titulo

Palabras Errantes Latin American Literature in Translation

Palabras Errantes
For the Seals/ Para las focas

By Juan Manuel Sánchez, translated by Cindy Schuster. Photography by Diego Vidart

 

I

 

Of late

the city

is awash

with seals.

 

Seals at my heels

penguinized seals

chimney-smoking

seals in meetings.

 

Seals

sealing deals

drinking scotch

on the rocks.

 

I lock myself

in the bathroom

I need

legs.

 

I too

applaud

and balance

a ball

on my nose.

 

I

 

Últimamente

la ciudad

se ha llenado

de focas.

 

Focas en la sopa

focas apingüinadas

meeting de focas

fumando

chimeneas.

 

Focas

focas en las rocas

tomando

un buen scotch.

 

Me encierro

en el baño

necesito

piernas.

 

Yo también

aplaudo

y sostengo

la pelota

con mi hocico.

 

 

XI

 

I am going to pray

at the bank

where God

will hear my pleas.

 

Give us this day

our daily

clients.

 

There is no salvation

without work

nor work without profits.

 

Collect our debts

as we too

collect

from our debtors.

 

And deliver us

from recession

amen.

 

XI

 

Voy a orar

al banco

donde Dios

oirá mis plegarias.

 

Danos hoy

nuestros clientes

de cada día.

 

No hay

salvación sin trabajo

ni trabajo sin ganancias.

 

Cobra nuestras deudas

como también

nosotros

cobramos

a quienes nos

adeudan.

 

Y líbranos

de la recesión

amén.

 

 

XII

 

The boss is my shepherd

he leads me through

fertile valleys

of perpetual bonanza

spacious offices

and exclusive perks.

 

That is why I wait

for the next life

each day

is one day

closer

to the next life.

 

The boss is my shepherd

I shall not fear

when we traverse

dark paths.

And when he asks

for a test of my faith

I will flagellate my wages

and tighten the cilice

of my rights.

 

XII

 

El gerente es mi pastor

me conduce por

fértiles valles

de bonanza perpetua

amplias oficinas

y exlusivos privilegios.

 

Por eso aguardo

la próxima vida

cada día

es un día

más cerca

de la próxima vida.

 

El gerente es mi pastor

no tendré miedo

cuando atravesemos

senderos oscuros.

Y cuando me pida

probar mi fe

flagelaré mi sueldo

y apretaré el cilicio

de mis derechos.

 

 

XIII

 

Money

doesn’t smell

and the higher

the figure

the fainter the scent.

 

No matter

if it springs

from the sweat

of my brow

or the blood

of others.

 

 

Money

doesn’t smell

but as a precaution

only as a precaution

I always buy

the most expensive

perfume.

 

XIII

 

El dinero

no tiene olor

y cuanto más cifras

tiene

menos huele.

 

Poco da

si brota

del sudor

de mi frente

o la sangre

de los otros.

 

El dinero

no tiene olor

pero por las dudas

sólo por las dudas

compro siempre

el perfume

más caro.

 

*

 

Across a sea of grassland they came

people of curved sabers

olive skin and sacred stallions.

 

Agents of chaos, sons of destruction

weddings of the dead and revelry.

 

Cement

municipal decrees

arrogant tinted glass

containment plans

in civic centers,

all were futile.

 

Amid red-tinged clouds of smoke

rises

the city that never should have been.

 

Llegaron a través de un mar de pasturas

pueblo de espadas curvas,

tez oliva y sementales sagrados.

 

Agentes del caos, hijos de la destrucción

bodas de muertos y en fiesta.

 

De nada sirvió el cemento,

los decretos municipales

el arrogante vidrio polarizado

los planes de contención

por centros comunales.

 

En rojizas humaredas

se eleva

la ciudad que nunca debió existir.

 

Juan Manuel Sánchez was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1983. Currently, he is a student of letters and museology at the Universidad de La Republica. He also teaches literature classes, writes literary reviews for La Diaria and works at the Centro Cultural Castillo Pittamiglio. He is the author of *Para las focas*. Five of his poems are included in *América invertida: an anthology of younger Uruguayan poets* which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press.

Cindy Schuster’s translations of Latin American writers have appeared in numerous publications. She co-translated *Cubana: Contemporary Fiction by Cuban Women*, with Dick Cluster. She has received an NEA Translation Fellowship and is a former board member of the American Literary Translators Association. She holds a Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of California, Irvine.

 

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