Verónica Zondek

Translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver


Now I need to tell of this listing/ rotten house/ its wounded/ sick/ gnawed scraps/ bowed down to beg for leave/ kissed to death by a fine finger/ pale/ mute/ red with green passion/ there/ among cold exposed skeletons/ away from/ without regress.

Memory/ memory of what once was your house/ the desertion of your house/ the whistle that runs through it/ that tears it apart/ that breaks its panes/ sucks its sap/ only to leave it like this/ to forsake it as man/ now weary/ step by step/ the matter not other/         whatever.

Now you give up/ you leave/ you skip the mirror suspended on quicksilver/ the blurred image/ hanging/ and you leave behind the table/ its oilcloth/ the plastic-hued flowers/ the toilet/ your chair of daily use/ the hides drying in the wind/ ferrets a plague now (human stupidity—see they free the beast and leave him there to sing—) and the same wind as always/ the never- never of a real fairy tale/ there/ sniffing/ corroding at will/ as the ferret works/ our counterbalance/         nature.

Yes/ you leave/ you walk/ a few meters more/ a few meters less/ in the now already desert/ in the former musical forest/ and you begin/ you build again/ the same house but not/ same piles/ same planks/ same roof.


Though between you and me/ the future is nothing but a new exodus/ a desertion/ because the wind won’t stop/ won’t let you forget/ and returns/ returns as you depart/ as you fail to resist/ because you only seek/ want/ wish/ wish to prosper/ prosper somehow/ no matter the sweat/ the tears/ the childbirth with pain/ with nothing/ to give and to take/ breath/ to dance and to sing/ whistles/ songs to life/ that one/ the one that remains/ beyond the fleeting conceits/ the vast skies/ the ferry eternal/ the marketplace of shipwrecks/ the blue-tinted failure /white/ gray/ dark/ and yes/ yes gentlemen/ also the bird/ the trill/ the shrill/ yes/ all surrounded by wails/ by an owl that rends the soul/ he/ who pierces the chest/ caustic/ quiets/ because to breathe is nothing/ and the windgust wraps/ imprisons/ silences/ silences speech/ extra words/ and reduces us/ binds us/ fences us in/ for the sake of it/ for the sake of saying:

you are, darling
you are.

But, who sees your show/ your hoe?

Your mother, darling/ your mother.



I doubt/ I stammer.

It’s just that

it’s just that I glimpse their bended heads I say/ their full torsos/ and though I know they don’t desire/ don’t desire more tongues of gold descending the slope hand in hand with the wind/ know they don’t want/ I can’t help but glimpse/ glimpse their knees devoutly poised like butterflies before you/ and I see/ right there I see/ how they strain/ how they fondle thoughts of initiating novices/ tender sprouts/ sparks/ thirsty daughters/ all tattooed with the curse of fire/ and I predict the forge/ how they can’t but forge offspring/ mute beings shrouded in windgusts/ for they didn’t fall when the blaze and the heat/ and now they seem grateful/ because they sing blinded by the sun/ they lift their legs/ their very thin/ over any even black body in the river/ only water this torrent/ aswirl at its vanishing points/ seething and a crowd of corpses where the wing may rest ...


Observe the wounded/ lacerated body/ festered by rebel wind.


Watch how it slides unimpeded down the barren/ how down the trunkless immensity/ how down the bald slopes/ how amid the black skies/ the lonely and cacique skies/ how/ how it gnaws/ how it gnaws at your body and bygone/ your open wastes/ your thirsty daughters/ their mouths so dry from so much wind/ and watch/ watch how it cries a torrential cry/ with tears long lost under the mutilated trunks/ and how it sprouts everywhere in eyes of water/ and how it descends in cascades/ how it deploys that lost view/ how it attends to atrocities/ senseless profit/ the beast that we are.


A wind/ a wind that opens the womb/ a wind that shakes the earth/ that sprouts tenderness/ spills heat and swallows/ swallows the pain of men.

But no/ it doesn’t come/ doesn’t grope/ seems not to be there except when it kneads life/ when seedlings sprout/ and everything/ everything returns/ returns to begin again.

Verónica Zondek was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1953, and received her Masters in Art History from Jerusalem University. In the last thirty years, she has published at least twelve books of poetry, often in collaboration with visual artists. Her own translations from English and German, which include works by Anne Sexton, June Jordan, Derek Walcott, Anne Carson, and Gottfried Benn, have been published in Chile, Spain, and Mexico. Her reordering and reassessment of the poetic oeuvre of the “other” Chilean Nobel–Prize winning poet was published last year as Gabriela Mistral. Obra Reunida, Mi culpa fue la palabra, (Gabriela Mistral. Collected Works. My Sin Was the Word, LOM Ediciones, Santago, Chile, 2015). She serves on editorial boards of major publishers and literary magazines in Chile and frequently represents Chile at poetry festivals and book fairs around the world.

Katherine Silver has translated and published more than thirty books of mostly Latin American literature, many of which have been honored by critical acclaim, awards, prizes, and other recognitions. Her most recent and forthcoming translations include works by Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Juan Carlos Onetti, Julio Cortázar, Daniel Sada, Horacio Castellanos Moya, and César Aira. She has also translated plays, screenplays—some for major motion pictures—and a wide assortment of academic and other nonfiction books. She was recently translator-in-residence at the University of Iowa, and until last year she was the director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre in Alberta, Canada, where she still serves on the advisory council.

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