Poems of Nilton Santiago

বাংলা English

POEM 1

A MONDAY LIKE ANY OTHER, IN THE UNIVERSITAT STATION, AFTER THE LAST SPRING EQUINOX

Wake up,

the trees still drag birds on their long nightly walks

and you have to run to the shower to wind up a new day.

You go out into the streets searching for a café latte,

the smile of the girl at the bar reminds you

that angels can’t be trusted

because they’re heaven’s bureaucrats.

You pay, by mistake, with a foreign coin.

You carry them because they’re postcards from countries that don’t exist anymore.

You apologize and leave the bar with a fistful of birds in your throat.

It’s raining, but you don’t want to open your umbrella

because you know it rains because God is taking a shower

according to what a very drunk girl in a bar once told you.

When you enter the station,

you realize that some people’s wings are colliding with others,

though you don’t have wings

but a café latte that’s burning your lips.

Three minutes and thirty seconds until the next train

and in the freeway metro throwaway paper you read

that “Making firing workers easier creates more jobs”

according to some political humorist.

Now it’s thirty seconds, now the train is approaching,

as the past approaches to whisper in your ear

that tears have no memory.

When you get on, you see three musicians speaking a dialect you don’t understand.

You imagine then that they, like you, are fish

and that they, like fish, leave their scales scattered in the air

while playing their accordions

(that are really enormous seashells).

Suddenly you discover that a part of you

never got on the train

and that the one who remained behind continues to be frightened

in the pages of the burning book you carry under your arm.

You arrive at work,

turn on the computer and open your umbrella

because a cloud pursues you like an omen

that you will spend years paying out your heart in installments.

You look out the window,

two seagulls share a slice of pizza that a boy has dropped

(who is you in a country that doesn’t exist anymore).

Seconds later, the seagulls take flight

in opposite directions.

You smile,

because you know very well

that no bird lives secluded in the solitude of another bird.

These are Monday’s paradoxes,

how to be the two who are only possible when they separate.


UN LUNES CUALQUIERA EN LA ESTACIÓN DE UNIVERSITAT, TRAS EL ÚLTIMO EQUINOCCIO DE PRIMAVERA

Despiertas,

losárbolesaunarrastranpájaros en sus largascaminatasnocturnas

ytútienesquecorrer a la duchaparadarlecuerda a un nuevodía.

Sales a la calle y vas a buscarun café latte,

lasonrisa de la dependientaterecuerda

que los ángeles no son de fiar

porque son los burócratas del cielo.

Pagas, por error, con unamonedaextranjera.

Las llevasencimaporque son comopostales de paísesqueya no existen.

Tedisculpas y sales del bar con unpuñado de pájaros en la garganta.

Llueve, pero no quieresabrir el paraguas

porquesabesquecuandollueveesporque Dios se ducha

segúnunaveztedijounatipamuyborracha en un bar.

Cuandoentras a la estación,

te das cuenta de quelas alas de la gentechocanunas contra otras,

perotú no tienes alas

sino un café latte que se incendiasobretuslabios.

Tresminutos y treintasegundospara el siguientetren

y en la prensagratuita del metro lees

que “Facilitar el despidocrearámástrabajo”

según un políticohumorista.

Ahora son treintasegundos, ahora el metro se aproxima,

como se aproxima el pasadoparadecirte al oído

quelaslágrimas no tienenmemoria.

Al subir, ves a tresmúsicosquehablan en undialectoque no entiendes.

Teimaginasentoncesque, comotú, son peces

yque, como tales, dejan sus escamasesparcidaspor el aire

mientrastocan sus acordeones

(que en realidad son grandescaracolas de mar).

De pronto descubresqueuna parte de ti

nuncasubió al tren

yque la que se ha quedadocontigopermaneceasustada

entrelaspáginas del libro en llamas quellevasbajo el brazo.

Llegas al trabajo,

enciendes el ordenador y abres el paraguas

porquetepersigueunanubecomo un presagio

dequepasarásañospagandotucorazón a plazos.

Mirashacia la ventana,

dosgaviotascomparten un trozo de pizza que se le ha caído a un niño

(queerestú en un paísqueya no existe).

Segundosdespués, lasgaviotasalzan el vuelo

endireccionesopuestas.

Sonríes,

porquesabesbien

queningúnpájaro vive recluido en la soledad de otropájaro.

Así son lasparadojas de los lunes,

comoser dos queúnicamente son posiblescuando se alejan.

