a Journal of Poetry and the Arts
Estrella del Valle
English Translation by Anthony Seidman
The first woman who started my lineage
was some nobody who cut an apple.
With tears, she gave birth to her man's love,
someone gave her stupidity as a surname
and since then we all gripe about having been
born slow-witted and depraved.
That's the story my father tells us, yet
I know that long ago
the first woman who filled our name was
the heroine of illicit tales, and who
left my grandfather for a cane-cutter.
At my birth they filled me with hot coals
and I was the night boiling over.
My eyes became pregnant with fire
and among foreign fires I consumed myself to the point of vertigo.
I was a loyal dweller of paradise, and I uttered
coal-singed poems in sleepwalking languages
that illumined the desert at night.
Now I live hidden and exiled in the land because I know
true poems are great blazes
embers burn in the dazzling tracks of my species.
the most lethal of all the females of my species,
the only one who knows the names that inhabit her sisters,
the one with the red silence of the crab
who knows neither port nor sea
and has never touched the water with its pincers,
the one like an artery not reaching the heart, but lightning,
and who doesn’t know the avid language of humanity
because her tongue has become unpronounceable,
the one with strange skin,
the friend to vultures and scorpions
and loyal confidant to her venom.
The garden flowers were stars,
the patio was an anthill in the midst of nothingness.
Refracted chisels in the glass,
bottled fire illumining the air
that passed through my skirt.
Light sealed my lips and my eyes were wings in order to
reach the echoes and spell out fables
of madmen and princesses to my sisters.
Years ago, I would often detach stars and hide them
because that's how I imagined paradise.
In which part of the body are wishes sewn?
Perhaps the rain cleanses us of the ash from
bursts and blazes;
perhaps it only washes the sugared flesh,
but not the memory.
I, primitive light, genealogy of time,
whole as the honey from the hives,
I am she who aspires to engrave the names of sin
in the voracious craving for the apple.
I put bougainvilleas in my lips to forget my genesis
and I sowed a plot of apples
where there once only lived a woman,
it was Cain with the sweat of a killer
before the vast beauty of the cadaver.
I recited all my prophecies in the language of Babel,
and raised the dead in order to heal my nights.
But no one grasped my intentions
of filling the world with loveliness
and ever since, I have lived trapped in this imbecilic skin
that eats itself with the passing of time.
I am the girl who has her mother's name and cries
because she knows it's made from salt
other women poured out;
among those letters, I carry the powerful iridescence of the eel,
the seething that accompanies waves when night falls.
I am the luminary of a new sky
that pours itself into the sun in order to
impregnate the night with her body.
There’s four of us and we still play at
liking one another, feigning love at the dinner table,
and we gather on the porch to recite the odd story or two
while mom prepares the food then
listens to us devour meat.
My father blindfolded all of my brothers’ eyes,
and before abandoning us, covered his own with his clothing.
My brothers swing themselves while holding my mother’s hand,
they can’t stand being blind all because of Dad,
so they peck at one another in order to expiate
who-knows-what kind of sin.
I know they’ll poke out my eyes if I approach them,--
that’s why I make the sign of the cross before bed,
and recite the Lord’s Prayer for all of them.
The Harvesting of Cane
Outside they’re burning the cane fields,
those men with their eyelids of fire,
the light, and the red flame of childhood.
From within, the sap hardens the cane,
and I ask my older sister
which one of the men will be for us.
She opens the window as if
it were the stage of life,
and observes, far off, the rain of ash.
The Latest One
My father, a strong man,
loved voyages and read from the pages
of a book I never understood, and
the horizon commanded his attention while my mother
settled into her reveries.
My grandfather, the father of my grandfather, and my own
all married women with few scruples
yet great knowledge about domestic affairs.
The men that share my last name work the fields,
their women understand lovemaking and those topics
that at times become complicated; so when we ask
why the women are relieved when men go off to the sugar refinery,
mother hopelessly tries explaining to us just why, then
stops talking in order to press the only male
in our loved and respectable family against her breast.
Submitted by the author and the translator.
Original poems in Spanish: Copyright (C) Estrella Del Valle, 2008. All rights reserved.
English translations of poems: Copyyright (C) Anthony Seidman. All rights reserved.