that

could come to wilt my hope

that they’d perhaps forgotten

me, but at five o’clock in the afternoon

on that historic day, they called

to tell me that at six they’d come

for me. Against my custom

of always being too trustful, I

resolved, for the first time, to act

with care and order, setting out

to write a draft, with all

the requisite conditions corresponding to

the task; among them, due to basic diplomatic

propriety, the funding

was not included. I

was seeing to it when the doctor and

his men appeared, arriving later

than I’d been told. There was

a curt exchange of words: lyric poetry,

according to my visitors,

was dying, and she surely would

have passed away before

we made it there.

The radio

had not yet aired the news;

and even so, police

had cordoned off the area

and blocked all traffic. Nonetheless,

a large crowd had begun to gather, silently,

before the residence’s gates

and in adjoining gardens. Kneeling in

the dampened earth throughout

the winter night, hands clutching lighted candles,

the women prayed. Beside them, hundreds, even

thousands of men in silent groups.

None knew us; but, observing how

the guards allowed us through,

they asked us, “Is it true

that lyric poetry is dead?

We pressed on

without replying, quite affected,

and moved into the residence,

where we were led into a hall.

The Secretary arrived at once,

announcing: “Lyric poetry, at eight twenty-five

today, has passed into eternity.

The President would like the corpse

to be prepared, displayed before the people, and

deposited into a monumental crypt

that we will have to build.”

After presenting an objection

–that it would be perhaps more fitting to

entrust the labor to some expert from the nation–,

which was disdained, I offered up

the draft of the conditions

–omitting all the budgetary ones–;

the Secretary came back within minutes

bearing the presidential approbation.

There was no time to lose:

I quickly gathered all the necessary elements;

the problem of securing an assistant

was the most arduous to resolve:

as luck would have it, I recalled a countryman,

strong, modest, honorable and accustomed to

forensic work. It was no easy task

to locate him; his home was in a dark

and distant neighborhood, in which I went

in many circles, driving through spills and potholes,

until I found him. I didn’t tell him what we’d do

or where. But I did make him promise not

to tell a soul, not even his own family,

of what he’d hear or see that night.

We bought a few more items on the way,

and soon we reached the presidential house.

He couldn’t hide his shock on seeing that

the President held out his hand, embraced him.

We entered, the two of us, the burial chamber.

There slept, upon the bed, forever,

the specter of a strange and tranquil beauty,

free at last from matter and its cruel torment,

corroded to the limit. Science had

subjected her to a mental torture, with

a hope for miracles, prolonging the affliction.

Beside her was her doctor, who, on seeing me,

commenced to leave. A priest

positioned at her feet, and other doctors,

close relatives and friends,

all prayed aloud. Her mother was

the first to stand. She brought her hands

together, stared at me as in a gesture

of supplication, and departed, leaning on

her sons; and soon the others followed her,

and finally the priest, who told me as

he passed: “May God enlighten you!”

And we were left alone inside the room.

Lying there before us, withered to

the boundaries of the imagination, was

the woman most admired, feared,

beloved, hated of her time.

She had ferociously done battle with

the greatest and now there she was,

defeated by the infinitely small.

But she must not have feared

her death: she awaited it as we await

a guest we knew would come.

Had she begun her preparations since

her zenith’s rosy days? Whom did she think

she’d meet upon the other shore?

I barely know that on the other shore

is History, which not just anyone can reach…




VII. Harun al-Rashid[7]


Lyric poetry is dead.

The story goes:

exasperated by the indulgences

of her viziers, procurers, chamberlains and aides,

and of the well-hung hunks among the harem and the eunuchs,

she would slip out at night, without a chaperone,

attired as a beggar (or was it as a merchant?),

to travel through the city’s farthest neighborhoods

and find out what her subjects

sincerely thought of her.

One night, as sleeplessness

and heat boiled high, and caustic blasts

of desert dust blew forth, she dressed, as she had done

so many times before, in her false sideburns and

cosmetic locks, and crept out of the green-domed palace through

the golden door, unseen.

The towering minarets,

now silent, fell behind her,

as did the guard barracks, the parks and plazas and

the market’s darkened stalls,

until at last she moved beyond the ring of ramparts, with

the wordless acquiescence of

a sleeping watchman.

Once outside the citadel,

a squalid river breeze

received her, striking at her face;

she walked through spacious avenues

where nighttime traffic roared,

and following a side street,

she halted in a filthy alleyway, filled

with drunkards coughing in their sleep

and piles of cardboard drenched

by urinating dogs

and greasy rain.

All of a sudden,

she heard a shout, and then the crash

of something falling to the ground

and steps close by.


she ran in no particular direction, until she came

upon the soothing presence of

the train tracks, hidden by

a massive labyrinth of

containers by the port;

and she continued bordering

the boundary wall, and took the road

so often traveled.

Soon she glimpsed

the highway and the smattering of buildings

that dared, within that settlement,

to rise up from the soil.

Approaching it,

and finding there the main dirt road,

the shaky brick and tin-

plate shacks, the route of dingy passageways,

she felt a rush of fear; but even

so, her teeth watered, and

she crossed the sordid passages

until she reached the door she knew.


the customary scene recurred: after

she moved across the closest room,

in which a girl breastfed a baby,

the other children sleeping on the floor, she entered

the back bedroom. The men,

the same ones, with their haunted looks, all bored

before the television. Everything

was almost like it always was; and she was just

about to go, bags pressed into her fists, when

one of the men, this time,

in adding up the bills, surprised, amused,

observed the likeness printed on the paper,

which seemed to emulate the features of

that frequent client:

he let out a guffaw, and when he’d showed it to

the rest, who laughed in turn, he shot.

Lyric poetry is dead. The caliphate

is finished, sunk among its vices; but

how many miss, unknowingly,

its baubles, its cheap splendor,

the eternal adolescence of the spirit?




VIII. The New Clothes[8]


Lyric poetry is dead. She died of shame.

The whole world knows the story:

some men came to the city,

who were, or so they said, great tailors,

and after asking for an audience, they offered

to fashion her a suit, unequalled in

its fineness and its beauty, which, however,

would be invisible to all

those who turned out not to be

sons of the fathers they had thought.

Enthusiastic at the prospect of

unmasking all the bastards and ensuring

the ethnic purity of all

her lands, she granted her approval.

She enjoined that they receive a palace

and all the gold and silver they could ask for.

The men installed their looms

and made it clear that they’d be working at the cloth

the whole day long; after a while,

one of the two went out and stated that

the suit, which they’d begun, was

the most magnificent thing in the world.

The sovereign sent an acolyte to see it,

her private steward, and he said

he had, confirming what

the clothiers had told Her Highness,

for fear they’d brought

her lineage into question. Later,

another subject went, upon her orders,

before the tailors and

inspected their activity,

and then another and another; and each one

corroborated all the prior versions.

Until a grand soiree was held, and all

implored their sovereign to

inaugurate the garment. In the palace

the expert dressmakers stepped forward with

the fine cloths cut and sown

to dress the monarch. Soon

the task was finished and the sovereign

made her way toward the city

for the parade. As it was summer,

the suit was very comfortable. At once

she made her grand appearance

before the masses gathered there.

Lyric poetry

is dead of shame: in

the groin a timid clapper, a trembling bouquet

devoured by flies, all covered in

the gauzy cellophane of air:

and no one, laughing, points it out to her.




IX. Sibyl of Cumae[9]


Lyric poetry is dead,

and yet the last time I went to take her pulse,

I found her still alive:

held captive in a jail of tin and wire

(or was it actually a plastic jar? –in truth, I don’t remember–),

suspended from the cables

of a high-voltage tower in a humble suburb.