POEM 2

THE PARTICLE OF GOD

A physicist who wasn’t at all mad has said that, if it wasn’t for some Higgs field,

we would all be as light as the thoughts of angels

and we would certainly move the way the light does at dawn.

I, who don’t have a clue, believe that if it wasn’t for the Big Bang,

Shelley would never have written Adonais in the northern spring of 1821,

and we’d never have seen the lukewarm thighs of Marilyn Monroe

under her white dress on Lexington Avenue.

None of this has anything to do with poetry, okay,

but neither does the left hand of God left have anything to do with churches.

“The Vatican in Rome holds an African archbishop

known for his power as healer prisoner” I read in the press and it cracks me up,

neither does this have anything to do with the twelve-year-old British girl, Hannah Clark,

who can now use her heart again after 10 years.

Miracles of science and the Big Bang in the shipyards of Orion

where the saints on the roofs of the cathedrals resemble cave paintings;

miracles that are not really miracles,

truths that are half-truths

such as the one claiming that Noah’s ark didn’t carry peacocks, porcupines or bankers.

Wow, God believes he exists and capitalism has failed.


LA PARTÍCULA DE DIOS

Un físico, que no estaba nada loco, ha dichoquesi no fueraporuntal campo de Higgs

todosseríamoslivianoscomo el pensamiento de los ángeles

y, ciertamente, nosmoveríamoscomo se mueve la luzcuandoamanece

yo, que no tengoni idea, piensoquesi no fuerapor el Big Bang

Shelley no hubieraescritonunca el Adonaïs en la primavera boreal de 1821,

o no hubiésemosvistojamás los tibiosmuslos de Marilyn Monroe

bajoesevestidoblanco en Lexington Avenue.

Nada de estotienequever con la poesía, vale,

perotampoco nada tienequever la manoizquierda de Dios con lasiglesias

“El Vaticanoretiene en Roma a unarzobispoafricano

conocidopor sus poderescomocurandero”leo en la prensa y me parto de risa,

tampocoestoguardarelación con que Hannah Clark, unaniñabritánica de 12 años,

hayavuelto a usarsucorazóndespués de 10 años,

milagros de la ciencia y del Big Bang en los astilleros de Orión

donde los santos son comopinturasrupestres en el techo de lascatedrales,

milagrosque no son milagros

verdadesque son medias verdades,

comoque en el arca de Noé no habíapavosreales, puercoespinesnibanqueros.

Vaya, Dios creequeexiste y el capitalismo ha fracasado.

POEM 3

ALEPPO, DIARY OF A TEAR

And later they will tell us that this wasn’t lived.

Walking each day dragging a suitcase full of absences,

sleeping while drifting,

like a cricket who ends up hearing Chopin for the first time.

Or maybe life isn’t any more than going out into the street,

aimlessly,

stopping to talk with a stray dog who doesn’t want to talk.

And suddenly everything happens so quickly,

as if we were a herd of greyhounds or of whys or etceteras.

You’ve hardly finished taking off the legacies of your dreams

and now you have to light the first star by closing your eyes,

leaving a tear out in the open

so that the same stray dog can take it to safety

in that village of salt where we abandoned our childhood.

And that’s when time limps between moments

or better that the moments abandon their haste to open newspaper

and discover that our body belongs to bacteria

more than to ourselves.

So this was about survival,

not knowing who we are, without whys,

to touch with our fingers the tracks of a frightened crow

in our heart.

But it’s useless.

In Aleppo they have shattered a cemetery of broken embraces,

and now there is no one behind the mirrors

and God has denied that He can be everywhere.

Then you realize that you don’t recognize yourself either,

and that now there’s no light in the pockets of the eels

or in that coin with which your mother bought you

in a little knick knack market.

In a few minutes

we’ll all forget that a new bomb has just fallen in Aleppo

and we’ll be witness to a miracle:

your body is now the light around you

and you are no longer the stray dog that lives in your mother’s shadow,

talking to himself.

Perhaps because in interior monologues

the one who speaks is the others that we are.

ALEPO, DIARIO DE LA LÁGRIMA

Y luegonosdiránqueesto era el habervivido.

Caminarcadadíaarrastrandounamaletallena de ausencias

dormir a la deriva,

como lo haría un grilloqueacaba de oírporprimeravez a Chopin.

O quizás la vida no sea másquesalir a la calle,

sinrumbo,

detenerse a hablar con un perrovagabundoque no quierehablar con nosotros.

