Lives Hidden

August 1, 2019 in Fiction, Poetry, Spanish

Original by Andrea Zelaya
Translated, from the Spanish, by the author

We were lying down, at night, looking at the stars, you and I. Only there weren’t any stars that we could look at. We were pretending. We were on top of all those boxes, covering ourselves from the cold with a shared blanket, and the sky was the dark above and around us. We were the last to still have some human in us. The rest were all gone. They had been killed on earth during the war and then during the migration, when the technologicals were trying to stop us from coming in. I was telling you about how you had to hold on because we were the only ones still with some human in us. We were part machine but we were still human, unlike the others. The others were all technologicals. I was telling you all this. I was telling you about how we were the only two children who had survived the cages and the mutilations. All adults were meant to be killed, and some of their children were captured and put in cages to await mutilations, to open us up, to see what made us human, and to take it away. Most died. But we didn’t die, you and I, because of that guard, that guard who was a mixed one. Somebody had helped her survive before and then she helped us too. She tried to help others but then she got caught and killed. She knew how to perform the operations and gave me a technological arm and foot and gave you a technological leg and a half face. She also gave us this blanket. I was telling you all this as we were lying down on all those boxes filled with technological parts she kept hidden inside this broken vessel. But I couldn’t read your expression. I think that you were scared, and tired, and in pain, like I was, but I couldn’t tell anymore. I think you tried to move your lips, but then nothing really happened. So I told you to try to rest. I told you we would figure it out. We would have to live our lives hidden from now on but we would try to keep surviving, day by day. Rest your eyes, I said to you, while I closed your human and your technological eyelids at the same time, and imagine that we’re on a terrace on earth, lying down at night, looking at the stars. 

Vidas escondidas 

Estábamos acostados, en la noche, mirando las estrellas, tú y yo. Sólo que no había ninguna estrella que pudiéramos ver. Estábamos fingiendo. Estábamos arriba de todas esas cajas, cubriéndonos del frío con una cobija que compartíamos, y el cielo era la oscuridad sobre nosotros y alrededor de nosotros. Éramos los últimos que todavía tenían algo humano dentro. Los demás ya no estaban. Habían sido aniquilados en la tierra durante la guerra y luego durante la migración, cuando los tecnologianos estaban tratando de impedirnos llegar aquí. Te estaba diciendo que debías aguantar porque éramos los únicos aún con algo humano dentro de nosotros. Éramos parte máquina pero éramos todavía humanos, a diferencia de los otros. Los otros eran todos tecnologianos. Te estaba diciendo todo esto. Te estaba diciendo sobre cómo éramos los únicos dos niños que habían sobrevivido las jaulas y las mutilaciones. Todos los adultos tenían que ser aniquilados, y algunos de sus niños fueron capturados y puestos en jaulas a esperar la mutilación, para abrirnos, para ver qué nos hacía humanos, para quitárnoslo. La mayoría murió. Pero nosotros no, ni tú ni yo, gracias a esa guarda, esa guarda que era mixta. Alguien la había ayudado a sobrevivir antes y ahora nos ayudaba a nosotros también. Trató de ayudar a otros pero fue descubierta y aniquilada. Ella sabía cómo realizar las operaciones y me dio un brazo y un pie tecnológicos y a ti una pierna y la mitad de la cara. También nos dio esta cobija. Te estaba diciendo todo esto mientras estábamos acostados en esas cajas llenas de piezas tecnológicas que ella mantenía escondidas en esta nave averiada. Pero no podía descifrar tu expresión. Creo que tenías miedo, cansancio, y dolor, como yo, pero no lo podía asegurar más. Creo que intentaste mover tus labios, pero nada sucedió. Entonces te dije que descansaras. Te dije que lo solucionaríamos. Tendríamos que vivir nuestras vidas escondidas desde ahora pero intentaríamos seguir sobreviviendo, día con día. Descansa tu ojos, te dije, mientras cerraba tu párpado humano y tu párpado tecnológico al mismo tiempo, e imagina que estamos en una terraza en la tierra, acostados en la noche, mirando las estrellas. 

 

Andrea Zelaya is a student in the PhD literature program at UCSD, and has published her short stories and poetry in both English and Spanish. She has also worked as a pro bono translator.

Chocolat

August 1, 2019 in Crossgenre, English, Fiction, Poetry

Original by Siloh Radovsky
Adapted, from the Lasse Hallström film, by the author

Let’s pretend: 

I am the Chocolatier. 

Carrying colonial blood around in wooden vessels; also, the woman who refuses to stay, moving from place to place only to rescue restless souls from Christendom. Her father (my great- grandfather) was the one to collect the secret Cacao rituals with his ethnographic apparati— transcription, transmission, etc. But her professional peddling most closely mimics matrilineal survival strategies. 

Relocating to the tweed town full of broken marriages wrapped in wool jackets, Vianne began to foil the sweets. 

Finding the correct flavor unlocks the stuck blood portal due to chemical traces they crave. Though at the time what comes across is a hint of understanding—lumps of sugar which know the soul. 

She means it truly, wrapping her own self up in her woolen coat and visiting tropical sunshine upon citizens’ calcifications, agitating them out of daily abuse: “This delicious flavor filling your mouth means you deserve better—the best each day.” Hot cocoa for wayward boy-child, pastilles for his secretly diabetic Gran. But the danger lies not in the indulgence itself but the suggestion of pleasurability. 

Culturally, our broken sweet tooth soothed in but one way such that the Gremlin shirks off to its alternate enclaves leaving behind a slime trail of ethical hedonism interspersed with some badly- needed nutrients. 

// 

My grandmother was beholden to the brick & mortar, with all the trappings and covered in fog, castle-like, with some excessively repentant village mayor breathing down her neck about Catholicism. Back then, the 1950’s, the technology was social engineering. Things are different now but the same—the technology is still social engineering—except now I’m beholden to the app, freed and not freed from the constraints of physical place. The app is called Cafe. It says, Take this quiz, this personalized quiz regarding which category to place you in then the advice will algorithmically follow. We chocolatiers have been both aggregated and multiplied so I’ve been teleporting my emotional labor into the privacy of the home while the Developers work on building a market for us. The Developers say, Thanks for believing in the work we do every day! Only they’ve programmed that saying, and everyone gets the same message. Meanwhile, I play the roulette one-on-one, inviting my customers to dig deeper inwards. They take the quiz and I match them with a chocolate box; they receive the box in the mail after they spin the Plate and interpret it all Rorschach-like. 

Once and a while while that digitized relic blurs on-screen someone will say, “I see my employment prospects.” Ah, the hunger for financial security—I recognize and resonate but must uphold my position of transcendence. I tell them that if they master themselves as students of their own desire, they too can occupy this position, refracting their positivity and good taste; it’s a good side-hustle. We were not the first to digitize this highly-structured system of understanding, externalizing the pathways of our diagnostics, but we’ve learned to work within the constraints we were given. My lineage is a lineage of restless wanderers and we’ve always learned to make a place for ourselves in a less-than-ideal circumstance, while earning for ourselves a nominal fee. While clicking the buttons for cayenne pepper recipe (lacking-passion- dominant) and rose cream packet (needing-sweetness-dominant) I try to reconnect to my grandmother and think about how much more efficient our job has been made. She was so dressed up and ready for the show, in that dollhouse for chocolate she spruced up real good (the place was such a cave before) for the pleasure of the townsfolk. But now we can go ahead and wander around as we please, and we are even free to work other kinds of jobs, and develop other aspects of our personhood. Even so, as I assign chocolate boxes for my customers, I try to keep the spirit alive. I send out a little prayer for the renewed manageability of their daily lives, reminding myself that in the faintest personal realignment is the potential for an unquantifiable expansion. “Will it or will it not change the whole lonely city,” I wonder, while peering out the window of my apartment, wondering if I have earned enough that day to take myself to the cafe down the street for a little treat, squeezing my eyes shut to relieve the pressure of digital eyestrain. I think Damn, I sure could use some chocolate. 