More ancient, miserable and crook-backed every day, she

was fodder for the lice and doves, and all the local boys

amused themselves by tossing balls against the bars,

and laughing when she lost her balance;

and when they tired of it, they asked her,

“What do you want? But really, what is it you want?”

And she’d respond: “I…I? I want to die.”




X. Death of Orpheus[10]


Lyric poetry is dead. This fact

is indisputable. And yet, in truth,

and should it serve as comfort to some soul, in

her end was her beginning.

While with her song

she dragged the forests after her, and led all creatures in procession,

and moved the stones to follow her, it happened that some men,

intoxicated on spilled drink and lust unsipped, descry her from a hillside’s

edge, as she strummed her lyre,

accompanying her songs. And one,

his hair disheveled in the gentle breeze, “There, there

she is,” he cries, “the one who snubbed us,”

and aiming at her mouth mid-song, he shoots a branch

that, being spread with foliage,

creates a mark without a wound. Another’s weapon is

a stone, which, hurled through the air, is vanquished by

the concert of the voice and lyre,

and tumbles to her feet, as if requesting pardon

for such audacity.

It’s then that all restraint is lost

and violence, reckless, shatters,

for their projectiles, pacified by song,

would have been halted, harmless, in midair,

if the uproar of the palms and drums and cornets

and their frenetic ululation hadn’t overwhelmed the zither’s sounds:

the stones, no longer hearing it (and happy were those

who felt no more), blushed with her blood.

But in the first place, they deprive her of the boundless sum

of birds enchanted by her voice, of serpents, of

the horde of animals, prize for her triumph.

At last, they turn against her,

with their hands dripping blood, and chase her, flinging thyrsi

adorned with emerald leaves,

created for another end. A few throw clods

of earth, and others branches yanked out of their trees,

and others rocks; there is no lack

of arms to fuel their frenzy, as some oxen made

the fields yield to the plow,

and not far off, there were some farmers digging in the soil

to earn, through sweat, its fruits,

and at the sight of the incensed crowd,

escape, leaving their tools behind:

scattered across the empty fields

are spades, long rakes, and heavy mattocks.

Armed with these weapons,

they entertain themselves by slashing all the oxen into pieces first,

then rush to the main course: blasphemes,

they strip the light of she

who held out both her hands, imploring, and for

the first time uttered words to no response,

unable to affect them with her voice.

Through that same mouth, to which the stones had listened

and even animals could understand, her soul,

when she expires, begins its homeward journey toward the winds.

And how the birds, disconsolate, bewailed you,

the mob of beasts, the hard stones and the forests, who

so often yielded to your song!

And the trees (that barely feel) mourned

for you, and let their clipped hair fall,

a sign of grief. It’s even said

the rivers swelled

with all the tears. Her limbs

are strewn about on many sites;

the head and lyre, coincidentally together, end

up in a river in the region;

that is the setting of the miracle:

flowing downstream in

the river, traveling toward the sea,

the tongue, though lifeless, murmurs on, still tearful;

the banks, tearful too, respond;

the lyre, without a hand to strum it,

babbling its baleful bits of ballad.




XI. Sodom and Gomorrah[11]


Lyric poetry is dead.

And though I pleaded

many times for God to kill her

and end my suffering,

I now remember her with bittersweet


It happened many years ago:

tired of the chaos of the city,

I fled the Capital and took my family

to a small village, isolated in the middle

of the prairie.

The early months

passed happily, unhurried,

among the lethargy of work,

domestic life, and the continual


On weekend afternoons,

we’d go to walk around the park

and nod our heads in greeting, always

to the same drowsy faces

whose eyes would brighten only

if someone shared a bit of gossip

with superficial malice.

My sons –as was

expected– were the first

to grow accustomed to that life: they quickly

struck up friendships with the locals,

mingling so closely they could almost be

mistaken for each other, amid the banter

over beer, cars, football, women. As for the others

–my wife, my daughters, and myself–

the adjustment was a bit more difficult,

despite the mildness of the climate,

except for the humidity.

In any

case, such tranquil days

would have to end eventually:

in early autumn, I began to notice

that, underneath the weary plainness

of that provincial folk, there lay concealed

a deviance I wouldn’t want

to find myself required to detail.

And so

our mutual distrust took root;

at first, from our side only,

but it didn’t take them long

to notice it: a slant about the smile,

a lowering of the gaze

in greeting.

As months went on

and days grew shorter,

the strain grew stronger, though

it wouldn’t openly reveal itself

until the winter.

It was

a night of bitter cold. By chance,

some relatives had come to visit

from the city. All seated

at the table, we were sharing

the meat, the bread, the wine, and suddenly

we heard a knock at the front door: we opened it

to find the entire town outside,

assembled at our entrance.

One of the neighbors, who appeared to be

the leader of the angry

mob, demanded:

“Where are

the ones who came tonight to see you?

Bring them, so we can meet them.”

I left the house and closed the door behind me

and begged them all to leave,

but they just sneered:

“And did you really think

that you could come here from the city

to tell us what to do?”

My daughters, seeing

that my efforts were in vain,

leaned out the door and offered,

in exchange for leaving us alone,

to go with them, but even so

they would not be persuaded.

Within the house, my relatives reached out

their hands and, pulling me inside again, closed

the door tightly.

Meanwhile, outside, the townspeople

attempted to tear it down; and others

clutched the metal bars protecting

the windows, making faces

and threatening gestures; they would have

taken us as prisoners, or maybe

something worse, if the unexpected

hadn’t then occurred:

a midnight sun

all of a sudden rose above the plains,

and it was day. Dazzled,

the rabble paused a moment

in their violence; a gentle rain

began to fall,

and from inside we saw the people

raising their hands, receiving it

with joy, and then they started, one by one,

to shed the clothing on their


And so, the men with naked

torsos, the women in their bras,

they suddenly began to dance

despite the intensifying rain,

although there was no music. The steam

fogged up the windows more

and more, until we could see

nothing from inside. The light

outside appeared to strengthen

and then we felt abruptly that the heat

was rising faster:

we watched enormous raindrops

run down the windowpanes, now clouded over,

our bodies drenched in sweat;

meanwhile, the rain resounded, making it

impossible for any sound

outside to reach us.

All this continued for an hour, an hour and a half.

And then we felt the heat begin to drop,

and all at once the lights went out.

I opened the door hesitantly;

an icy wind struck hard. I found my coat

and stepped into the night, dimly illuminated

by the moon: upon the site

where, moments earlier, had stood a town,

I saw a field of ashes

and the soil itself gave off

a vaguely sweet aroma.

Without delay,

I gathered up my family and we set out,

not really knowing where we’d go;

once we had left behind, at last,

those devastated bounds

that had contained the village, my wife

looked back; with teary eyes

and faltering voice,

she said to me:

“The smoke is rising from the ground

as from an oven.”

Seeing her stiff,

I struck her hard

to force her to react.

We reached the road

soon after and we followed it,

walking for several hours,

until at last we could make out

the poorly lighted sign of a gas station.

From there we used the phone to call for help

from other relatives, who came

by noon to rescue us; so

we commenced our journey to the city,

from which we’d never move


Time passed. And with its passing,


did its work: resentment toward

the prior horror soon became forgetfulness;

forgetfulness submitted to the daily chores

of wanting what was missing, which consumed

my days.

And yet, I’m often wakened

in the night by the distressing sense

that they, the people of the town, were acting

to defend some kind of love exactly like

my own, and I’m tormented by the certainty

that it was all for nothing:


both the others and ourselves,

to keep on living

just like always,


like in any other place.




XII. The Killing of the Suitors[12]


Lyric poetry is dead. Or so they say:

that twenty years have passed without her, that

her bones are rotting in the ground

or that the ocean’s waves are sweeping them along

while all her wife’s admirers

devour her home.

