A Poem from Mexico

May 14, 2019
translated by Forrest Gander
A whale surfacing, mouth agape
Humpback whale / Photo by Wade Tregaskis / Flickr


For about a minute you spin
and the world shifts galaxies.
What germinates in your flesh is the viper’s dream.
You slither through the underbrush
praying for the abolition of mornings,
in a wisp of water you abandon yourself.
You think life is easy
if men withdraw from History:
you’d like to forget the crowd,
the exile’s glass which desecrates your face
and your shriveled illusion.
Nothing you have is part of your life.
Something was stolen from you in childhood.
That’s why the rain holds off and the sea,
when you notice it,
bellows at you.
Every animal lasts for a while
on your tongue.
Over the invisible shacks birds call to you

come on and make yourself kill,
you add your song to the psalms of widows
and you offer a sacrifice
at the weddings of autumn and earth.

Huge tufts of durable peace fall
like installments on the sadness of leaves.
White is the rain at dawn
and white the mothers who wake to it.
A rejection of momentum waits to ambush the child’s heart.

You vie with yourself over whether virtue exists.
You remain at the edge of the age
where there’s an unimproved room.
You can’t understand the silence.
Your mode of fidelity is to stretch out a sheet
between death and the water.

Outside, the whales seem like tears
trekking life’s terse skull.

Translation from the Spanish

Editorial note: From Dylan y las ballenas (Joaquín Mortiz, 2003), copyright © 2003 by María Baranda. Translation copyright © 2019 by Forrest Gander.

María Baranda (b. 1962) is a Mexican poet. Her poetry has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, French, and English. Her most recent book is Teoría de las niñas (Vaso Roto, 2018). Yale University Press will soon publish her Selected Poems.

Photo by Ashwini Bhat

Forrest Gander, born in the Mojave Desert, lives in California. A translator and multigenre writer with degrees in geology and literature, he’s the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize and the Best Translated Book Award. His most recent title is Twice Alive.