_

Siloh Radovsky is a graduate student at UCSD in the Literature department, pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. Much of her research and creative work concerns the contemporary landscape of self-care, its connections to the violence of colonization, and the perimeters between science and pseudo-science in medicine and health fadisms. On this adaptation: “I’m probing the ethics of the contemporary self-care trends that the film anticipates, applying its representation of magical commodities to the digitally-mediated context of the present.”

Speechless Mountain

August 1, 2019 in Fiction, Odia

Original by Dr. Kanakalata Hathi
Translated, from the Odia, by Suchona Patnaik

Rumours and gossips abound about Gopa. There are many voices about her, beyond what is true. Talks do die down. Tomorrow tends to forget today. Again some dark shades of whispers engulf Gopa. Some don’t understand why do people love to gossip. Gopa never seems to be wavering by any such stray remarks. Her eyes beckon, her words cast a magical spell and her conduct remains suave. Gopa exudes an aura of sweetness which fascinates people who gravitate towards her. A calm demeanour, an endearing smile and her graceful conduct make Gopa more attractive. Gopa is middle aged and works as a Professor. Not an amazingly beautiful woman, but certainly a charming person. She teaches history. She is generous and open to all. She doesn’t call anybody for company nor does she turn away anyone. She looks unfathomable and inscrutable. She shies away from intruding queries about her family details and points to a young boy of seventeen or eighteen and says, “He is my family, what else you want to know!” People may say things about her, but nobody can conscientiously give away any facts about her. Gopa usually evades questions about her marriage. When asked, she either smiles or falls silent. Her silence is meaningfully deep. 

 It has been quite some time that Gopa has been teaching in the same college. It being a private college, there are no hassles of transfers and relocation. One generally gets emotionally attached after spending few years at a particular place. The rumour mongers are not just the strangers in the town, but her colleagues and acquaintances also speak ill about her. Gopa never confronts anyone; she takes it all in her stride and quite gracefully at that. It isn’t in her nature to quarrel with anyone. A professor of History is not her only identity, there is another as well. Gopa is a poetess too. No one knows for how long she has been writing, though it seems it has been quite a few years. However, she doesn’t write as frequently now as she used to earlier. Once in a while she pens down a poem or two for some magazines. When asked about her poetry, she just smiles that makes her all the more intriguing.

Gopa’s flair for writing brings her in contact with people of similar interests. She used to receive a number of letters in this regard, which raised the suspicion of her colleagues. Some of the letters never reached Gopa. She knows all of this but neither confronted anyone nor complained about it to the authorities. Gopa had many visitors in a day. People used to meet Gopa on the pretext of some work and she knew their pretence. But it made people gossip more about her. Everyone had his own version of story about Gopa and her unmarried status only made it all the worse.

Years passed by but the rumours about Gopa did not seem to die down. Maybe this is what our society thrives on! All of this did hurt Gopa. Many a time, she thinks of relocating to another place, yet she cannot. She realizes a change of place would not guarantee a change of people’s opinion about her. A disquieting maze of whispers seems to follow her all through. Gopa’s visitors are mostly inquisitive acquaintances in the guise of visitors. The visits are an excuse to intrude into her personal life, into the space that Gopa keeps shielded. A minute’s visit would often linger into an hour. They would twist the conversation to find a chance glimpse into her much speculated and maligned privacy. But they would always fail before Gopa’s stoic silence. Her students also often approach her, with their doubts in history. She is affectionate towards her students. While clarifying their doubts, the agonising moments of her loneliness wither away. But her colleagues and peers entertain a different view on this. To them it is her subterfuge to be in the company of boys. What education a teacher of such character could impart to her students!

Gopa isn’t really alone. She does have a family; father, mother and her siblings. Her parents passed away and the siblings set up their own nests. Life went on. Gopa chose to be independent and single. Often she was a mysterious entity to her own family. Gopa liked to write poems and in course of time got to know Sumay. Over a period of time, they came closer towards each other. Gopa’s personality, grace and conduct fascinated Sumay. Their feelings bloomed with a reciprocal longing for each other. It so happened that once Sumay proposed to Gopa for marriage. Gopa was taken aback. 

“Marriage?” she asked, totally bewildered. 

“Why not? What do I lack?” asked Sumay. “I have not thought of marriage,” replied Gopa. 

“If you haven’t, now is the time,” retorted Sumay. 

“I can never marry you, Sumay.” 

Sumay pursued her, trying to convince Gopa, but she held on to her “No” as the final answer. What ensued next in the room remains hazy in Gopa’s memory. However, she does remember some of Sumay’s words, “Your love was a sham, and women with poetic traits are invariably unfaithful.” “Such women can never be happy with one man.” “Deep down, I always believed you are not what people think of you, Gopa. But today I realize it is true indeed!” “What was the need of this farce, Gopa, if you never wanted to marry me?” This decision of Gopa’s also disappointed her family. Gopa stood frozen, to their detestation. As days passed by Gopa felt suffocated in her own home, with her own family. She could no longer take the words of abhorrence. She felt like going away from the cynicism and bitterness around her which had nearly engulfed her. It was then that Gopa decided to take up the teaching job in another city. She relocated and set up a new home, an unfamiliar place. She remained loving and affectionate to people. But again the same gossip followed her and fastened her like a noose.  Gossips clung to her and she was writhing within to get free. Not going anywhere during holidays and vacations, postal correspondence with a few, people visiting her, and, lastly, Gopa remaining unmarried all crystallized into an obnoxious reputation. But all these merge into her silence. For her to live is to struggle incessantly. Life is so endearing and precious that she cannot recede into the abyss of self-annihilation.

Gopa was in Kolkata to attend a conference. On her way back, as she waited for the train to arrive, she felt someone was pulling her saree. She turned around to see a kid, barely four years old, standing behind her. The boy looked scared and his eyes looked puffed and teary. His clothes were soiled but he appeared to be from a decent family. When Gopa inquired, he could only say his name, “Tutu,” neither his parents’ name nor his address. The pitiable look in the child’s eyes did not allow Gopa to leave him behind and return home. She was a woman after all! Being an affectionate loving woman, how could she be so heartless as to leave a weeping child alone? Gopa was now in a dilemma. She couldn’t decide if she should take the child to the police or to her home. So she decided to first feed the child well and then took him along to the police station. She knew that the boy was a lost child. At the police station she came to know about a train accident the previous day which kept everyone busy. She did not want to leave the child to anyone’s care. Gopa left her address and the child’s photograph at the police station, in case someone came looking for the kid. On her way back, Gopa did not forget to buy new set of clothes for the kid. Tutu evoked the maternal instincts in Gopa. She was no longer worried for the kid. Instead she was thankful to God that she met him, otherwise the child might have ended up being a child labourer somewhere. This very thought was disturbing Gopa. She was reassured that she took the right decision. Tutu grows up with Anurag as his certificate name. He is her only child, her anchor today and for times to come. But that day Gopa didn’t bring Tutu home alone. Along with Tutu came a lot more slander. Who would have believed in the truth! Everyone cast aspersions on her and her character. Gopa never explained, as before. The truth got immersed in her silence. Rumours were afloat that Tutu was her illegitimate child, who she had kept hidden in an orphanage and brought home when he was grown up.

