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Palabras Errantes Latin American Literature in Translation

Palabras Errantes
Javier Etchevarren

By Javier Etchevarren, translated by Don Bogen. Photography by Diego Vidart.

 

The Despicable Man Watching TV

 

it enters the eyes and comes out the mouth

a feed of words

to get our drives drooling

with exotic passions that sustain us

through the shock

of unending effluvium

 

everything happens at a distance

the despicable man

a parasite of circumstances

emperor of mediocrity

 

he has only himself for a family

he bangs into things

he abandons himself

watching TV

 

the screen is the horizon

the screen is the oracle we subscribe to

the screen is the answer when there are no questions

 

there is a place devoid of people

a feast gone rotten

an imaginary gift

there is love that accounts for the lechery

there is lechery that accounts for the place devoid of people

 

the despicable man watching TV

forfeiting the time he acquired at birth

a spectator excited by the show

 

 

Hombre vil frente a la televisión

 

entra por los ojos y sale por la boca

es una transmisión de verbos

para que nuestras pulsiones se saliven

en pasiones extrañas que sostenemos

al chocarnos con cualquiera

efluvio indiviso de la audiencia

 

todo acontece fuera de uno

parásito de las circunstancias

emperador de la mediocridad

hombre vil

 

él mismo es su familia

él mismo se golpea

él mismo se abandona

frente a la televisión

 

la pantalla es el horizonte

la pantalla es el oráculo para abonados

la pantalla es la respuesta cuando no hay preguntas

 

hay un lugar despoblado

un banquete putrefacto

un recuerdo imaginado

hay amor explicando la lujuria

hay lujuria explicando el lugar despoblado

 

hombre vil frente a la televisión

perdiendo el tiempo que ganó al nacer

espectador excitado de actuación

 

 

 

The Despicable Man Combing His Baldness

 

an audience of troubled confabulations

bids for his misery

his frustration leaks out

in elusive hopes

and that humiliation though a warning

doesn’t amount to much

because he combs his eyebrows

with the enormous self-assurance

of a man used to forgetting he’s bald

 

he’ll take a break from work

he’ll pronounce upon what’s unimportant

laughing at his own bitterness

 

the light’s just come back

time means something again

the despicable man is combing his baldness

in front of the mirror

reality in fragments

more authentic

a spineless

repetition

 

 

 

Hombre vil peinando su calvicie

 

pujan por su miseria

un auditorio de fabulaciones desconcertadas derrama su frustración

por las goteras de esperanzas inasibles

y esa humillación es premonitoria

apenas un entrenamiento

porque su certeza es un peine enorme

para las cejas de un rostro acostumbrado

al desamparo de su calvicie

 

descansará en su trabajo enunciará lo insignificante riéndose de su amargura

 

la luz acaba de volver

las horas otra vez tienen sentido el hombre vil peina su calvicie frente al espejo

realidad más auténtica fragmentaria

repetición

invertebrada

 

 

Transit III

 

it’s not a bird

it’s not a plane

it’s not a superhero either

puffing up the sky

 

people stop and speculate

it’s not a flying saucer but it’s a UFO

it cruises the neighborhood

it bombards us with doubts

it’s a symbol, a sign

a phenomenon

the kids are delighted

the old folks can’t remember anything like it

it’s clumsy in flight

its course is clear

there are some who identify with its ease

the journey it has to make

its final migration

already we’ve formed a crowd

the resplendent enigma

shines

“it’s an omen”

a mystic assures us

“there must be an explanation”

a skeptic replies

it comes closer

at last we understand it

it’s an ordinary plastic bag

caught in the breeze

 

 

Tránsito III

 

no es un pájaro

no es un avión tampoco es un superhéroe da volumen al cielo

 

la gente se detiene y especula

es un ovni pero no un platillo volador sobrevuela el barrio

nos bombardea de dudas

es un símbolo, una señal

un fenómeno

los niños lo celebran los ancianos no recuerdan nada parecido su vuelo es torpe

su rumbo es claro

hay quien se identifica con su gracia excursión obligatoria

migración definitiva

ya somos una breve multitud

brilla

enigma refulgente

“es un augurio”

– asegura un esotérico-

“debe de haber una explicación”

– responde un escéptico-

avanza

al fin lo entendemos

es una bolsa de nylon ordinaria

cautiva del viento

 

 

 

City Bird

 

gray as smog

its nest set precariously in a cornice

with the trees gone

it takes shelter amid arteriosclerosis,

fruits of the garbage dump

and puddles filled with the nectar of cars

 

noise carried off its song

untimely epitaph

cadenza of its decline

 

city bird

hiding from children

unnoticed by the passers by

who look up at airplanes instead

crude imitations of what first took flight

 

 

Pájaro de ciudad

 

de nido precario en la cornisa desheredado del follaje

gris como el smog

lo ampara la arteriosclerosis, los frutos del basural

 

y los charcos con el néctar de los automóviles

 

el ruido arrebató su canto epitafio precoz

cadencia de su decadencia

pájaro de ciudad

prófugo de los niños

inadvertido por los transeúntes

que prefieren admirar a los aviones brutales emuladores del vuelo originario

 

 

 

Expansion

 

those pustules of noise

voracious panic tunneling through

slag-pocked skin

supplies that nauseate

atrocious chemicals tearing the air

rivers full of filth where the fish drown

everything exploited, nothing gets away

poor sick human world

 

 

Expansión

 

esas pústulas de ruido

el pánico voraz que lo socava

la piel infectada de escoria

su indigestión de pertrechos

el aire desgarrado por la química atroz

la corrupción en sus ríos donde se ahogan los peces todo explota, nada escapa

pobre mundo enfermo del hombre

 

Javier Etchevarren was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1979. He is the author of the book *Desidia*. His poems have appeared in the literary journals *Maldoror*, *Letra Nueva* and were included in the anthology *ME USA* published in Perú. 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.

Don Bogen is the author of four books of poetry, including his most recent book *An Algebra* (University of Chicago, 2009). His translations of contemporary Spanish poet Julio Martínez Mesanza have appeared in *Boston Review*, *Pleiades* and other journals. He is the Nathaniel Ropes Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati and the poetry editor of the *Cincinnati Review*.

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