But she’s alive, and she

is always coming back. Right now, for instance,

alone inside her ship, surrounded by the sea,

she is insistently re-reading Kafavis’s

beloved poem (I wonder:

will she whose ingenuity

was once proverbial

–they called her “the resourceful”—

be swayed by the cliché

of the interior journey?)

and dreaming of the day

that she’ll return, dressed as a beggar,

and weather stoically, with pride,

the insults, blows and taunts

of those who seek to seize her throne.

She dreams, awake, about her only son,

her rightful blood, imagining

the poignant reencounter in

that rustic shack, with music in the background,

appropriately tearful. Already plotting

the alliance with the masses,

in which she will re-conquer

her command. And she can almost see herself

reclining with her wife, upon the very bed

she’d built with her own hands

out of an olive trunk. That said,

the scene projected time and time again

inside her mind is that of gathering them all

onto the patio, alleging some excuse,

all entrances already shut;

and with the sole assistance of her son

and the few faithful servants left,

she’ll show the usurpers who

she is, and kill them,

and kill them all: she imagines, lustily,

with painstaking detail, how she

will take her sword and stir the innards of

an enemy; imagines riddling another’s body

with her projectiles; and

another’s heart, still beating, in

her fist, after she’s yanked it out.

But then she feels a burning reflux rise

up from her innards and exploding suddenly

into her throat and nose,

and ruptures the victorious daydream. Irked,

she shakes her head, deeply inhales,

recovers her composure, stares ahead

and sees she’s still amid the vastness of

the ocean with no land in sight; resigned,

she grips the oars again and puts her back into it.




XIII. On Civil War[13]


Lyric poetry is dead. At last.

The moment that we’ve all been waiting for has come.

Now we can unequivocally say

an era has concluded. The splendid order of the centuries

is being newly shuffled, freshly founded.

An iron child is born for poetry,

and with his advent, through the resignation of the ancient golden lineage,

a steely progeny shall rise up

in its place: in any case, it’s time

for us to sing

of more important matters.

An iron child is born

for poetry, and the horizon darkens with a sole unknown:

Will his parents smile tenderly upon him?

Will bitter laughter overcome them?

Will he view them with scorn? Or with suspicion? Perhaps

what’s worse: will he repay his life and their support

with an indifferent face?

Lyric poetry

is dead. And so it is, although her death

–whether the ones who now take credit for it like it or not–

occurred unceremoniously:

as a tree falls, a nameless trunk amid deep woods

that no one passes through,

she fell. Technique was also lacking:

the cross’s shoddy planks,

the rusty nails, the crown entwined with thorns,

the vinegar-soaked cloth a human hand

with rudimentary skill once warped

–they played no part in the affair,

which had no witnesses, no exemplary punishment,

and came to pass with little forethought,

leaving no mark.

She’s dead. And so it is.

And so a savage destiny sweeps up

the poets and the crime of fratricide,

as of the moment when her blood was spilled,

like a curse on her heirs,

upon the earth:

it happened on a piece of open ground; the blow

surprised her from behind.


She’s dead.

Lyric poetry is dead.


She didn’t die like Christ; they murdered her

like Abel.


Fotografía por Valentina Siniego. 


La lírica está muerta


Escrito por Ezequiel Zaidenwerg.


Para A. C. y H. B. V.



1. La lírica está muerta


I. La lírica está muerta:


se quedó

varada en un remanso hipnótico del sueño,

mientras que más allá del coágulo final de la conciencia,

en torno al lecho con dosel de plata,

junto a la cama pobre de madera y espina,

se reunían los deudos,

aguardando el instante de iniciar

la sucesión.

Con todos los sentidos humanos agotados,

la cápsula de viento que tenía su espíritu

se alzó rumbo a las auras, desleída en una racha

centrífuga de luz, igual que Elías en la tempestad, arrebatado

sobre un carro de fuego.

Y aunque murió la vida,

no dejó harto consuelo su memoria: nadie partió las aguas,

ni surgió un Eliseo como sucesor.

Ajenos al prodigio,

en contubernio, se llevaron el cadáver

y vino un impostor para dictar un testamento espurio,

que se arropó con sus cobijas, tibias


La lírica

está muerta. “De muerte natural”,

según manifestaron a través de un portavoz,

“tras batallar durante largos años

contra una cruel enfermedad”.

(Fin del comunicado).

“Con profundo

pesar, sus hijos y sus hijas,

sus nietos y sus nietas y su abnegado esposo

participan de su fallecimiento

y ruegan una oración en su memoria”.

Está muerta,

la lírica. Hace ya siglo y medio,

y aunque sus herederos todavía parecen ser los mismos

–aún no peinan canas y caminan erectos, sin ayuda de nadie–,

recién ahora el expediente


tras mil y una ofensivas judiciales,

tiene sentencia firme, y es posible dar curso

a la liquidación definitiva del acervo hereditario:


Gran oportunidad. Se vende torre. Únicamente en block.

Importantes detalles en marfil sobre fachada.

Destino: comercial o dependencias estatales.

A reciclar. Sin baños ni aberturas.

Gran profusión de espejos.




II. El matadero


La lírica está muerta. Vinieron a buscarla

después que se cargaron a judíos, católicos,

comunistas, etcétera; una vez que borraron

a todos, en resumen, los que seguían creyendo

en algo todavía. Yo no me preocupé

cuando se la llevaron. (Supongo que a esta altura

se imaginan el resto). Es mentira que todos

seamos necesarios, y además el poema,

muchachos, no es de Brecht.

(¿Que qué pasó? Perdonen que me vaya

por las ramas). Fue por semana santa,

a plena luz del día. Casualmente,

yo estaba por ahí, y pude verlo todo:

ella andaba en su auto (muy caro, hay que decirlo,

para ir por esos barrios); de repente se cruza

un camión frigorífico. Frenan los dos de golpe.

Un tipo desdentado, de melena grasienta,

con anteojos de culo de botella,

se baja del camión y se pone a increparla. (En realidad,

todo estaba orquestado

de antemano). Se baja ella del auto. “Por favor”,

le pide, “tranquilícese”. “Yo no

me tranquilizo nada”, dice el tipo de los dientes y de pronto saca

un arma que tenía escondida entre la ropa,

y espejeaba ahora al sol.

A partir de ese punto,

en el recuerdo, se acelera todo.

El tipo le gritó que fuera para adentro,

a la parte de atrás, a hacerles compañía

a las reses. Pero ella se negó. Y ante la negativa,

el tipo la golpeó con la culata del arma,

y la tiró sobre el capot del auto.


y el tipo de los dientes se le pegó de atrás,

y le subió el vestido. Ella gritó

algo que no recuerdo, y un torrente de sangre

le brotó por la boca, a borbollones. (Explotó de repente,

igual que una morcilla que se deja

demasiado en el fuego. Y yo pensé

–de eso sí me acuerdo– en la justicia


La última

imagen que me queda en la memoria

es la de un taco de ella, partido, en el asfalto,

y la luna, joyesca, que rielaba

sobre el charco de sangre.




III. Alfredo Yabrán


La lírica está muerta. No se olviden.

Personalmente, yo prefiero recordarla

como en la única foto que se filtró a los medios:

los ojos que de tan celestes parecían

vacíos, el abdomen broncíneo, la cabeza

orgullosa cubierta de un matorral de plata;

la misma que en la inmensa soledad de los llanos,

sabiéndose cercada, hizo estallar

en un borrón granate.