Y de pronto todopasa tan deprisa,

comosifuésemosunamanada de galgos o de porqués o de etcéteras.

Apenas has terminado de quitartelaslegañas del sueño

yyatienesqueencender la primeraestrella al cerrar los ojos,

dejar a la intemperieunalágrima

paraque el mismoperrovagabundo la lleve a salvo

hastaesaaldea de saldondeabandonamosnuestraniñez.

Y esentoncescuando el tiempocojea entre los instantes

omásbien son los instantesqueabandonan sus prisasparaabrir el periódico

ydescubrirquenuestrocuerpopertenecemás a lasbacterias

que a nosotrosmismos.

Entonces era estosobrevivir,

nosaberquiénessomos sin porqués,

tocarse con los dedoslashuellas de un cuervoasustado

ennuestrocorazón.

Pero de nada sirve.

En Alepohanhechopedazos un cementerio de abrazosrotos,

yya no hay nadiedetrás de los espejos

porque Dios ha desmentidoqueesté en todaspartes.

Entonceste das cuentaquetútampocotereconoces,

yqueya no hay luz en los bolsillos de lasanguilas

ni en aquellamoneda con la quetumadretecompró

en un mercadillo de baratijas.

En unosminutos

todosolvidaderosqueacaba de caerunanuevabomba en Alepo

yseremostestigos del milagro:

tucuerpoesahora la luzqueterodea,

yya has dejado de ser el perrovagabundoquehabita la sombra de tumadre,

hablandoconsigomismo.

Quizásporque en los monólogosinteriores

elquehabla son los otrosquesomos.

POEM 4

THE HERMENEUTICS OF A SNAIL

I bet a sunflower seed

that nobody knew that sheep don’t drink running water

or that, on average, a person has more than 1460 dreams each year

for sure, some owls seduce trees to get a smile out of the dead that dangle there

or, simply, to gulp down the tears Baruch Spinoza shed

when he found out that all his philosophising on “the infinite divine substance”

(which for him was reality or God) was a load of tosh.

It’s true, life seems all too much like a Brecht production

and we snag our fingers in loneliness

even if we’re pretending to be zen-like monks or basil-smoking screwballs

tell me, you, who is getting cold in my heart

and who refuses to leave the house without a high voltage kiss extinguisher

(an extinguisher might be as innocent as a wooden knife that goes back to the forest to attack the sawmills).

Following the same logic, I now think that the ocean you have under your bed

has all the manners of a cat, meaning that whenever it feels like it,

it spits out bottles containing love messages as though they were a fur ball.

It would be a crime to say that for some pre-Socratic philosophers

girls of twenty-something are full of good intentions

or that philosophical butterflies are the solution to forgetting Wagner.

Certainly, like those men, there are also astronauts who don’t know how to ride a bike and who easily confuse falling in love with wanting to eat one of the dimples in your cheek

but what the hell, all of our first girlfriends left us with our hearts smashed to smithereens

and in my country we thought the armed conflicts wouldn’t get out of hand.

You know well enough that you don’t have to kidnap the consciousness of an office worker to realize that the world has got a screw loose:

it is sociologically acceptable to loot a bank or to trick a cherub into letting you into heaven in exchange for bird food,

but report a politician who has won the lottery 20 times in a year

and you’ll probably have to pack up your tears and flush them down the toilet.

Even so, don’t play the bemused card,

write with a feather plucked from your back.

Go out into the street without opening your wings

and you’ll see that you are not quite what you thought.

LA HERMENÉUTICA DEL CARACOL

Me juego una semilla de girasol

a que nadie sabía que las ovejas no beben agua en movimiento

o que, de promedio, una persona tiene más de 1460 sueños al año

eso sí, sabemos que algunos búhos seducen a los árboles

para llevarse de paseo la sonrisa de los suicidas

o, simplemente, para beber las lágrimas que Baruch Spinoza abandonó

cuando se enteró de que sus filosofadas sobre la “sustancia divina infinita”

(que para él era la realidad o Dios) eran un cuento chino.

Es cierto, la vida se parece demasiado a un montaje de Brecht

y muchas veces la soledad nos pilla los dedos

aunque vayamos de monjes zen o de fumadores de albahaca

dímelo tú, que pasas frío en mi corazón

y te niegas a salir de casa sin un extintor para besos de alto voltaje.

(Un extintor puede que sea tan inocente como un cuchillo de madera

que regresa al bosque para atentar contra los aserraderos).