Anurag doesn’t remember much of that tender age when Gopa brought him home.  He addressed Gopa as “Maa” and his world revolved around his Maa. Gopa too had brought up Anurag in the best way she could. She put him in a good school and tried to fill in his life with as much happiness as she could. As Anurag grows up, the fearlessness in Gopa is dying down. She starts becoming panicky, restless and worried. Her bond with Anurag is such that she can’t imagine spending a day away from him, though she doesn’t know how the next day will begin! Gopa can apprehend as if Anurag wants to ask her about something but is unable to. At that moment he looks withdrawn, lost in a world of inexplicable emotions. Questions might be falling upon him. Yet how can Gopa unravel the truth! It has been a prolonged period of lingering indecisiveness to confide in Anurag the truth. When will the moment of revelation come!

Gopa feels quite lonely at times. Her youth has withered with time. She sees every morning the ruins of the past. She feels morose. And to spend the day well she takes asylum in the room where deities are enthroned. After the prayers she begins her Yoga practices and meditation. Her day then lapses into the routine chores. 

“Why do you practice Yoga, Maa? Is it really important for good health?”asks Anurag. 

“I do it for my mental strength, because I need it for you. Yoga does help in physical fitness too.”

“But Maa, people say….”And Anurag stops without saying anything further. 

“What do people say, Anurag?”

Is Yoga the way to sublimate her passion? Alas! How could Anurag ask this! He lapses into silence. His words get stifled in his throat. Questions churn his thoughts, his eyes say it all. Gopa could understand but couldn’t say anything. Anurag takes a pause and asks, “Where do you go every year during vacation? You never tell me, I don’t ask you. People say ugly things about you. I can’t bear their sneering talks; they slice into me like a knife. But I don’t have the answers to silence them.” 

“Yes, my child, I am a very lonely person. I am neither anyone’s daughter nor anybody’s aunt. In this big wide world I am alone.” Gopa realises the time has come to reveal the truth to Anurag. She remains reclusive the whole day. The next morning she takes Anurag with her to Kolkata. Though many years had passed by, still Gopa went there every year during vacations to inquire about Anurag’s parents.

Anurag falls at Gopa’s feet when he encounters the truth about his past. All his allegations against his mother flow out of his eyes in deep reverence. He trembles with guilt and says, “I am only your son, Maa. No one can come and snatch me away from you.” Gopa hugs him tightly and they both weep inconsolable. “Why did you not marry, Maa? Because you had to take care of me?” asks Anurag, still weeping. 

“You have given me the joy and pride of motherhood, my child. What else would I have got from a marriage? Everybody needs a child for the obsequies, and I have you. I know you will discharge your duties well.” 

“Stop, Man! Don’t say anything further! How can I ever live without you?”Anurag cries out with folded hands.

A few days later, Gopa met with an accident. Anurag rushed to the hospital on hearing the news. Gopa was unconscious. She had lost a lot of blood. Anurag wailed and requested the doctors to save his mother’s life.  Gopa was an epitome of resilience. She lived her life on her own terms. She had no regrets and no qualms in accepting Anurag as her child. A woman, who put up a strong fight all her life, could not be defeated so easily by death! Gopa regained consciousness, and saw Anurag’s tear-soaked face. She called Anurag near her and gave him Sumay’s address. She asked him to send a telegram to Sumay informing about her. Anurag didn’t understand, but he did as Gopa instructed him. Gopa’s condition was deteriorating. Anurag was distraught. In the meanwhile, Sumay reached out and headed straight to meet Gopa. This is the day that Gopa had waited for all her life! “This is my son, Anurag,” Gopa tells Sumay. “He has lost his parents and I don’t want him to be alone. You have to take care of him, Sumay, after I am gone.” 

Tears roll down Sumay’s eyes. In a trembling voice he assures that he will take care of Sumay. 

“I did not call you here only for this, Sumay, I want to reveal the truth to you.” Anurag wants to leave the room but Gopa gestures him to stay back. “You know why I refused to marry you the day you proposed to me? So that I can see you on a day like this!” Sumay could not comprehend what Gopa intended to say. He looks at Gopa, clueless. “I was told, I am destined to be a widow, losing the man within days of marriage. I never wanted to lose you, Sumay, never in any condition. But this is what the lines on my palms prophesied.” Gopa cries like a child. All her life she wrapped her emotions under a smile only to let it out today. 

Sumay is stunned. “Gopa, you wasted your whole life for a mere superstitious prediction? You lived on silently with the pain of ugly rumours and gossips?” Sumay failed to bear with it. 

Gopa regains her composure. “Had you not come, I couldn’t have shared this with anyone. The untold agony would have receded into silence forever. So much bliss! I feel peace within.”

Gopa became silent! Winter froze on her soft lips. She winged away from the encaged slavery of all rumours and swampy gossips. Anurag stood there, tears welling up in his eyes. He wanted to scream aloud and tell the world the last words of his mother. His mother was a speechless mountain, who kept alive a thousand wounds, but never uttered a word to anybody. Anurag wanted to wail, but couldn’t, and was slowly turning into a silent mountain himself!

Dr. Kanakalata Hathi is a renowned writer from Odisha, India. For the last three decades she has been writing stories that show her deep and sensitive brooding over life and society. Her stories are collected in two anthologies, Nirbaka Pahada (Speechless Mountain) and Kuhudi Ghara (The House of Mist). She has also translated regional writers into Odia, a language that has been granted the status of a classical language by the Government of India.

Suchona Patnaik is a doting mother, a caring housewife and a PhD research scholar from India. She is keen on translating Odia stories to English for wider redearship of the rich Odia literature. This translated story is a small attempt in that pursuit.

organic chemistry; prelude in b sharp

August 1, 2019 in Poetry, Spanish

By Laura Yasan
Translated, from the Spanish, by Phoebe Carter 

 

organic chemistry

all the time it takes the heart to forget music
and get used to the sound of dead leaves
emitted by memory when it moves on

all the time it takes to divide
impure strands of oxygen
earthquake’s heartbeat
signals in the fault

all the time it takes its obedient angel to react
his blue mouth against the night
that dark gush running through the scar
like a fish in mystery’s riverbed

all the time it takes the carbon cycle
to rot
and burn its tree trunk below the nape

a silk rug rubbed on cheeks
the tongue floating in a swamp
and it’s a salt kiss on the wound
all the time it takes the heart
to let you go

prelude in b sharp

so let them tie me
to a hospital bed
let a mute nurse open her pillbox every twenty minutes
let her play me chopin’s preludes
at six in the evening when the mercury blows
and my body is the sheath of a dragon trained
for great numbers of fire

let her rub anesthesia on my gums
and sew up my lips
and twice a day give me a hundred-volt shock
if my arms don’t let go
if I repeat that name

let her say a prayer over my heart
so it doesn’t wake up on me

and the hours shape the spaces
where oblivion might hold it back

_

Born in Buenos Aires in 1960, Laura Yasan has published twelve books of poetry and anthologies, including ripio, awarded the Municipal Poetry Prize of La Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires in 2005; la llave marilyn, awarded the Casa de las Americas prize in 2009; and animal de presa, awarded the Carmen Conde prize in 2011.Her work has been partially translated into English, German, French and Italian.

She lives in Buenos Aires where she runs writing workshops in prisons, libraries, nursing homes, and virtually through her program “Palabra Virtual.”

 

Phoebe Carter is a graduate student of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She earned her BA from Kenyon College in 2017, where she began studying translation with Kate Hedeen.

UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME

August 1, 2019 in Fiction

Original by Clara Dawson

I.

It isn’t all that bad I guess. Being a dog. You never have to worry about where your next meal comes from and there’s always someone to pick up your shit. The people I live with are nice enough. My dog house doesn’t leak when it rains. I guess the one bad thing about being a dog is that I wasn’t always a dog. I came into my canine career relatively late in my human one. 42 times around the Sun in a man’s body does little to prepare the one for a life on four legs.

Of course, I didn’t choose this existence. Human or dog. Both are rather miserable in The City. But as a man, I was among my own. People knew me by a human name before all this. Knew my favorite color and favorite Fable stories. However trivial, knowing these things made City life a little less depressing. 

Sometimes I think about everything that has led up to the very second of time I’m currently living- the hundreds of years and thousands of people that have existed in The City before me. Fable has it that there used to be a world unlike anything The City has ever known. Plants used to grow. They weren’t plastic, they were alive. Humans and animals would “breed” and create new beings all on their own. Then of course humans messed it up and polluted the Earth and practically killed everything off. 600 years ago The City was founded right as the old world was going under. People called scientist figured out how to synthesize all the stuff that made up the air and water and food. And promised a self-sufficient world free from pollution problems. Five Revolutions later and The City looks a lot like it does now: synthetic factories run by the Lowers whose products are enjoyed by the Uppers.

Everything comes out of those factories- plants, clothes, food, babies. Before this whole dog business I worked the belt in a factory that produced plastic lawn ornaments. All got shipped over The River of course. The Lowers have no use for plastic lawn ornaments, we’ve never had lawns. No, it’s has been a sea of high rise apartments packed to the brim for as long as anyone can remember. The River is a remainder of the old world. Its waters were polluted beyond repair about 1,000 years ago. Everything defective gets dumped in there (and disintegrates immediately). Personally The River has never bothered me. It’s a comfort really to see its faint green glow at night.

Across The River are the neatly organized neighborhoods of the Uppers. The bridges across the River are tightly guarded by the Policía. They are synthesized to make sure the Lowers don’t cross. They’re constantly trying to quash the Fable from being told but they’re never successful of course. No one knows what language they speak. The Fable says it’s probably something called Span-ish, an old world language. A lot of Lowers think they speak it because it’s easier to kill us. They can’t understand us when we’re begging to be spared.

Anyways- The River. No one, Lower or Upper, goes across that thing. Unless of course, you’re like me. Once man, now dog. Or cat or bird or whatever damn animals the Uppers want to be entertained with. The City doesn’t have any animals. Not in the old world sense. People have been trying to synthesize them for centuries but none of them (or their DNA) survived the ultimate collapse of the old world. People wanted their damn animals though. The earliest Fable story that references transformation uses the date 2212 so some people think it’s about 400 years old. No one knows the process but the Uppers have found a way to turn humans into animals. All the Uppers have to do is put in a request and a Lower is selected for transformation.

Most of the time it’s just a few people a year for house companions. Sometimes they need to “boost Upper morale” and a whole herd of people are rounded up to be in a Circus. Fable stories that are only whispered in the dark tell of periods when Lowers were transformed for Upper consumption. That’s banned now, we think.

I figured things couldn’t get that much worse than my existence as a Lower. Then, a few weeks ago, the Policía yanked me from my cot in the middle of the night. I knew better than to scream. A family had put in a request for a dog, one for their little kid to ride around on. I had been chosen for transformation.

 

II.

Here’s what I know: someone knocks you out and you wake up with fur. A fat, sweaty man briefly tells you how to act like a “dog”. If you don’t do it, you go into The River. I tried to talk back but a bark came out.

“Good,” he faintly smiled, “you’re catching on already.”

He walked me outside of where I was being held. I was across the River.

We strolled down perfectly gridded streets. Even though I had some idea of how the Uppers lived, the space they had astounded me. The Lower part of The City was crammed. People lived in every nook and cranny they could find. I shared my room with 7 other people. We took turns sleeping on the cot. Here, it was two Uppers to a house. A house! The perfectly square lawns squeaked under the man’s shoes. I forgot I wasn’t wearing shoes, or that I had feet at all. I had paws. I barked in surprise. The man yanked my leash.

“Shut up Lower. Don’t talk unless you’re asked to.”

We walked up to a house with a white door and the man rang the bell. I have no clue how the man knew which house to go to, they all looked the same to me. The houses stretched for miles in every direction as far as I could tell. Another fat sweaty man opened the door.

“Mr. S, nice to see you. Is this the companion we requested?”

“Mr. X, very nice to see you. Yes this is the requested companion. He is already programmed.”

The leash transferred hands and I was pulled inside.

 

III.

I couldn’t have made that house up if I tried. I’d never seen so much space in my life. So much…shit. The plastic lamps and plastic couch were so clean they shone. Everything looked brand new and fresh out of a factory. The plastic came in colors I didn’t even know existed. It was so unlike the room I slept in I barked again. Mr. X smacked me on the nose

“Rule one, no barking inside. Or outside for that matter.”

A small girl stood at the foot of the bright pink stairs.

“Is that my doggy?” she asked looking at me

Mr. X beamed and handed the leash to her.

“Here you go. It’s yours.”

All I wanted to do was sulk in my dog house and lament the fact that I was a damn dog. But I had this image in my head of a large black shaggy animal tumbling into the green glow of The River. I guess being a dog is better than not being anything at all.

So I did whatever the family wanted me to. It was mostly the girl that requested I do anything at all. Every day we sat down in front of her little plastic doll house- an exact replica of her own home- and she talked to me about the people living in there. I couldn’t respond of course but that didn’t matter.

Mr. X and Mrs. X (who did not acknowledge my existence) left the house every morning and came back mid-afternoon. The girl told me she didn’t know where they went but that it was very important and one day she would do what they do. I was supposed to sit with her every day while she watched her Programming shows. Most of the time I would doze off while she recited lines back to the screen. From what I could glean, the Upper Counsel’s word was like the Fable. Every Upper had to do their part or The City would meet the same fate as the old world blah blah blah. There was never any mention of Lowers or anything across The River.

I figured that living here was going to be better than living as a Lower. I had space and enough to eat. It should’ve been fine. But truthfully the whole existence was fucking boring. Nothing ever happened. No one ever talked to each other. There were no gatherings to tell Fable stories or factory jokes or a closeness that comes with sharing a cot. The family ate together every night then watched Programming and went to bed. Every Sunday Mr. X would use the grill to synthesize food while Mrs. X laid across a plastic lawn chair. The girl would ride me around the yard. Every Sunday we would do this along with every other house in the entire neighborhood.

Then last night I had a dream about my brother. I haven’t seen him in years. He used to steal the little plastic clippings from his factory and bring them back home to build little miniature replicas of The City with. He got transferred to some factory on the very Eastern side of The City and I haven’t seen or heard from him since. But last night, I had this dream about him.

We were back in our room. It was filled knee deep with plastic clippings. The Policía kicked in the door and tore him away from me. His screams turned into a terrible guttural bellow. They had turned him into a cow. I knew he was going across The River. I knew he was going to be slaughtered.

I know I can’t stay here. In this house with these people in The City. I have to escape.

 

IV.

There’s nothing to do but run. It’s night now, after dinner. The X’s have thrown me outside to sleep in the dog house and gone to bed. So has everyone else in the neighborhood. I figure I’ll follow the street I came in on but in the opposite direction, away from The River.