No se olviden,

no nieguen que está muerta: es literal, las pruebas

saltaron a la vista, y aunque algunos especulan todavía con que vive,

que plantaron el cuerpo de un doble (¡o de un muñeco!),

que cruzó la frontera y está a salvo, riéndose de nosotros

mientras toma un daikiri que dura para siempre

en la postal perpetua del verano del trópico,

fueron ustedes los que la mataron:

con sus provocaciones, los ataques

repetidos a su privacidad y las acusaciones

–empresas espectrales

y legión de proteicos testaferros, conexiones con las mafias

más diversas, y vínculos con el poder y los servicios de seguridad

de una docena de países–

la fueron empujando lentamente,

centímetro a centímetro hasta cruzar el límite;

y aunque sostengan que, si de verdad murió, ajenos a los hechos,

de todos modos juzgan que era necesario,

una bomba de tiempo que podía explotarle a cualquiera en la cara

(¿qué mejor que la suya?), y nieguen que encontraron

su cabeza de turco,

ustedes son culpables,

la mataron ustedes.




IV. Las manos


Una vez dentro del sepulcro, nadie

quería hablar, y sólo se escuchaba,

en el hondo silencio de la bóveda,

el ruido de los grupos electrógenos.

Bajaron la escalera caracol

de mármol blanco, estrecha, que llevaba

a los subsuelos. Pronto apareció

un siniestro presagio: comprobaron

que había alrededor de veinte golpes

en el vidrio blindado y, en el medio,

un agujero. Luego notarían

que faltaba el poema manuscrito

depositado por la viuda (“…llega

tu mano de amor / como mariposas

blancas…”), que debería haber estado

sobre el cajón.

Acto seguido, el juez

ordenó abrir las cuatro cerraduras

del nicho, y cuando eran ya la nueve

y media de la noche, comenzaron

a abrir el ataúd. En un principio

parecía cerrado, pero pronto

hubo de comprobarse que también

estaba agujereado. Sin embargo,

era de la opinión de los peritos

que los profanadores habían hecho

el boquete en el vidrio con el fin

de distraer: probablemente habrían

accedido al cadáver con las llaves

y la complicidad de los serenos

del cementerio.

Tras abrir la tapa,

vieron al fin el cuerpo, que lucía

sus galas de teniente general,

con colores azul, rojo y dorado;

tenía sobre el pecho aún la banda

presidencial, unida al cinturón.

Los presentes notaron enseguida

que las muñecas del cadáver, donde

se le había inyectado tras su muerte

formol para evitar que se pudriera,

estaban descubiertas, y que había

polvillo de los huesos entre el cuerpo

y el cajón.

Cara y cuerpo se encontraban,

de manera increíble, casi intactos,

como momificados. Su piel era

de una tonalidad marrón verdosa,

y conservaba su cabello negro

pegado al cráneo. Dentro del sarcófago

se veía la gorra de oficial

superior, pero el sable estaba ausente.

La bandera, que antes envolvía

el féretro por fuera, apareció

dentro del ataúd. Sobre su pecho

se halló el rosario que llevaba antes

entre las manos. La muñeca izquierda

aparecía seccionada al borde

del límite inferior. En la otra, en cambio,

el corte se había hecho más arriba.




V. Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna


La lírica está muerta.

En esa foto

que dio la vuelta al mundo, en torno del cadáver

se ve una extraña compañía: tres

civiles (dos lo observan curiosos y el tercero

desvía la mirada); dos gendarmes

con cara de asustados; un fotógrafo

que aparece de espaldas, con tres cuartos del cuerpo

fuera de cuadro; y dos

oficiales que visten uniformes con galones:

uno mira a la cámara que le apunta el fotógrafo

mientras sostiene la cabeza inerte,

posando como un cazador con su trofeo;

el otro, que aparenta tener el mayor rango,

señala con el índice de su mano derecha

el lugar donde antes latía el corazón,

como si con su toque pudiera reanimarlo.

Con los ojos abiertos y la mirada clara,

el cuerpo pareciera querer incorporarse como un Lázaro

que volviese a la vida por un instante apenas,

para hundirse de nuevo, de inmediato,

en la muerte.

La lírica está muerta.

Y me imagino

lo que estarán diciendo quienes creían en ella

para justificarlo

(lo de siempre):

que no era ella la luz,

sino que había venido en testimonio de la luz;

que vino entre los suyos,

pero los suyos no la  recibieron

                                                                                                                                                                      Lo cierto es que fue así:

era de madrugada cuando la capturamos,

herida de un balazo en una pierna

luego de una emboscada que se había prolongado

del mediodía hasta muy tarde,

bien entrada la noche.

En esas condiciones, así y todo,

⎯aparte de la pierna, el asma le oprimía

los pulmones⎯, había persistido en el combate,

hasta que su fusil quedó inutilizado por completo

por un disparo que le destruyó el cañón;

además, la pistola que portaba tenía

el cargador vacío.

Trasladada al cuartel,

que era una escuela, al ser interrogada,

dijo que la belleza era paciencia

y nos habló del lirio ⎯pero ¿cómo

es un lirio?, yo acá nunca vi uno⎯,

y de cómo en el campo,

después de tantas noches bajo tierra,

del tallo verde a la corola blanca

irrumpe un día.

Pero por estas latitudes

todo crece en desorden, sin propósito,

y yo, que vine al mundo y me crié

salvajemente contra todo y a pesar de todo,

como el pasto que surge entre las grietas del asfalto

y que los coches pisan al pasar ⎯pero acá

no tenemos caminos asfaltados, y autos casi no hay⎯,

no la podía comprender, a ella que había nacido para todo,

un cálculo preciso de sus padres,

una inversión de cara hacia el futuro

⎯el tiempo para ella era una flecha que avanzaba con conciencia

hacia su conclusión, mientras que para mí era un ciclo regulado

no por la urgencia del deseo ni las sordas impresiones del instinto,

sino más bien por algo sagrado, aunque remoto⎯;

no podía entender que hubiera abandonado

lo que fuera que hubiese dejado atrás (¿la falta de propósito

de una existencia cómoda o tal vez el exceso

de determinación?) por venir a este páramo

en donde todo crece pero nada

abunda más que el hambre,

a dar vueltas en círculos y ver cómo caían uno a uno

los compañeros, en combate contra un adversario innumerable

pero infinitamente dividido, por la gloria

triunfante de una Idea: nosotros, que nacemos

en este rincón último,

en donde la naturaleza aún

existe separada de la voluntad del hombre,

aprendemos temprano en nuestras vidas que la libertad

no es cosa de este mundo, y que el amor

es acto y no potencia.

Pero no dije nada.

Después se hizo un silencio:

mientras la interrogábamos, nos había llegado

la orden de matarla. (Lo de las manos fue después de muerta,

pero yo no lo vi.  Me contaron, incluso,

que habían ordenado cortarle la cabeza

y que alguien se negó).

Pasaron unas horas.

Un superior nos dijo que esperáramos

para ver si no había contraorden,

que no llegó (en la radio ya anunciaban su muerte).


Llegaba el mediodía. Había que matarla.


Y en cuanto al desenlace que tuvieron los hechos,

no es verdad lo que dicen: que no nos atrevíamos,

que nos emborracharon para darnos coraje,

y que ni así podíamos.

Nosotros simplemente

hicimos lo que nos habían ordenado;

entramos en el aula en donde la teníamos

y la matamos como se mata a un animal

para comer.




VI. Dr. Pedro Ara


…y así, después de aquella falsa alarma

de la anterior semana, iban pasando

los días sin que síntoma ninguno

viniera a marchitarme la esperanza

de que tal vez se hubieran olvidado

de mí, pero a las cinco de la tarde

de esa jornada histórica, llamaron

para avisarme que a las seis vendrían

a buscarme. Yo, contra mi costumbre

de ser siempre confiado en demasía,

resolví por primera vez actuar

con orden y cautela, y me dispuse

a redactar un borrador, con todas

las condiciones a exigir a cambio

de la tarea; por elemental

cortesía política, entre ellas

no se incluía la financiación.

