Two Poems from Peru

translated by Amy Olen


One day I placed a rock on top of your name
and I said to myself: I’ll go singing all the way home.
And I sang
like a wild woman on powerful legs
like a wild river I sang.
Until the song began turning into a tiny trickle
(that wouldn’t even feed the peas)
And with every step
my feet started stumbling. 
I can’t see the tiled roof of my house 
or the tallest tree
did I leave my heart under that rock?
my stupid heart, beside your name?

I know I’ll never make it home now. 
I also know I can’t turn back.


Pequod Speaks

Oh the many ropes and whale teeth
adorning me as I wait for combat or in my war cry
only baby teeth against the beast 
and the forecastle, the stern,
the bowsprit, the mainmast
or the swelling sails
better to have simply been a coffin
or to have never left the port
never felled the trees that made me 
I could give a damn about 
the oil that moves the world
I vomit overboard 
because of the turns
the world makes
ah if many hands
would have waited in their place
from the start
in stays, fixed
(like your beautiful heart:
esparto ball
against the water trails)
blinded hands
motionless since forever
I still would see carrying on 
in the forests of Arrowhead 
nameless, unstoried 
happy, tiny, light butterflies
on me
and not these petulant vultures,
surging, insatiable waves . . 

Translations from the Spanish 

Rossella Di Paolo (b. 1960, Lima) studied literature at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Her most recent verse collection, La silla en el mar, won the “Luces” Prize awarded by the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio for 2016 Best Book of Poetry. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of anthologies of Peruvian and Latin American poetry. In 2020 she won the Premio Casa de la Literatura Peruana prize and was distinguished as a Personalidad Meritoria de la Cultura by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.

Amy Olen is assistant professor of translation and interpreting studies at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Her research interests include Latin American literature, literary translation, and interpreting studies. She is a contributing translator for the journal Latin American Literature Today and translator of the bilingual edition Luisa Capetillo: escalando la tribuna (Editora Educación Emergente, 2022).