The Policía roam the neighborhood from time to time after dark. Their shiny plastic carrier sometimes squeaks down my street, interrupting fitful dreams. But tonight the streets are silent. Plastic street lights are few and far between- a blessing. There is little cover except the pockets of darkness and occasional hedge. No one goes out after dark. I learned that from watching Programming with the girl.

Ah the girl. I forgot about her. Not that I’d grown particularly fond of her or anything but she’ll miss me no doubt. I felt sorry for her really, cooped up in that shiny house with no one to talk to but a scruffy old dog.

It’s lucky really that I’m a black dog. White fur would have been a little more noticeable. I duck behind a hedge as a carrier creaks by. I can hear them chatter softly from inside. Their language is so strange and unfamiliar. I wonder what they talk about amongst themselves. I wonder what it feels like to kill another person.

The carrier passes and I move on. My paws pad across plastic lawns of identical houses. The story that the crazy old man who lives on the ground floor of my building likes to tell keeps running through my head.

The Wall. Yes, everyone knows The Wall. Encircling The City, keeping out all the pollution from the old world. Outside it is decimation, disease, death. Nothing lives beyond The Wall. But the old man denies this. He says no, we’re wrong. His family founded The City, his family were once scientists! He knows it’s been long enough! The old world! It has been cleaned of all pollution and filth! It is a new world!

Everyone wishes he would just shut up. Some people say he disrespects the Fable with his words, me included. But I’m not me, I’m a dog and the only thing cycling through my head are his words.

“A new world! A new world!”

 

V.

I have been running all night, dodging the occasional carrier. The houses are becoming larger but there are fewer of them. I am beginning to panic. The sky is becoming lighter and lighter with each block of streets. I know they will find me and I will become a part of The River. I know they will find me and I will become a cow for slaughter and suddenly I have so much hatred for the Uppers

The houses surrounding me have become massive buildings reminiscent of Lower City buildings except shiny and clean and empty. I suspect this is where Mr. and Mrs. X go when they leave the house. I peer through a window and see rows and rows and rows and rows of children. They all look like they’re asleep, suspended upright in tanks of viscous blue fluid. I get the hell out of there.

Suddenly I hit something solid in front of me. It looks as if the buildings keep going on forever but something is definitely blocking my path. I sniff. It smells different here than the air from the last block of buildings. I guess this must be The Wall.

I dig. The plastic lawn shreds easily underneath my paws. I’m surprised at the efficiency of my two front legs. Soon I have a hole big enough to slip under. An alarm sounds. Something in Span-ish is pumped over invisible speakers. The Policía will be here in seconds. I shimmy quickly through the hole and I’m struck by the darkness of the other side. Nighttime again?

I don’t really have time to think because the Policía are right outside the hole, yelling something. The fry of their tasers is almost deafening.

I run.

Not the little trot I was doing through the neighborhood. But for the first time a full out, four legged run. It feels so good.

I can still hear the alarm from inside The City. The bastards are shooting at me! Their guns have a distinct popping that every Lower learns is the sound of death by the time they can walk.

I run and run and run and run for so long I forget what it’s like to walk. My head is pounding and my brother’s screams play over and over again in my head.

My legs give out and I go down. I guess it’s a better end than The River.

 

VI.

Everything is green. It’s brilliant. Blinding. I’m so disoriented but know I need water. I lift my head up and look around.

“He’s awake,” someone murmurs.

My eyes refocus and my senses come back to me. There is a semi-circle of people around me. One of them offers me a cup and I claw for it. But it’s a hand. My hand.

I put the cup to my lips and sip. The cup isn’t plastic and the water is the most delicious thing to ever touch my tongue.

I’m human I think, or close to it. Tufts of thick black fur stick out all over my body. I grab a chunk and it falls off easily into my hand. I notice I’ve shed my claws and they’re scattered around me on the ground.

“The transformation mechanism only works inside The Wall,” explains an elderly woman directly in front of me. She asks what my name is.

“Cy,” I tell her.

“Drink up,” she tells me, “then I’ll answer all your questions”.

I took another sip.

“Where am I?”

“You escaped The City. Well done,” she chuckles.

I blink at her. I sort of assumed I was dead.

“And so you are…”

“I escaped too. 13 years ago. We all did.” She gestures to the 4 other people crouched around me and they nod and murmur in agreement.

Their faces didn’t give away if they are Uppers or Lowers.

“But how? Why? The outside…we shouldn’t be alive.” I sounded like an idiot.

“Ah. Yes, the Fable,” she nodded, “it was true at one time I suppose. But the old world has changed. A rebirth.” 

I considered my surroundings again. The green really was astounding. The color of Upper plastic. But I realize quickly it isn’t plastic… old world plants? Growing plants?

Before me lay a world unimaginable back behind The Wall. Plants of every height, width and color. Overhead stretches plants as tall as my old apartment building. Small tiny little creatures buzz in the air. To my right I notice a river. This one doesn’t glow green. It seems as clear and light as air.

“Come on,” says the woman, “We’ll show you our home.”

A young man with ruddy cheeks and dark hair helps me to my feet and hands me some sort of garment. “Might want to put this on,” he says and winks at me.

I forgot you don’t need clothes when you’re a dog. I’m completely naked.

 

VII.

I walk with the group through the tall plants and up over a hill. Below, in a clearing next to the river, is a group of small brown structures.

On the way down the hill, the woman, named Sima, and Iev, the younger man, explained to me that everyone living in the settlement had escaped The City. There were a mix of Uppers and Lowers, even a member of the Upper Counsel, but that no body went by those terms anymore. Everyone here was the same, driven by the same desire to be free of The City. Free from any type of division or fear.

Sima and Iev introduced me to the rest of the settlement and I recognized him right away. His face surfaced in my dreams time and time again.

Bo. My own brother.

I had convinced myself I was never going to see him again, swallowed up by the factories, The City. But here he was, standing before me, looking slightly older and nothing like a cow.

We embraced and I can’t remember the last time I felt something as solid and real and alive as his body.

I wanted to know everything. Where he was transferred to, what happened after he left, how did he escape?

He recounted the missing years over dinner with the whole settlement. He was working in the factory one day when the Policía took him. He was transformed into a dog just like me. But when he got to the intended house, the Upper that requested him revealed that he was planning to escape The City. He had requested a dog so it could dig underneath The Wall and they could slip out. He told Bo that he had a choice, he could follow him under The Wall or stay within The City. When the time came, Bo went with him.

“He’s just down there at the end of the table,” Bo pointed at a man with furrowed brows deep in conversation with Sima.

After dinner, everyone went to bed. I slept with Bo outside.

“Just like our old cot,” he said and grinned.

 

As I was dozing off Sima came and woke me up. She said the others all agreed I could stay if I could do my part in keeping the settlement alive. Help with the planting and cooking. Stuff like that. She reminded me the settlement only works because everyone is here willingly and want to use this land. She asked me if I could live this sort of life.

I listened to Bo as he quietly slept beside me and I listened to the river bubbling over stones and rocks and plants and I took in a deep breath of clean, unpolluted air and smiled.

“Yes,” I said, “I’d like to try.”

Clara Dawson is a recent graduate from the University of California San Diego’s Anthropology department. Currently, she’s enjoying her gap year as an intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Her favorite authors are Ray Bradbury and Patricia Highsmith.

Letter from the Editor

March 19, 2019 in Letter from the editor

Dear Readers,

There is a conventional way to write this letter: charming, urbane, and well-mannered. In many ways that letter was easier, dictated by a series of expectations. But that draft felt too polished. It kept sliding away from the work.