En eso estaba, cuando aparecieron

el doctor y sus hombres, que llegaron

mucho después de lo anunciado. Hubo

un escueto intercambio de palabras:

la lírica, según mis visitantes,

agonizaba, y con seguridad

ya habría fallecido en el momento

en que llegásemos allá.

La radio

no había anunciado la noticia aún;

y, sin embargo, ya la policía

había acordonado toda el área

e interrumpido el tránsito. No obstante,

una gran multitud se iba reuniendo,

ante las verjas de la residencia

y en algunos jardines aledaños,

en silencio. En la noche del invierno,

arrodilladas en el suelo húmedo,

con velas encendidas en las manos,

rezaban las mujeres. Junto a ellas,

cientos o miles de hombres en silentes

grupos. Nadie sabía quiénes éramos;

pero, al ver que los guardias nos abrían

paso, nos preguntaban: “¿Es verdad

que la lírica ha muerto?”.


sin contestarles, muy impresionados,

y penetramos en la residencia,

donde nos escoltaron a un salón.

Enseguida, llegó el Ministro y dijo:

“La lírica, a las ocho y veinticinco

de hoy, ha pasado a la inmortalidad.

El Presidente quiere que prepare

el cadáver, para exponerlo al pueblo,

y ser depositado en una cripta

monumental que hemos de construir”.

Luego de presentarle una objeción

–que sería tal vez más conveniente

encargarle el trabajo a algún experto

del país–, que me fue desestimada,

le entregué el borrador de condiciones

–aunque sin mencionar las económicas–,

y el Ministro volvió en pocos minutos

con la conformidad presidencial.

No había tiempo que perder: muy pronto

reuní los elementos necesarios;

el problema de hallar un ayudante

era de más difícil solución:

por suerte me acordé de un compatriota,

sencillo, honrado y fuerte, acostumbrado

a la labor forense. No fue fácil

encontrarlo; vivía en un barrio extremo

y oscuro, por el cual di muchas vueltas

entre baches y charcos con mi coche,

hasta acertar. No le conté qué haríamos

ni dónde. Pero le hice prometer

que lo que aquella noche oyera o viese

no lo hablaría ni con su familia.

De camino, compramos unas cosas

más, y pronto llegamos a la casa

presidencial. Mi amigo no cabía

en su sorpresa al ver que el Presidente

le tendía la mano y lo abrazaba.

Entramos en la cámara mortuoria

los dos juntos. Dormía sobre el lecho

para siempre el espectro de una rara

y tranquila belleza, libre, al fin,

de la materia con su cruel tormento,

corroída hasta el límite. La ciencia

la había sometido a una tortura

mental, con la esperanza del milagro,

prolongando el suplicio. Junto a ella

se encontraba su médico, que al verme

se dispuso a salir. Un sacerdote

a los pies de la muerta, y otros médicos,

la familia cercana y los amigos,

rezaban en voz alta. La primera

en levantarse fue la madre, que

juntó las manos, me miró en un gesto

como de súplica y salió apoyándose

en sus hijos; y pronto la siguieron

los otros, y al final el sacerdote,

que me dijo al pasar: “¡Dios le ilumine!”

Y nos quedamos solos en la estancia.

Yacente ante nosotros, consumida

hasta el extremo de lo imaginable,

se hallaba la mujer más admirada,

temida, amada, odiada de su tiempo.

Había combatido con fiereza

contra los grandes y ahí estaba ahora,

derrotada por lo infinitamente

pequeño. Pero no debió temer

la muerte: la esperó como esperamos

a un huésped recibido sin sorpresa.

¿Se preparó a morir desde los días

rosas de su apogeo? ¿A quién pensaba

que encontraría en la otra orilla? Yo

apenas sé que en la otra orilla está

la Historia, a la que no cualquiera llega…




VII. Harún al-Rashid


La lírica está muerta.

Cuentan que,

exasperada por la complacencia

de sus visires, chambelanes, alcahuetes y edecanes,

de los chongos dotados del harén y los eunucos,

solía salir de noche, sin custodia, disfrazada

de mendiga (¿o era de comerciante?),

a recorrer los últimos barrios de la ciudad

para saber lo que en verdad pensaban

sus súbditos de ella.

Una noche en que hervían el calor

y el insomnio, y soplaban, abrasivas, unas ráfagas

de polvo del desierto, se vistió, como tantas otras veces,

con sus patillas falsas y sus greñas cosméticas,

y salió del palacio de la cúpula verde y la puerta de oro

sin ser notada.


quedando atrás los altos minaretes

ahora silenciosos, el cuartel de la guardia, las plazas y los parques

y las tiendas a oscuras del mercado,

hasta que al fin traspuso las murallas circulares,

con la tácita anuencia de un sereno


Una vez fuera de la ciudadela,

una brisa del río, pestilente,

la recibió golpeándola en la cara;

caminó por las anchas avenidas

donde rugía el tráfico nocturno,

y siguiendo una arteria lateral,

vino a parar a un callejón mugriento,

rodeada de borrachos que tosían

dormidos, entre pilas de cartón

mojado por la orina de los perros

y la lluvia grasosa.

De repente,

oyó un grito, seguido del estruendo

de un objeto golpeando contra el piso

y unos pasos cercanos.


corrió sin rumbo fijo, hasta que dio

con la presencia tranquilizadora

de las vías del tren, que ocultó, luego,

un vasto laberinto de containers

a la altura del puerto; y continuó

bordeando el paredón perimetral,

y retomó el camino tantas veces


Enseguida divisó

la autopista y los pocos edificios

que en ese asentamiento se atrevían

a alzarse sobre el suelo.

Al acercarse,

y ver la calle principal de tierra,

las casuchas precarias de ladrillo

y chapas de desguace, y el trazado

de pasillos oscuros, sintió miedo;

pero los dientes se le hacían agua,

y atravesó los pasadizos sórdidos

hasta la puerta conocida.


volvió a darse la escena consabida:

tras cruzar la primera habitación

donde una chica amamantaba a un hijo

y los otros dormían en el suelo,

entró al cuarto de atrás. Los mismos hombres

de mirada perdida se aburrían

frente al televisor. Todo fue casi

igual que siempre; y ya estaba por irse

apretando en el puño las bolsitas,

pero uno de los hombres, esta vez,

al contar los billetes, extrañado

y divertido, reparó en la efigie

impresa en el papel, que repetía

las facciones de aquel cliente asiduo:

soltó una carcajada, y tras mostrársela

a los otros, que rieron, disparó.


La lírica está muerta. Ya no existe

el califato, hundido entre sus vicios;

pero, ¿cuántos añoran sin saberlo

sus oropeles, su esplendor barato,

la eterna adolescencia del espíritu?




VIII. Las ropas nuevas


La lírica está muerta. De vergüenza.

La historia la conoce todo el mundo:

a la ciudad llegaron unos hombres,

que eran, según dijeron, grandes sastres,

y, tras pedirle audiencia, le ofrecieron

coserle un traje con un paño, único

por su delicadeza y hermosura,

que sería invisible, sin embargo,

a todo aquel que en realidad no fuera

hijo del padre que creía ser.

Entusiasmada con la perspectiva

de desenmascarar a los bastardos

y asegurarse la pureza étnica

de sus dominios, se mostró de acuerdo.

Ordenó que les dieran un palacio

y la plata y el oro que pidiesen.