Siguiendo esta misma lógica, ahora pienso que el océano que tienes bajo tu cama

tiene los modales de un gato, es decir, cuando le da la gana

escupe botellas con mensajes de amor como si fueran una bola de pelo.

Sería un crimen decir que para algunos filósofos presocráticos

las veinteañeras están llenas de buenas intenciones

o que las mariposas filosóficas son la solución para olvidar a Wagner,

es verdad, como ellos, también hay astrónomos que no saben llevar una bicicleta

y confunden fácilmente estar enamorados

con tener ganas de comerse uno de los hoyuelos de tus mejillas

pero qué demonios, a todos nuestra primera novia nos dejó el corazón hecho añicos

y todos en mi país creímos que la lucha armada no se nos iría de las manos.

Bien sabes que no hace falta secuestrar la conciencia de un oficinista

para darte cuenta de que a este mundo le falta un tornillo:

es sociológicamente admisible saquear un banco o engañar a un querubín

con comida para aves a cambio de entrar al cielo,

pero si denuncias a un político que ha ganado la lotería 20 veces en un año 

probablemente tendrás que empacar tus lágrimas y tirarlas por el retrete

no obstante no os hagáis los despistados,

escribid con una pluma de vuestra espalda,

salid a la calle sin abrirlas alas

y veréis que tampoco vosotros sois los que creíais.

POEM 5

KLARA, AN AU PAIR FROM KARLSTAD ASKED ME TO WRITE A POEM FOR HER TO FORGET HER ONCE AND FOR ALL

Bruno called me to say that he’s read that some Amazonian otters

can change the course of rivers with the power of their minds,

that’s phonier than a 3 euro bill

but it reminds me all the same

that an ant can survive up to two weeks under water,

so I still hold onto some hope for myself.

I tell him that here it’s practically chucking down frogs,

there’s no city that puts up with this hellish rain,

see that even the beached whales complain between the trees

hidden at the supermarket on the corner at home.

We’ve just met, Klara,

but you tell me that the trees don’t mind the rain

and to let you sleep.

It suddenly comes to mind

that the quickest animal in the sexual act is a chimpanzee (3 seconds),

followed by a mouse (5 seconds) and perhaps you, who has barely had one drink and can be heard snoring in my bed.

We came here this morning to write the poem you asked me for

and it’s at this precise moment when the sea is unloading your smile into the sky

before the alarm clock has woken you up for the last time,

before you leave flying out the window,

(although we both know that a pair of dragonflies

will do the same job between our sheets).

I’m the end of your box of chocolates, your last pair of clean panties

or, which is the same,

the darkness of the fish when they cry and are hungry enough to eat a horse.

You tell me you’ve never ridden a horse

but you know their tears

are the source of any of the self-respecting rivers in your town, Karlstad,

where the snowmen go shopping everyday

to buy a new carrot nose

and to take advantage of the supermarket heating.

I’ll soon stop being someone who seems young and I’m still putting my foot in it up to my knee,

although let’s not kid ourselves:

your heart, like mine, is closed for construction

and rolls like a penny or a miracle

that’s just landed in the hands of a poor beggar,

which I think is me.

Redhaired love isn’t made for us, Bruno,

those kept far from the hand of God,

as neither love is made for love:

in that case, long live the stars for my clumsiness in taking off your bra,

long live all that remains from my heart in your cat hands although it serves for nothing…it’s for “bursting out laughing”

alas, we’ve drifted to directing the traffic of the stars on all sides

between that look of yours and the moonlight on your salmon-coloured back,

in a blink of the eye

(while you ask me if I knew that in Finland Donald Duck comics were banned because he didn’t wear trousers).

After the laughing I can’t stop thinking that there,

near where all the tears lose their luggage,

where the clouds clean their glasses because the rain clogs up their vision,

there, where everything finishes,

there are no trees crying on their knees in front of a bird in a supermarket.

God isn’t there (or anything that resembles him),

the two of us are here, Klara, or whatever your name is,

so frigging apart,

despite sharing the same bed tonight.

Yes, ok dear Bruno,

once again you are right:

  1. for a penguin, birds have no talent for swimming and
  2. love is for us what arithmetic is for philosophers:

(or ¾ of the same),

just one big misunderstanding.

KLARA, UNA AU PAIR DE KARLSTAD, ME HA PEDIDO QUE LE ESCRIBA UN POEMA PARA OLVIDARLA DE UNA VEZ POR TODAS

Bruno me ha llamadoparacontarmeque ha leído

quealgunas nutrias del Amazonas

puedencambiar el curso de los ríos con el poder de sus mentes,

estoesmásfalsoque un billete de 3 euros

peroigualmente me recuerdaqueunahormiga

puedesobrevivir hasta dos semanasbajo el agua,

asíqueaúnguardoalgunasesperanzasparamí.

Yo le cuentoqueaquíestán a punto de lloverranas,

no hay ciudad queaguanteestalluvia de los mil demonios,

fijaosque se quejan hasta lasballenasvaradas entre los árboles

que se esconden en el supermercado de la esquina de casa.

Nosacabamos de conocer, Klara,

pero me dices que a los árboles no les importa la lluvia

yquetedejedormir.

De pronto se me viene a la cabezaque el animal

másrápido en el acto sexual es el chimpancé (3 segundos),

lesigue el ratón (5 segundos) y quizástú, queapenaste has tomadounacopa

yyateescuchabaroncar en mi cama.

Hemosvenidoestamañanaaescribir el poemaque me has pedido

yes en estemismomomentocuando el mar desempacatusonrisasobre el cielo

antes de que el relojdespertadortehayadespertadoporúltimavez

antes de salirvolandopor la ventana

(aunque ambos sabemosque un par de libélulas

haránsumismotrabajo entre nuestrassábanas).

Soy el final de tucaja de bombones, tusúltimasbragaslimpias

o, lo quees lo mismo,

laoscuridad de los pecescuandolloran y pasanunased de caballos.

Me dices quenunca has montado a uncaballo

peroquesabesque sus lágrimas

son el principio de cualquierríoque se precie en tu pueblo, Karlstad,

donde los muñecos de nieve van de compras a diario

paracomprarseunanuevanariz de zanahoria

yparaaprovechar la calefacción de los supermercados.

Pronto dejaré de serunoqueparecejoven y sigometiendo la pata hasta la rodilla

aunque no nosengañemos:

tucorazón, como el mío, estácerradoporobras

yruedacomounamoneda o un milagro

que se le acaba de caer a un pobremendigo

quecreoque soy yo.

No estáhecho el amor de laspelirrojasparanosotros, Bruno,

losalejados de lasmanos del señor,

comotampocoestáhecho el amorpara el amor:

salvenpueslasestrellasmistorpezasparaquitarte el sujetador,

salventodo lo quequeda de mi corazón entre tusmanos de gata

aunqueya de nada servirá… esparapartirse de risa

pero de tirios y troyanoshemospasado a dirigir el tráfico de lasestrellas

entretumirada y la luz de la lunallenasobretuespaldaasalmonada,

en un santiamén

(mientras me preguntassisabíaque en Finlandia

seprohibieron los cómics del pato Donald porque no llevabapantalones).

Después de lasrisas no puedodejar de pensarqueallí,

cerca de dondelaslágrimaspierdensuequipaje,

dondelasnubeslimpian sus gafasporque la lluviaempañasumirada,

allí, dondetodotermina,

no hay árbolesllorando de rodillas ante un pájaro en un supermercado

noestá Dios (ni nada que se le parezca)

estamosnosotros dos, Klara o comotellames,

jodidamenteseparados

apesar de compartirestanoche la mismacama.

Y sí, vale querido amigo Bruno,

unavezmástienestoda la razón:

a) para un pingüinolasaves no tienentalentoparanadar y

b) elamoresparanosotros lo que la aritméticapara los filósofos:

(o ¾ de lo mismo)

tan solo un gran malentendido.

Nilton Santiago
Nilton Santiago was born in Lima though has lived in Barcelona for many years. He has published five poetry collections:El libro de los espejos [The Book of Mirrors] (II CopéPrize of the XI Poetry Biennial, Lima 2003), La oscuridad de los gatos era nuestraoscuridad [The cats’ darkness was our darkness] (which received the International Young Poetry Prize from the José Hierro Poetry Center Foundation, Madrid 2012), El equipaje del ángel [The Angel's Luggage] (XXVII Tiflos Poetry Prize, Visor Libros 2014), Las musas se hanido de copas [The muses have gone for a drink], (which was awarded the prestigious Poetry Prize Casa de América de Poesía Americana, Visor Libros 2015) and, recently, Historia universal del etcétera [A Universal History of etcetera]awarded with the Vicente Huidobro International Poetry Prize, (Valparaíso Editores 2019). 

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