A word I’ve learned to sit with in the past year is “irreducible.” Maybe this is a word you have navigated, too, this past year in our chaotic landscape. It is very obvious, from San Diego (one half of a marvelous and uneasy international conurbation), that translation sits here in the irreducible as well. I do not want to be an ungracious host to any of you.

And our writers and translators have imagined so many “yous” in this issue: loved yous, strange yous, dead yous, absent-but-present yous, ancient yous, invisible yous. No single you is reducible to any other; you/I/we are nonetheless invited into the intimate space left in the roundness of the word. The fundamental reaching-out of the translational act is so evident in all of these works––between emotion and language, between writer and work, between translator and writer.

It is good to remember that connection and community can be irreducible!

Many of our translators submitted several pieces that demanded to be seen together. Ethan Chua’s translations of five Abner Dormiendo poems build a dreamily melancholy narrative worth lingering in; David Allen Sullivan’s co-translations with several authors launch a poetic investigation into the costs of war; Yasmín Rojas’s translations of three Ángel José Fernández poems superimpose the emotional body and an imagined geography; Arshiya Seen’s translations of Sara Shagufta contrast registers of language to evoke a bodily response in the reader; Elijah Armstrong manages to encompass a new approach to 18th century English translation and 12th century Chinese balladry; and Nolan Dannels similarly crosses time in his high-register translation of Gérard de Nerval.

Thank you for being with us.

See you elsewhere in the irreducible spaces,
Iliria Osum

 

Antipolo is still in Antipolo (and four other poems)

March 19, 2019 in Poetry, Tagalog

Original by Abner Dormiendo
Translated, from the Tagalog, by Ethan Chua

Antipolo is still in Antipolo

In Antipolo I started my studies

In Antipolo, maybe we’ll live together 

In Antipolo, they’ve put up many resorts

I still go home to Antipolo

Sa Antipolo pa rin ang Antipolo

 

Sa Antipolo Ako Unang Nag-aral


Sa Antipolo Siguro Tayo Titira Nang Magkasama

 

Sa Antipolo Maraming Nakatayong Resort

Sa Antipolo pa rin Ako Umuuwi

Abner Dormiendo is a writer and a teacher from the Philippines who graduated with a degree in philosophy in Ateneo de Manila University. He received the Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature last 2015 for his poetry in Filipino. His other works, both in English and Filipino, appeared in High Chair, Plural Prose Journal, and Heights Ateneo, among others.

Ethan Chua is a Chinese-Filipino spoken word poet and scholar-activist. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart prize and published in The Journal, Strange Horizons and Hobart. His graphic novel, Doorkeeper, is available in Philippine bookstores. He is happily part of the Stanford Spoken Word Collective.

 

Breaking News: Mass Grave Found Near… (and two other poems)

March 19, 2019 in Arabic, Poetry

Originals by Kadham Khanjar, Areej Dawara, and Malik Al-batly
Co-translated, from the Arabic, by authors and David Allen Sullivan

 

Breaking News: Mass Grave Found Near…
Kadhem Khanjar

Yesterday
I went to the Coroner’s Office.
They asked for a DNA sample,
and told me they found some unidentified bones.
Every time I hear that I rotate on the knife of hope, like a stuck orange.
I am home now, brother, dusting the plastic flowers around your photo, wetting them with tears.
The medical report says the sack of bones I signed for are “you.” 

Too little. I empty them on the table. Catalogue them again:
a skull, a clavicle, three ribs, a shattered femur, a pile of metacarpi, and a dice roll of vertebrae.
How can these be a brother?
but the medical report confirms it is.
I put the bones back in the sack,
dust off my hands, blow the remainder from the table, hoist you on my back and leave.
On the bus I place you next to me and pay for two seats. (Yes, I’m paying this time.)
I’m old enough to carry you on my back and pay your fare. 

I do not inform anyone what I’ve received.
I watch your wife and children pass by the couch where I’ve set you down.
I want one of them to open the sack,
to see you one last time,
but you’re stubborn to the bone. 

Later, they wonder about the wet marks on the couch.
For an hour, I had arranged the wet bones in a makeshift coffin, trying to complete you.
Only the shiny nail heads knew that this was too little.

 

Night, Alone Again
Areej Dawara

She’s a child looking for the cave,
the beautiful cave
where they buried the pelican.

She used to suck her toes . . .
but I . . .
I’m no longer her.

*

You, my lover, left without a bag, and I had to
exhume the memory of sky from my hair
so the stares of strangers
wouldn’t spill down my back.

The ground will never lose
the touch of your feet.

You’ve never left here.

*

My grandmother never told us
a story of how war eats children.

She didn’t. I don’t believe
for a second in the boogie man.

I don’t. My eyes grow wheat-
patterned wallpaper. It’s what
I stared at. The ground

will never lose the touch of my feet.

I’ve never left this country.

*

The trees, fallen, cut into lengths,
but never to be split, are set on fire
in front of an amputated wooden leg.

I make myself stare into your eyes
so I don’t shake when September’s burned
in front of our immigrant houses.

*

Your jacket’s my only tent,
your hands are the poles.

I plant them in my body,
stabbing one end in the sand
the other in my veins
to stop my shaking.

There.

It’s done.

But how can this Syrian war
lick the forehead of every other man
without ever touching yours?

*

I’m like the night’s panic hours,
afraid to remember the light.

I fight not to sleep, afraid
he’ll enter through my dreams.

*

The war’s thin.
Your fingers run under my skin
like needles.

Chopped flesh
is no longer soft,
just an ugly white mass.

How helpless I am
to straighten a bent cloud.

I’m skinny
as a metal bedrail.

My fingers are stuck to the rust
coloring its upper parts.

You held love for only a moment.

You never let go.

*

The sand’s stuffed with blood
like a song stuck in my throat.

Your smile
knocks down doors
which fear the traveling wind.

The doors are aged
like second hand crutches,
like bitter candy
after it’s lost its color,
like the hand that lets go of
the small animal it caught
so it won’t drown it.

*

Your face is a still and stagnant sea
which won’t kneel before the sky.

Put down your eyes calmly
like a strangled cigarette.

*

You are leaving without a bag.

My features have became mere words.

The mirage of meandering streets,
the chewing of bread in many mouths,
the sleeping cats that will never
be swollen with kittens—
no one and nothing is sheltered here.

I’ll let my child die inside me
so no one will be able to kill it.

 

Oh Al-Taf…
Malik Al-batly

Al-Taf faltered,
the light died,

its dead shadows
were encased in sand.

Until then I hadn’t known
light could be slaughtered.

Oh Al-Taf!

Do you remember our tent,
the ridgepole snapped like a spar?

Do you remember the eyes of the people,
all painted red?

But they still held their heads high,
no one could approach their high rank.

Oh Al-Taf…

like a nymph
from paradise
you made us ask painful questions,
you said the last text
was thirst
for earth.

Oh Al-Taf,
injured dove being slain,
jerking its neck from the pain.

Blood smiled in the hand of a great man from Hashim’s family—
bloodline a gift from Allah—for Allah.

The tears of the sky will never dry,
oh Al-Taf.

The last poem came out as a cry.
It tried to hug itself to verses
but it had no words.

The last river tried to enter
and hug another river
but it had no arms.

I had never seen two rivers
burn together.

I’d never heard a poem
wail for a verse without words.

I remember the stories from long ago:
whenever one of the children
fell in battle

Al-Montathar fell
in front of Zainab’s tent.  

 

عاجل : العثور على مقبرة جماعية بالقرب …”

البارحة ذهبت إلى الطب العدلي. طلبوا بصمة مطابقة للحمض النووي. قالوا أنهم عثروا على بعض العظام مجهولة الهوية. وفي كل مرةٍ أدور مثل برتقالة على سكينة الأمل.