Los hombres instalaron sus telares,

y daban a entender que todo el día

tejían en el paño; y uno de ellos

luego de un tiempo fue a anunciar que el traje,

que ya estaba empezado, era la cosa

más hermosa del mundo. Para verlo

la soberana despachó a un acólito,

su camarero personal, que dijo

haberlo visto, y confirmó las señas

que habían dado de él sus fabricantes,

por miedo de que su linaje fuese

puesto en tela de juicio. Luego, otro

súbdito fue enviado ante los sastres

para fiscalizar su actividad,

y luego otro, y otro; y cada uno

corroboraba las versiones previas.

Hasta que vino una gran fiesta, y todos

le reclamaron a su soberana

que estrenase el vestido. En el palacio

se presentaron los expertos sastres

con los paños cortados y cosidos

para vestir a la monarca. Pronto

se hubo cumplimentado la labor

y partió a la ciudad la soberana

para el desfile. Al ser verano, el traje

le sentaba muy cómodo. Enseguida

hizo su aparición ante las masas


La lírica está muerta

de vergüenza: en la ingle oculta un tímido

badajo, un ramillete tembloroso

comido por las moscas, todo envuelto

en el ligero celofán del aire;

y nadie, mientras ríe, la señala.




IX. Sibila de Cumas


La lírica está muerta,

pero la última vez que fui a tomarle el pulso

todavía vivía:

confinada a una cárcel de hojalata y alambre

(¿o era un bidón de plástico? –la verdad, no me acuerdo–),

pendía de los cables de una torre

de alta tensión en un suburbio humilde.

Cada vez más anciana, astrosa y encorvada,

era pasto de piojos y palomas, y los chicos del barrio

jugaban a golpear con la pelota los barrotes,

complaciéndose en ver cómo perdía el equilibrio;

y cuando se cansaban le decían:

“¿Qué querés? Pero, ¿qué es lo que querés?”

Y respondía ella: “¿Yo…? Morirme, quiero”.




X. Muerte de Orfeo


La lírica está muerta. Eso es un hecho

incontestable. Pero, en rigor de verdad,

y si sirviere de consuelo a alguien,

en su final estaba su principio.

Mientras que con su canto

arrastraba los bosques tras de sí, guiaba en procesión los animales,

y hacía que las rocas la siguieran, ocurrió que unos hombres,

ebrios por el licor vertido y el deseo no libado, la divisan desde el borde

de un promontorio, al tiempo que tañía la lira,

acompañando sus canciones. Y uno,

desarreglados los cabellos por la suave brisa, “Ahí,

ahí está”, exclama, “la que nos desairó”,

y apuntando a la boca abierta en pleno canto, le dispara una rama

que por estar cubierta de follaje

deja una marca sin herida. El arma

de otro es una piedra, que lanzada en el aire es derrotada

por el concierto de la voz y de la lira,

para caer al fin ante sus pies, como si le pidiera

perdón por semejante atrevimiento.

Es entonces que toda moderación se pierde

y estalla, temeraria, la violencia,

porque sus proyectiles, amansados por el canto

se habrían detenido, inofensivos, en mitad del aire,

si el estruendo de palmas, cornetas y tambores

y su ulular frenético no hubiesen sofocado el sonido de la cítara:

las piedras, al no oírla ya (dichosas ellas porque ahora

no sentían) se sonrojaron con su sangre.

Pero en primer lugar, la privan del sinfín

de aves encantadas por su voz, de las serpientes

y el tropel de animales, galardón de su triunfo.

Finalmente, se vuelven contra ella, con las manos

rezumantes de sangre, y la persiguen

arrojándole tirsos verdecidos de guirnaldas,

hechos para otro fin. Unos lanzan terrones,

otros le avientan ramas arrancadas a algún árbol,

otros le tiran rocas; y no faltan

armas a su furor, porque unos bueyes

sometían los campos al arado,

y no lejos de allí había unos labriegos que cavaban la tierra

para ganar, con el sudor, su fruto,

que al ver la multitud enardecida

huyen, dejando atrás sus herramientas de trabajo:

yacen desperdigadas por los campos vacíos

palas, largos rastrillos y pesados azadones.

Munidos de esas armas, se entretienen

primero con los bueyes, haciéndolos pedazos,

y luego se apresuran al plato principal:

sacrílegos, despojan de la luz a quien tendía

las manos, suplicante, y por primera vez

pronunciaba palabras sin efecto,

sin poder conmoverlos con su voz.

Por esa misma boca, que escucharon las piedras

y hasta los animales supieron comprender,

al expirar, el alma se encamina de regreso hacia los vientos.

¡Y cómo te lloraron las aves sin consuelo,

la turba de las fieras, y hasta las duras rocas y los bosques,

que tan frecuentemente se plegaran

a tu canto! Los árboles, apenas sensitivos,

te lloraron, dejando caer su cabellera tonsurada

como señal de duelo. Incluso dicen

que a causa de las lágrimas

los ríos aumentaron su caudal. Sus miembros

yacen diseminados en diversos sitios;

la cabeza y la lira, casualmente

juntas, vienen a dar a un río de la zona;

ése es el escenario del prodigio:

mientras corriente abajo se deslizan

por el medio del río, rumbo al mar,

exánime, la lengua todavía murmura, lacrimosa;

responden, lacrimosas, las orillas,

y la lira, sin mano que la pulse,

se queda balbuciendo un no se qué.




XI. Sodoma y Gomorra


La lírica está muerta.

Y aunque muchas

veces le pedí a Dios que la matase

y terminara con mis sufrimientos,

ahora la recuerdo con nostalgia


Fue hace ya muchos años:

harto del ajetreo de la urbe,

huí de la Capital con mi familia

a un pueblito perdido en la mitad

de la llanura.

Los primeros meses

transcurrieron felices, sin apuros,

entre el aburrimiento del trabajo,

la vida familiar y las continuas


Los fines de semana íbamos

a la tarde a dar vueltas a la plaza

y a saludar con la cabeza siempre

a aquellas mismas caras somnolientas,

cuyos ojos se iluminaban sólo

si alguien contaba un chisme con malicia


Mis hijos, los varones, fueron

los primeros –como era predecible–

en habituarse a aquella vida: pronto

trabaron amistad con los locales,

mezclándose hasta casi confundirse

con ellos, entre charlas de cerveza,

fútbol, autos, mujeres. A los otros

–mi mujer y mis hijas, y yo mismo–

nos costó un poco más aclimatarnos,

a pesar de que el tiempo era benigno,

con excepción de la humedad.

De todas

formas, la placidez de aquellos días

tendría que acabar tarde o temprano:

a comienzos de otoño me di cuenta

de que, tras la cansina sencillez

de aquellos pajueranos, se ocultaba

una perversidad que no quisiera

verme obligado a detallar.


fue que empezaron los recelos mutuos;

sólo de nuestra parte en un comienzo,

pero ellos no tardaron demasiado

en percibirlo: un sesgo en la sonrisa,

un bajar con apuro la mirada

al saludar.

Conforme avanzó el año

y los días se hicieron cada vez

más cortos, la tensión fue incrementándose,

aunque recién se manifestaría

de forma abierta en el invierno.


una noche muy fría. Casualmente

habían venido desde la ciudad

unos parientes de visita. Estábamos

sentados a la mesa, compartiendo

la carne, el pan y el vino, y de repente

tocaron a la puerta: cuando abrimos,

ya todo el pueblo se encontraba afuera,

reunido frente a nuestra entrada. Entonces

uno de los vecinos, que era el líder,

en apariencia al menos, de esa turba

enardecida, dijo:

“¿Dónde están

los que vinieron esta noche a verlos?

Sáquenlos para que los conozcamos”.

Salí, cerrando tras de mí la puerta,

y les rogué que por favor se fuesen,

pero ellos se burlaron:

“¿Te pensabas

que podías venir de la ciudad

a decirnos qué hacer?”.

