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Poetry

Genesis, COVID.19

Translated from the Spanish by Ilan Stavans

And the Pope said amen in the empty square 
and no one answered from the clouds
and no one answered from the mirror 
because all voices were beneath the ground 
sweetly cradled to cease existence.
 
And the Stock Exchange swelled its lung 
and counted the oxygen in coins
and rerouted its wind toward some islands 
sewn to the sea with sutured wounds
only for lizards and exceptions.
 
And all countries became one 
but specially themselves
since many needed to choose
between virus and bread and a few saved 
a piece of future in the freezer.
 
And supermarkets were crowded 
with animals in search of animals 
with families in white that grazed 
in a field of alcohol paper and plastic 
and gloves keying the fear code.
 
And each hospital became tempest 
and roofs rained and doors flew
and the thread of life became clear-cut 
and truth came and went in hallways 
without being asked any questions.

And grandparents could see 
with skin like fishing nets
and hands stained with memory 
and eyes blinded by lucidity 
their rights turn into numbers.
 
And technology was flesh
in those who already had it and ghost 
in those with only body
and we sang rhyming songs 
promising never to forget.
 
And very soon our voices went quiet 
in the usual places in multiple corners 
with a fly’s buzz in that devil’s limbo
which is the border between song and silence 
between mourning and amnesia.

GRANADA, SPAIN | MARCH 27, 2020

 

© 2020 Andrés Neuman. Translation © 2020 Ilan Stavans. First published in And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again by Restless Books.

Andrés Neuman is a poet, translator, columnist, and blogger. The son of Argentinian émigré musicians, he went into exile with his family to Granada, Spain. He is the author of novels, short stories, poems, aphorisms, and the travel book "How to Travel Without Seeing" (Restless Books). His many accolades include being selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists and named to the Bogotá39 list, the Alfaguara Prize, and Spain’s National Critics Prize for "Traveler of the Century" (FSG) and the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses Firecracker Award for "The Things We Don’t Do" (Open Letter). His most recent title translated into English is "Fracture" (FSG).

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