Poetry | On the Way Back by Alfredo Vanín Romero (trans. Robin Myers)

0
82
Colombia Profunda (Pedro Ruiz) D48cm Acrilic on Wood 2021

Alfredo Vanín Romero (trans. Robin Myers)


On the Way Back

We traced the path in our bodies. It seemed to lead nowhere, but the hope endures of finding another curve in the shore, even among the salt vomited by the crabs that puncture the boots the old imp lent us.

The women say their breasts’ tattoos are spent. The men march in silence, their bones still convalescing.

The marimbas have grown stronger in the jungle, as the wait betrays us and the witch doctors lift an occasional smile into the trespassing clouds, now untasked for the battalions, ground down among sweet tales with the tiny idlers that many of their bellies have left at play, still flashing their milk teeth like the spatulas of a fish from the flood.

There will be a re-encounter, a sign in the mane of a warrior woman with heads of stone.

De regreso

Trazamos el camino en nuestros cuerpos. Al parecer no llevaba hacia ninguna parte, pero aún prevalece la esperanza de encontrar otra curva de orilla, así sea entre el vómito de sal de los cangrejos que agujerean nuestras botas prestadas por el duende maduro.

Las mujeres han dicho que se agotó el tatuaje de sus senos. Los hombres marchan en silencio, con los huesos aún convalecientes.

Las marimbas se han fortalecido en la selva, mientras la espera nos delata y los brujos elevan una que otra sonrisa a las nubes intrusas, hoy sin oficio para los batallones, molidos entre dulces relatos con los pequeños holgazanes que han dejado en el juego gran parte de sus vientres, todavía con los dientes de leche como espátulas de un pez del diluvio.

Habrá un reencuentro, una señal en los cabellos de una guerrera con cabezas de piedra.

 

Double Day

He came up to my room and greeted
– as I always do –
the books, the sea that lives beside
the narcissistic window
and predicted the weather – a storm
was coming, unannounced –
he climbed up to my studio as if he were
the ancient hermit who renews my lies
passed both his hands across my books
smiled at the tiny statue

of a dark and solitary man
and fell asleep like a returning hero
from the protracted wars.
I’m not sure which of us
has left.

Doble día

Llegó a mi cuarto y saludó
– como yo lo hago siempre –
a los libros, al mar que vive cerca
de la ventana narcisista
predijo el tiempo – un temporal
se veía venir sin previo aviso –
trepó a mi estudio como si fuera
el viejo anacoreta que me renueva las mentiras
rozó mis libros con dos manos
sonrió frente a la estatua diminuta
de un hombre negro y solitario
y se quedó dormido como si fuera el héroe
que regresa de las batallas aplazadas.
No sé cuál de los dos
se ha ido.

 

Moments

A beautiful day
except Mamá has gone
to gather up the linens from the yard
Papá is still away
and our brother is dead.
The summer solstice
is at hand.

Momentos

Hermoso día
salvo que mamá se ha ido
a recoger las sábanas del patio
papá sigue de viaje
y nuestro hermano ha muerto.
El solsticio de verano
está cerca.

 

Another Song at the Damp Street’s Edge

Now you can greet the little dancers walking down the edge of the block, where they’re still visible.
The rice-vendors’ houses are still wet. They’re still painted with dense colours and their diminutive windows pulse forth in the early sun, which you wish you could draw into your sober scorns. It’s all pointless when it comes to the flutes you once played from a great distance, with your deepest smile.
There will be, I know, other love songs. The summer always sweeps you away, lures in some gales you’ll name again, and you’ll feel them tumble into the yard, invisible now.
We’ll switch off certain lights. A dense midday will come, erased only in sleep.
The distracted swallows will have a long journey ahead: they’ll sketch a pair of inky curves on the chalkboard of the sand.
Don’t lie, poet, you’ll tell me softly, slipping in the snow: those swallows never existed.

Otra canción al borde de la húmeda calle

Ahora podrás saludar a las pequeñas bailarinas que caminan por el borde del cuadro, donde aún son visibles.
Las casas de los comerciantes del arroz siguen húmedas. Son todavía de un espeso color y sus ventanas diminutas se impulsan bajo el sol temprano, que ya quisieras incorporar a tus sobrios desdenes. Todo es inútil cuando se trata de las flautas que solías tocar desde muy lejos, con tu sonrisa más profunda.
Habrá, lo sé, otras canciones de amor. El verano siempre te lleva la corriente, atrae algunos ventarrones que nombrarás de nuevo y los sentirás caer sobre el patio que es ahora invisible.
Apagaremos ciertas luces. Vendrá una espesa melodía que solo se borrará en el sueño.
Las despistadas golondrinas tendrán un largo viaje: dibujarán un par de curvas negras en las pizarras de la arena.
No mientas, poeta, me dirás en voz baja, resbalando en la niebla: nunca existieron tales golondrinas.

 

The Colombian Edition of The London Magazine is out now and available from our online shop. Published in anticipation of next month’s Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias, this issue will be followed by a Spanish language version, out in January 2022, in Colombia and the UK.
Cover image: Ritual (Pescadores), oil on canvas, 100x150cm (Pedro Ruiz, 2010)

 

Alfredo Vanín Romero (Colombia, 1950) is a storyteller, poet, essayist, teacher, adviser and cultural researcher. He leads workshops in creative writing and was made Doctor Honoris Causa in Literature by the University of Cauca in 2011. He has been invited to various national and international poetry conventions and festivals including Hay Festival, Feria del Libro de Bogotá, Feria del Libro de la Habana, Guadalajara, Oaxaca and Lima. His publications include: El tapiz de la hidra (stories), Facultad de Huminades, U. del Valle, Cali, 2003; Historias para reír o sorprenderse (stories), Panamericana Editores, Bogotá 2005, Los restos del vellocino de oro (novel), Hoyos Editores, Manizales, 2006; Obra poética (Compilación), Ministerio de cultura, 2010; El día de vuelta (Premio Jorge Isaacs de Novela, Cali, 2012); La vertiente afropacífica de la tradición oral (Compilación), Universidad del Valle, Cali, 1994; El tapiz de la hidra (Universidad del Valle 2002); Las culturas fluviales del encantamiento, Editorial U. del Cauca, Popayán 2018 (essays and chronicles).

Robin Myers is a New York-born, Mexico City-based poet and translator. Her translations have appeared or are forthcoming from the Kenyon Review, the Harvard Review, Two Lines, The Offing, Waxwing, Beloit Poetry Journal, Asymptote, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Tupelo Quarterly, and Inventory. In 2009, she was named a fellow of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA); in 2014, she was awarded a residency at the Banff Literary Translation Centre (BILTC); and in 2017, and she was selected to participate in the feminist translation colloquium A-Fest. Recent book-length translations include Lyric Poetry Is Dead by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg (Cardboard House Press), Animals at the End of the World by Gloria Susana Esquivel (University of Texas Press) and Cars on Fire by Mónica Ramón Ríos (Open Letter Books).


To discover more content exclusive to our print and digital editions, subscribe here to receive a copy of The London Magazine to your door every two months, while also enjoying full access to our extensive digital archive of essays, literary journalism, fiction and poetry.