Cuando advirtieron

que mis esfuerzos eran infructuosos,

mis hijas se asomaron a la puerta

y, a cambio de que no nos molestaran,

les ofrecieron ir con ellos, pero

tampoco así pudieron persuadirlos.

Mis parientes, entonces, alargaron

la mano desde adentro y, tras meterme

en la casa otra vez, cerraron bien

la puerta.

Afuera, mientras, los del pueblo

intentaban echarla abajo; y otros,

tomados de las rejas que guardaban

las ventanas, hacían morisquetas

y gestos de amenaza; y nos habrían

hecho sus prisioneros, o quizá

algo peor, de no haber sucedido

lo inesperado:

un sol de medianoche

de repente se alzó por la llanura

y se hizo de día. Encandilados,

los del pueblo cesaron un instante

en su violencia; entonces, una lluvia

ligera comenzó a caer del cielo,

y desde adentro vimos que la gente

levantaba las manos recibiéndola

con alegría, y que iban, una a una,

quitándose las prendas que llevaban


Así, los hombres con el torso

desnudo y las mujeres en corpiño

se pusieron de súbito a bailar

a pesar de la lluvia que arreciaba,

aunque no había música. El vapor

iba empañando las ventanas más

y más, hasta que al fin no se veía

ya nada desde el interior. La luz

pareció hacerse más intensa afuera

y sentimos de pronto que el calor

iba aumentando cada vez más rápido:

veíamos correr por los cristales,

ahora turbios, unos goterones,

y el sudor nos cubría todo el cuerpo;

mientras tanto, la lluvia retumbaba

y hacía imposible que cualquier sonido

del exterior llegara hasta nosotros.

Eso duró una hora u hora y media.

Después sentimos que el calor bajaba

y de repente se apagó la luz.

Con timidez abrí la puerta; un viento

helado me golpeó. Busqué un abrigo

y salí hacia la noche, iluminada

apenas por la luna: en el lugar

donde hace instantes se erigiera un pueblo,

veía ahora un campo de cenizas

y el suelo mismo despedía un vaho

vagamente dulzón.

Sin más demora

reuní a mis familiares y emprendimos

la marcha, sin saber muy bien adónde;

una vez que dejamos finalmente

atrás ese perímetro arrasado

que había sido el pueblo, mi mujer

se dio vuelta a mirar y, con los ojos

llorosos y la voz casi quebrada,

me dijo:

“El humo sube de la tierra

como el humo de un horno”.

Al verla rígida,

yo le tiré con fuerza de la mano

para obligarla a reaccionar.

En breve

llegamos a la ruta y la seguimos,

caminando durante varias horas,

hasta que divisamos el cartel

precariamente iluminado de una

estación de servicio. Desde ahí

llamamos por teléfono pidiéndoles

auxilio a otros parientes, que llegaron

al mediodía a rescatarnos; luego

iniciamos la vuelta a la ciudad,

de donde nunca más nos volveríamos

a mover.

Pasó el tiempo. Y con su paso,

el hábito

fue haciendo su tarea: pronto el resentimiento

por el horror pasado se transformó en olvido,

y el olvido cedió ante el trabajo diario

de desear lo que falta, en que se consumieron

mis días.

Sin embargo, ahora muchas veces

me despierta de noche la sospecha angustiosa

de que los habitantes de aquel lugar actuaban

en nombre de un amor exactamente igual

al mío, y me carcome por dentro la certeza

de que todo fue en vano:


de los otros y de nosotros mismos,

para seguir viviendo

igual que siempre,


que en todas partes.




XII. La matanza de los pretendientes


La lírica está muerta. O eso dicen:

que hace ya veinte años que está ausente,

que sus huesos se pudren en la tierra

o que el mar los arrastra con su oleaje,

mientras los pretendientes de su esposa

se devoran su hacienda.

Pero vive,

y está siempre volviendo. En este instante,

sola en su barca en medio del océano,

relee con insistencia aquel poema

célebre de Kavafis (me pregunto:

¿logrará persuadir a quien en una

época se jactaba de su ingenio

–“la fecunda en ardides”, la llamaban–

la idea remanida de que el viaje

está en el interior de cada uno?)

y sueña con el día en que retorne

al hogar, disfrazada de mendiga,

y aguante con orgullo, estoicamente,

los insultos, los golpes y vejámenes

de los que aspiran a usurpar su trono.

Sueña despierta con el hijo único,

su legítima sangre, e imagina

el reencuentro emotivo en esa choza

bucólica, con música de fondo,

debidamente lacrimosa. Trama

ya la alianza de clases con la plebe,

en la que afianzará su reconquista

del poder. Y ya puede verse, casi,

yaciendo con su esposa, en aquel lecho

que con sus propias manos construyera

en un tronco de olivo. Sin embargo,

la escena que proyecta una y otra

vez en su mente es congregar a todos

en el patio, alegando alguna excusa,

cerrados previamente los accesos;

y con la sola ayuda de su hijo

y de los pocos servidores fieles

que le quedan, mostrarles quién es ella

a esos usurpadores, y matarlos,

y matarlos a todos: se imagina

con lujo de detalles, con lujuria,

revolverle las tripas con la espada

a un enemigo; acribillarle a otro

el cuerpo entero con sus proyectiles;

y el corazón de otro palpitante

aún en su puño, luego de arrancárselo.

Pero un reflujo corrosivo asciende

por sus entrañas y le explota súbito

en la garganta y la nariz, y rompe

aquella ensoñación triunfal. Molesta,

sacude la cabeza, inspira hondo,

se tranquiliza al fin y mira al frente

y ve que sigue en medio del océano,

que no hay tierra a la vista y, resignada,

toma otra vez los remos y hace fuerza.




XIII. De la guerra civil


La lírica está muerta. Finalmente.

Ha llegado el momento que esperábamos todos.

Ya podemos decirlo sin ambages:

es el fin de una era. El magno orden de los siglos

se vuelve a barajar en fundación renovada.

Nace un niño de hierro para la poesía,

y con su advenimiento, tras dimitir la vieja estirpe de oro,

se alzará en su lugar una progenie

férrea: de todos modos, ya va siendo hora

de que empecemos a cantar

cosas más importantes.

Nace un niño de hierro

para la poesía, y una única incógnita ensombrece el horizonte:

¿conocerá a sus padres sonriendo con dulzura?

¿Les soltará una carcajada amarga?

¿Los verá con desprecio? ¿Con sospecha? Acaso,

lo que es peor: ¿les pagará la vida y su sostén

con una mueca apática?

La lírica

está muerta.  Así es, aunque su muerte

–mal que les pese a aquellos

que hoy se la adjudican– fue sin ceremonia: como cae un árbol,

tronco sin nombre en la mitad del bosque

por donde nadie pasa,

así cayó. La técnica también estuvo ausente:

ni siquiera las tablas precarias de la cruz,

los clavos enmohecidos, la corona trenzada con agujas,

el paño avinagrado que alguna vez urdiera

con módica pericia mano de hombre,

tuvieron parte en el asunto,

que ocurrió sin testigos, sin castigo ejemplar,

sin demasiada premeditación

ni marca.

Está muerta. Así es.

Y un acerbo destino arrastra a los poetas

y el crimen de la muerte fraternal,

desde el momento en que se derramó en la tierra,

como una maldición para sus descendientes,

su sangre:

fue en un descampado; el golpe

la sorprendió de espaldas.

Está muerta.

La lírica está muerta.


No murió como Cristo, la mataron

como a Abel.