الآن أنا في المنزل يا أخي، أمسح الغبار عن الزهور الاصطناعية التي تحيط صورتك، وأسقيها بالدموع.

* * *

يقول التقرير الطبي بأن كيس العظام الذي وقّعتُ على استلامه اليوم هوأنت“. ولكن هذا قليل. نثرتُهُ على الطاولة أمامهم. أعدنا الحساب: جمجمة بستة ثقوب، عظم ترقوة واحد، ثلاث أضلاع زائدة، فخذٌ مهشّمة، كومة أرساغ، وبعض الفقرات.

هل يمكن لهذا القليل أن يكون أخاً؟

يشير التقرير الطبي إلى ذلك. أعدتُ العظام إلى الكيس. نفضتُ كفيَّ من التراب العالق فيهما، ثم نفختُ بالتراب الباقي على الطاولة، وضعتكَ على ظهري، وخرجت.

* * *

في الباص أجلستُ الكيس إلى جانبي. دفعت أُجرة لمقعدين (هذه المرة أنا الذي يدفع). اليوم كبرتُ بما فيه الكفاية كي أحملكَ على ظهري وأدفع عنك الأجرة.

* * *

لم أُخبر أحداً بأني استلمت هذا القليل. أُراقب زوجتك وأطفالك يمروّن بالقرب من الكنبة التي تركتكَ عليها. أردتُ أن يفتح الكيس أحدهم. وددت أن يروكَ للمرة الأخيرة. لكنك كنت عنيدا حدّ العظم. فيما بعد تساءلوا عن بقعة الدمع التي على الكنبة…!

* * *

منذ ساعة وأنا أرتّب هذه العظام الرطبة في بطن التابوت، محاولا اكمالك. وحدها تدري المسامير التي على الجانبين بأن هذا قليل.

 

اللبل مرة أخرى

هنا يوء د البجع

الطفلة التي كانت تمص أصابع قدميها

لم تعد تشبهني

لإنك ستمضي بلا حقيبة

نبشت سماء الحنين من شعري

حتى لاتسيل النجوم على ظهري

لن تفقد فوق هذه الأرض قدميك

لم ترحل من هنا

……

لم تقرا جدتي لنا حكاية الحرب التي تأكل الأطفال

مادمنا لم نصدق يوما

أن الغول سيظهر على الغطاء

مادامت عيناك تزرع القمح ليلا على الجدار

لن تفقد فوق هذه الأرض قدميك

لما ترحل من هنا

……

الأشجار التي لم تقطع بعد

تحترق أمام ساق مبتورة

كان علي أن أنظر في عينيك

حتى لا أرتجف حين يحترق أيلول أمام بيوتنا المهاجرة

…..

معطفك  خيمتي الوحيدة

يداك أوتاد أغرسها في جسدي

بالرمل في عروقي

حتى لاأرتجف..

هناك ..

حيث الحرب تلعق جبين كل رجل

دون أن تطال جبينك

…………….

الليل ساعات فزعة

تغلق عينيها بشدة

حتى لاتذكر الضوء فتبكي

………..

أسحب الخنجر من أحشائي بصمت

دون أن أمسح الوهم النازف من بطني

حتى لاألمس جسدي بحنان مجددا

أوأستعير خبال يدك

………….

الحرب نحيلة

اصابعك تسري في جسدي كإبرة

اللحم المتقطع لم يعد أملسا

هو كتل بيضاء قبيحة

كم بدت عاجزا عن مسد غيمة

أنا نحيلة

كسرير حديدي صدأ

التصقت على أجزائه العلوية بقايا أصابع

أمسكت بلحظة حب ولم تفلتها

……………………..زز

الرمل يغص بالدماء

كتلك الأغنية العالقة في حلقي

وحدها ابتسامتك

تصرع الأبواب الخائفة من سفر الريح

رغم أنها كبرت كخشب العكاز

كمرار الحلوى التي لم تعد ملونة

كاليد التي أفلتت ذلك الشيء الطافي الصغير

حتى لاتغرقه

………………….

وجهك هذا البحر الراكد الذي لن ينصاع للسماء

أطفئ عينيك بهدوء

كما أفعل حين أخنق سجائري

………………..

لأنك ستمضي بلا حقيبة

ولإن ملامحي باتت مجرد كلمات

الشوارع وهمية

الخبز المتعجن

القطط النائمة لن تلد صغارها

لاملاذ لها هنا

سأدع طفلي يموت في بطني

حتى لايقتل.

…………………………………………..

 

نعم .. سأرسلها لك للغة أيضا

لقَد عثرَ الطَفُّ وذُبحَ الضوءُ

وماتتْ الظِلال

في حضنِ الرِمال !

وإلى الآنَ لم أَكن أعرف أنَّ الضوءَ يُذبح!

آهٍ

أيُّها الطفُّ

لقد إنكسرَ غصنُ الخَيمة وباتت عيونُ القطيعِ ناراً

وما زالت إلى الآن شامخة ولم يَهتك سترُها أحدٌ!!

آهٍ أيّها الطفُّ

مثلَ حوريةٍ سقطت من شجرةِ الفِردوس

وفتحت جرحَ السؤال بينَ حوافرِ الخَيلِ

وهي تَتلو آخرَ آياتِ العَطشِ

على وجهِ التُراب !

آهٍ أيُّها الطفُّ

هُنا نُحِرَ جناحُ حمامةٍ مكلوم

يرفرفُ وسط حرارةِ الآخ

ودمه المبستمُ بكف عامودِ آلِ هاشِمٍ قربانٌ لوجهِ السَماء

وإلى الآنَ لم ترشحْ دموعُ السَماء!

آهٍ أيُّها الطفُّ

وهناكَ تنوحُ آخرُ قصيدةٍ

تعانقُ الشعرَ بلا كلِمات

وآخرُ نهرٍ يُعانقُ نهراً بلا ذِراعين

وإلى الآنَ

لم أرَ نهراً بقربِ نهرٍ يَحترق !

ولم أرَ قصيدةً تخرجُ عن النصِ وتعانقُ أَبياتَها وهي بلا أَكفٍ..

والى الانَ..

الى الانَ

كلّما وقعَ طفلٌ في ارضِ المَعركة يتعثرُ المنتظرُ في خيمةِ زَينب.

مالك البطلي | شاعر وكاتب عراقي

 

Kadhem Khanjar is a modern poet from Iraq. He is part of a ten poet collective from Babil province who recently recited their poetry in a field full of unexploded mines.  This collective of poets from the center of Iraq, have conducted a series of performances based on the theme of the violence that is destroying their homeland. During these performances, they literally flirt with death. 

Areej Dawara is a filmmaker, novelist, and poet from Damascus, Syria. She recently received her Diploma in Cinema. Al-lail marra okhra, her Arabic poetry collection, was published in 2016, and she has published novels and short stories as well. She has written: “As a poet, I put my faith in words, so that they can touch souls and bridge the distances between us.”  

Malik Al-Batly is an Iraqi poet and writer from Basra province. He’s written short stories and news articles as well as poems, and has been published in Arab and Turkish newspapers. He studied painting at the College of Fine Arts, but now devotes his attention solely to writing.  

David Allen Sullivan’s books include: Strong-Armed Angels, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a book of co-translation with Abbas Kadhim from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet, and Black Ice. He won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing, and his book of poems about the year he spent as a Fulbright lecturer in China, Seed Shell Ash, is forthcoming from Salmon Press. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his family. His poetry website is: https://dasulliv1.wixsite.com/website-1, a modern Chinese co-translation project is at: https://dasulliv1.wixsite.com/website-trans, and he’s searching for a publisher for an anthology of poetry about the paintings of Bosch and Bruegel he edited with his art historian mother who died recently. 

Unsent Letter (and two other poems)

March 19, 2019 in Poetry, Spanish

Originals by Ángel José Fernández
Translated, from the Spanish, by Yasmín Rojas

Unsent letter

[A terrestrial message]
… love towards cherished ones is in you a lot more than in me. In you, it is a daily state, in me
it flowers after many tough fights with my bad
angel.

Lucila Godoy Alcayaga,
Letter to Manuel Magallanes Moure

I have, Angel for a name, a bad angel
that pushes me in its woes to the abysm.
It arrives and it mounts. It climbs the villages’ mountains
it plows through the backs of clouds, it travels through an air boat;
it governs my force: it confronts me with my bottomless reigns.

The day of the dissension from the heights you knew your fear,
of foliage and irrational nerve, and darkened forests.
Does it come from your house, of buried sidereal roots,
from the backyard or the garden? The camouflage comes with you,
placing a chain on your foot, silence to your silences.

Where is that well? Hidden between mists?
Under interior, reddened skin? Between your livid and fresh hands?
In the flushed shadow of the pine forest, and childhood hill?
It arrives and it mounts, that fear is agile, it gets tangled up with your step,
that avoids thickets, short cuts and wishes.

I have, Angel for a name, a devil against time,
a puddle made of dreams and courage.

 

Before you

Before you, a flood.

After you, shipwreck and orphan hood
upon the sea of your eyes, water islands.

There is no tempest or calmness in the premonition,
only silence and gleam with no words.

 

Antilitany

I will not find a  new sea
in the island of your eyes.

I will not carve your ruin in this earth
that will only cover me a night.

My arms will not embrace
the moon’s agony.

I will stay in the shadow of your eyes.

 

Carta no enviada

[UN RECADO TERRESTRE]
…el amor a los seres está en Ud. mucho, mucho más que en mí. En Ud. es estado cotidiano, en mí florece después de luchas reñidas con mi ángel malo.

Lucila Godoy Alcayaga:
Carta a Manuel Magallanes Moure

Tengo, Ángel de nombre, un ángel malo
que me empuja en sus lances al abismo.
Viene y cabalga. Trepado va en los montes de la aldea,
surca en lomos de nube, viaja en un barco aéreo.
Mis ímpetus gobierna. Me enfrenta a sus dominios insondables

Aquel día del descenso a las alturas supiste de tu miedo,
de fronda y nervio irracional, y anochecidos bosques.
¿Proviene de tu casa, de enterradas raíces siderales,
del traspatio o del huerto? Aquí vienen contigo los embozos,
ponen cadena al pie, silencio a tus silencios.

¿Dónde estará ese pozo entre neblinas escondido?
¿Bajo piel interior, enrojecida? ¿Entre tus manos lívidas y frescas?
¿En la encendida sombra del pinar de la infancia?
Viene y cabalga, es ágil ese miedo; se enreda con tu paso,
que esquiva matorrales, atajos y deseos.

Tengo, Ángel de nombre, un diablo contra el tiempo,
un charco hecho de sueños y coraje.

 

Antes de ti

Antes de ti, el diluvio.

Después de ti, naufragios y orfandades
frente al mar de tus ojos, islas de agua.

No hay tempestad ni calma en el presagio,
sólo silencio y brillo sin palabras.

 

Antiletanía 

No hallaré nuevo mar
en la isla de tus ojos.

No labraré tu ruina en esta tierra
que sólo ha de cubrirme en una noche.

No abarcarán mis brazos
la agonía de la luna.

Me quedaré en la sombra de tus ojos.

Ángel José Fernández was born in 1953 in Xalapa, Veracruz. He has published several poetry books. He is currently an academic in the PhD program of Latinamerican literature in the Universidad Veracruzana.

Yasmín Rojas Pérez was born in 1991 in Mexico City and is a Master’s graduate in Mexican Literature and translator.

My Three Flowers Are Thirsty (and two other poems)

March 19, 2019 in Arabic, Poetry

Original by Sara Shagufta
Translated, from the Urdu, by Arshi Yaseen

 

My Three Flowers are Thirsty

Falling of the mother’s tears to the ground
Is mere a thing of fun for the folks around
I’ve only seven days left to meet the death
The farewell shouldn’t be something like that!
The motherly hand is going to rest,
The tales would be weaved by my clothing’s thread
Thou don’t wail, as so much depressed is my blood
Thou don’t need to shower petals over my gravestone
As, the departed eyes would continue to live somewhere around

Maniac I wasn’t but they’re
Who stepped into my blood
I wish I could gift thee, wrapping my eyes
The eyes, which have been the most spendthrift
……………..
I had shared out a plenty of smiles
That my lips were bereaved of their own

Somebody shares food on my soul’s behalf
And himself starves
Someone carries my bier on the shoulders
And then goes past

Three flowers of my garland are left thirsty
Before then I get soften into the mud
Please do justice with me ___
Pardon me for my wrong ways,
I’m like a rope wavering in the well
That could burn to ashes
But couldn’t quench its thirstiness
On thy palms, I wish to put my eyes
And to many, I don’t even want to say goodbye

The Bridewell

Our half a torso is virtue and the other half is evil
And that’s the true human who honestly owns the whole

A supreme man-eater is a word
Subject thou to the bridewell

My arguments were a thing of fun for the folks
But I pleased much my dummy pretences
I continued to pilfer fortunes from the life’s selvedge
I never spent and distributed the whole coinage
I had been filling my flagons for the price
And my thirst costed me very high-priced

Someone told!
“Who born out of your wombs,
Because of your forbearance they had died:”
And the generous maid had to be exiled

Since the ocean begin to flow nearby
The children of my neighbourhood don’t go far away
Their mothers say
The ball is more expensive than the play
The tellers tell
Your mother is coughing
And costs four-annas even the empty bottle of the medicine
Either I’m the cause of her torment
Or the grave placed at somewhere land

The birth of a serpent-stone is a celebration too
But I have become more venomous than that
I cannot dance around my bead like heart

The peacock is crying for his feet
I’m crying for my humans
Whose fields’ wages are fixed up to the starvation

One more nail is driven into, when the shoes are damaged
So a new journey may be invented

Someone’s imaginary art-pieces will be paid off
And somebody might not even come up to perfection

Before the sunrise,
Instantly, the name of neighbourhood is changed
And the baby’s age is engraved on the gravestone

I was too used to think like the wooden-bars
I’d congratulate the departing one
And say good-bye to the coming one
Sculpt the bars so that we may create a new meaning of this imprison

 

O’ My Magnanimous God

The complainers always
Embraced me half-heartedly

While a human has two births
Then what is the purpose of this
Prolonged evening-interlude?

Living under my own watch
Made me dwindling
When the dogs sighted the Moon
They forgot to keep their clothing

Remained firm, even when I was severely hurt
But too repressed now under thy command
Hunting me, the solitude
O’ my magnanimous God
I kept praying to you even in the autumn season
But thou sentence the killer to keep slaying the killed one

I couldn’t bring home the unseen wild creeper
Then I engraved on my eyes’ jute-floor
I always would depart my body through the eyes
Then would return to life by the treads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sara Shagufta (1954-1984) was a Pakistani poet who wrote in Punjabi and Urdu.

Arshi Yaseen is a graduate in English Literature from Lahore, Pakistan. She loves to translate Urdu poetry into English. Her translations have appeared in Columbia Journal.