Roque Dalton: Two Poems

Sir Thomas

In this sunlight
I look like the raw belly of a fetus:
as skinny as the horizon on bare hills,
down on my knees reaching out for a cloud,
full of its color dampened by someone else’s spit.

This country is a steel thorn.
I don’t think it exists except in my drunken mind,
certainly no one in England has ever heard of it.

Ah whirlwind full of poisonous snakes,
noontime that lasts a century!

To get to the solemn nighttime alive
with a permanent halo,
to be stabbed in the heart
by twelve drunken peasants,
to go down into a countryside of wild beasts
just to prepare one cup of coffee,
all that is absolutely natural around here!

If only a man could hold onto his religion!

Translated by James Graham

I See

I think they’ve lied to us enough.

Now I have the key to the hieroglyph
pain gave me between fits of a drunk’s laughter
lungers from a jailer and glares from a rabid dog
without a heart.

This much I also know: it will be difficult to make men accept
this nakedness someone who possesses the light reverts to
hard to convince them that so far all the laughs were turned against

and that all the hands held out to them had cruel nails.

(It’s a little chilly but it’s better that way
now that the mortal fires
the flushed faces in the middle of the orgy
the feverish myth invented by the wine settled in your blood
and spider webs clinging to the tongue have all disappeared.)

I’m going to strip some of the last veils off right now.

And I’ll be the one
to take care of the wounds.

Translated by Hardie St. Martin

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