[1] The statement that gives the book its title was uttered by Alejandro Rubio in the anthology Monstruos (2001), compiled by Arturo Carrera, which collects, among others, the most conspicuous Argentine poets of the 1990s: “Lyric poetry is dead. Who has time, when there’s cable television and FM, to listen to a heartbroken youth play the lute?”

– …with all the human senses spent: This line paraphrases the final stanza of Coplas por la muerte de su padre by Jorge Manrique.

– …and an imposter came to dictate a false will: Reference to Gianni Schicchi, character from Canto XXX of Dante’s Inferno.

[2] “El matadero” (“The Slaughterhouse”), by Esteban Echeverría, is one of Argentine literature’s foundational texts. It narrates the capture, (implied) rape, and death of a young aristocrat with cosmopolitan ideals, which occurs in a slaughterhouse in the slums of Buenos Aires at the hands of a mob, followers of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who governed the province with an iron fist.

– …it wasn’t Brecht / who wrote that poem: Cites a sermon by the pastor Martin Niemöller, addressed to the German intelligentsia during the Nazi era, admonishing them for their passivity in response to the atrocities committed by the regime. It’s important to mention that Niemöller himself was a supporter of Nazism at its onset. The sermon has often been confused with a poem that, in turn, tends to be attributed erroneously to Bertolt Brecht.

– …a refrigerated truck: Alludes to the film Carne (1968), directed by Armando Bo, starring Isabel Sarli, the first diva of Argentine soft-core porn.

– …the gem-like moon: Cites the story “El niño proletario,” by Osvaldo Lamborghini, a retelling of “El matadero.”

[3] Alfredo Yabrán was an Argentine postal businessman suspected to be the front man of a mafia-type organization with international scope. Completely unknown to the public, he gained notoriety in the 1990s when he was linked to the death of the photographer José Luis Cabezas, the only one who had succeeded in photographing him. Identified as the mastermind of the Cabezas crime, Yabrán committed suicide in one of his country estates. To this day, many people in Argentina still believe that the businessman faked his own death, and numerous hare-brained theories have been concocted about his current whereabouts.

– …Don’t you forget it: The media launched a campaign to honor the memory of José Luis Cabezas; its slogan was “No se olviden de Cabezas” (“Don’t forget Cabezas”).

[4] Based on forensic reports and academic literature, the poem refers to the desecration, which occurred in 1987 and was never cleared up, of the body of three-time Argentine president Juan Domingo Perón, who, through his movement – Justicialism or Peronsim – profoundly and definitively changed the means of doing and understanding politics in Argentina.

– …”your hand / of love draws near / like snow-white butterflies”: These lines were part of a poem – a chillingly prophetic one – that Perón’s widow, Isabel Martínez de Perón, left in her husband’s tomb.

[5] The poem centers on two main elements: the famous photo of the dead Che, in which he appears with his eyes open and looks as if he’s going to rise up, taken by Freddy Alborta and sold to United Press International; and the poem “Lázaro” by the Spanish poet Luis Cernuda. The text’s evidence base includes the Diario del Che en Bolivia.

– …that she was not herself the light…and yet her own did not receive her: Quotes from the Gospel of John (John. 1:7 and 1:11).

– …and spoke of lilies…which…break through one day / from straight green stalk to white corolla: Cernuda writes: “Sé que el lirio del campo / Tras de su humilde oscuridad en tantas noches / Con larga espera bajo tierra /  Del tallo verde erguido a la corola alba / irrumpe un día en gloria triunfante” (“I realize that the lily of the field, / after its humble darkness all those nights, / its long wait underground, / from straight green stalk to white corolla, / breaks through one day in a triumphant glory”).

– …the instinct’s deaf impressions: A quote from the Argentine politician Valentín Alsina (1802-1869) in his Notas al libro Civilización y Barbarie. Alsina had had to go into exile during the administration of Juan Manuel de las Rosas; his book is a study of Facundo, another foundational text of Argentine literature, written by the writer and ex-president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

– …for the triumphant glory: Another quote from “Lázaro” by Luis Cernuda.

– …Whatever happened to her hands / was after she had died: Just like Perón’s corpse twenty years later, the lifeless body of Ernesto Guevara, which later disappeared, suffered the amputation of its hands.

[6] The poem is a versification (in hendecasyllables in the Spanish original) of a passage from the book El caso de Eva Perón, by Dr. Pedro Ara, the Spanish doctor who embalmed Eva Perón. Apart from the changes required by the meter, the only alteration is the substitution of Eva’s name with Lyric Poetry, consistent with the personification technique governing the book.

[7] From 1989 to 1990, in line with the dictates of the consensus in Washington that inspired, in Latin America during the 1990s, the neoliberal presidencies of Fernando Color de Mello, Carlos Salinas de Gotari, Carlos Andrés Pérez, and others, Argentina was governed by Carlos Saúl Menem, a leader of populist origins who rapidly allied himself with the corporate and financial establishment. The frivolization of political and cultural life, the perception of widespread corruption, the total impunity of his officials, and the atmosphere of waste and ostentatious vulgarity were some of his management’s distinguishing features. His detractors often reproached his “oriental extravagance”: Menem was of Syrian descent and, people said, had abandoned the Muslim faith in order to aspire to the presidency. This poem, inspired by the famous story in A Thousand and One Nights that narrates the caliph Harun al-Rashid’s nocturnal excursions, in disguise, around Baghdad, begins there and then passes into an imaginary Buenos Aires, traversing the city from the Plaza de Mayo, through Retiro, and into the settlement known as Villa (Slum) 31.

[8] A version of the famous story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” as told in El Conde Lucanor by Don Juan Manuel.

[9] This poem recounts the myth of Sibyl of Cumae, Apollo’s priestess of the oracle in that city, who conveyed the god’s prophecies in verse. According to the version of the myth related by Ovid, Apollo had offered to grant her a wish, and she had taken up a handful of sand and asked to live as many years as the number of grains she held in her fist. He agreed, also offering to grant her eternal youth in exchange for her virginity. When she refused, she was condemned to a life of eternal decline and aging.

– …or was it actually a  plastic jar?…”What do you want? But, really, what is it you want?” / And she’d respond, “I…I? I want to die”: According to Petronius’s Satyricon, the Sibyl, made smaller by her extreme old age, was hung inside a bottle, and children asked her, “Sibyl, what do you want?” And she answered, “I want to die.” The same quote appears at the beginning of The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot’s famous poem.

[10] This poem is a barely modified translation of the first 53 hexameters of book XI of Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

– …in / her end was her beginning: Quote from “East Coker,” one of Eliot’s Four Quartets.

– …and happy were those / who felt no more: Quote from “Lo fatal,” a poem by the famous Nicaraguan Modernist Rubén Darío.

– …that barely feel: Quote from the same poem by Rubén Darío.

– …babbling its baleful bits of ballad: Based on a line from St. John of the Cross’s “Spiritual Canticle” (“un no sé qué que quedan balbuciendo”), whose alliterations were possibly inspired by those present in the line by Ovid (nescio quid quaerit) translated here.

[11] The poem updates the biblical episode of the same name, setting it in a small town in the province of Buenos Aires.

– ”The smoke is rising from the ground / as from an oven”: Gen. 19:28.

[12] A version of the homonymous episode in Homer’s Odyssey.

– …Kafavis’s / beloved poem: Refers to “Ithaca,” the great Greek poet’s only work to transcend the poetic genre and become a model of self-help literature.

– …the alliance with the masses: Quote from Juan Domingo Perón.

[13] This poem, which develops the mythological theme of brotherly rivalries, centers on two texts from the Latin tradition: Virgil’s Eclogue IV, which Christian posterity interpreted as a sign of Christ’s coming, and Horace’s Epode VII, also about fratricide, which concludes with the image of Remus’s blood, having been murdered by Romulus.


Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *