Carmen Boullosa

Translated from the Spanish by Catherine Hammond

[And the Word never did become flesh…]

And the Word never did become flesh because it is not made manifest, but rather is
         given over to other flesh.

I already tried to make myself flesh through the Word.
I increased
my distance from the Beginning.


 I am expanding what I meant to say,

        I weave a new thread into the cloth,

wake up birds immobilized on canvas in        mid

and the women who look at them at night

they rise up
        the docile surface of water covers their eyes

                                and expands into the beat of a wing

[I know I am lying in the damp…]

I know I am lying in the damp of the
afternoon, spread out and naked, not
exactly floating but relaxed like some
who, free of gravity and the
atmosphere, need nothing to hold
themselves up.

Dark Water

You speak of the plain that breaks apart in the night,
endlessly dark,
overflowing the horizon, quiet and without limit

The broken circle, the murmur ignored continues to multiply,
becomes an army with a thousand fronts,
endless sound, endless misunderstanding

                                 (your scent is the only strength,
                                 survival the unique flavor of the day)

I have my hands open to touch the dark waterfall
        in which multiple textures unravel themselves
Consciously I have opened my hands: nothing stops me,
        I stop nothing. In this clean, turbulent flow, I lost
        the way to play this round:
With this movement, I gave up the last virgin trace of motion, its
        final and infinite shelter.

Nothing distinguishes me from the world.

    Yes, you are the only strength, the certain moment that waits
for me at one side of night to board me, but you were the only
echo capable of naming whatever that is that maintains darkness
on the plain

    Yet nothing distinguishes me from the world because I have
nothing. But (the slow wind blows) every speck of dust, every
drop of water that comes in the wind, one moment before
entering me, each one stops. Nothing distinguishes me from the
world, that’s true, but nothing passes through me. Everything,
at the exact moment before penetrating me, signals me, sustains me,
establishes my limits.


        Strange petal that falls like winged rust
        like fine rust flecking off the wall
                                 spreading out
        (I hear how it sounds:
        a petal, a wave, petal, flake, rusty petal)

        …strange pause that undresses viscera to become itself.

The Thread Forgets

The thread forgets,
loses memory dictating the arrangement of various yarns and splits
itself apart,
not knowing how to bend around the spool.

    Untamed, the thread unravels and enters like the blade of a thick
knife into dense savannah, into guidebooks featuring guava leaves,
into the calm stem that becomes a root without lessening itself,
silent and determined to reach sugarcane, to be wet earth.

Yet it is not about you that I need to talk but about the deaf noise
filling my head today.
From ear to ear as I go ever farther.
The oblivious pursuit of rage.

And you sleep.
You rest pretending to rival the wind with your breath.
I rattle about in my head;
nothing slows down my advance; nothing can shake it loose.
And I do not hear the only word that could stop this
                                                                             deflowered silence.

(You sleep.
You caress the contour of my body,

From ear to ear.
Nothing can penetrate that ear-to-ear silence that runs on protected
by the verdant pavilion of your deafness.


The depths held themselves back, suspended themselves,
they permitted the flow always:)
Wound, incision, cut:
the open vein,
torn from its own self-absorption,
stained in the light

—trees, houses, streets, voices, everything is coastline, all blood
stopped. And within the river remains (viscous, rotten, permanent,
poisoned) the open wound.

the garden

Adam had two Eves.
God was mute.
Porcupines, hedgehogs, scorpions,
the she-snake, the sea with its single inhabitant,
all waiting for the moment of the making.
Where was the tailor? ask Neptune and Aphrodite.

And the Danube sans waltz spills
into the empty, lazy channel,
toward Hungary, bored and silent.

Eve Two

She did not come from Adam’s rib,
from his side.
She is the one who has the open chest
and it is her heart that left,
that leaps here,
that leaps.

Adam did not give birth to her,
        he does not embrace her.
She grasps the apple of love.
The snake will be a boa constrictor
        and will speak here.
                                    She is waiting.

Eve One

She does not seem fresh or freshly made,
her forehead secured by sweat.
She works, keeps the accounts, pays taxes.
Eden’s baker, the responsible one,
early riser, in charge of worry, dressed
in white, she is the true clock, minute hand
mindful to routine, the needle, due north.


Two deer and the unicorn drink
neither memory nor oblivion from the waters of the river.
They are witnesses, blind, deaf, and mute.
Their eyes are the garden’s mirrors.

Eve One puts on earrings in front of them.
Adam shaves himself.
Eve Two drinks from the river, leaning over
as they do,
no reflection, no memory, no forgetting.
No one appears in the eyes of Eve Two,
who is the manta ray
and leaps.

Carmen Boullosa is a Mexican poet, novelist, and playwright, author of seven volumes of poetry, seventeen novels, two books of essays, and ten plays. Her novel La otra mano de Lepanto has been singled out as one of the most influential works of literature written in Spanish in the last twenty-five years. Boullosa’s novels translated into English are Texas (a PEN America Literary Award finalist), translated by Samantha Schnee, Before, translated by Peter Bush, and Cleopatra Dismounts, translated by Geoff Hargreaves. She also co-authored, with Mike Wallace, Narco History, How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the “Mexican Drug War.” A Guggenheim Fellow, Carmen Boullosa is the recipient of a number of major international literary awards. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies by The New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, Mexico’s National Fund for Culture and Arts, and the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD. She has received five NY-EMMYs for her literary and cultural television program Nueva York on CUNY-TV.

Catherine Hammond‘s translation from Olvido García Valdés’ collection, And We Were All Alive / Y todos estábamos vivos was longlisted for the 2017 National Translation Award and comes from Cardboard House Press. The volume in Spanish is the winner of Spain’s Premio Nacional de Poesia 2007. A volume of her translation of Carmen Boullosa’s selected poems was a finalist in Drunken Boat’s book contest in 2015. Hammond has received three Pushcart nominations for her own poetry. She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA from Arizona State University in creative writing.

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