Two Poems by Vania Vargas, translated by José García Escobar

The Ballad of Bonnie Parker

what you see is not even the shadow of my wild side
I could’ve been Bonnie Parker
with this urge to peak out the window
to constantly flee
watch the past destroy itself
like the nocturnal cities do
when the rearview mirror trembles

I also dreamed of a dangerous life
collecting stories
I dreamed of the times I’ve escaped death
by showing the scars that the
days left behind

I see her and I see me
with my average height
I see me writing bad poems
missing my mother
I see me coming out of the dangerous paths
taking aim at the future in the head
always smiling

I could’ve been Bonnie Parker
if it weren’t because I cling
to the back of those
who will never
walk beside me down the roads

Life is still outside
and I don’t reach it

What you see here
aren’t scars yet

Give me time
and I’ll tell you about surviving
without my words breaking apart.


My mother sometimes spends the afternoons
reminiscing, watching old tapes
that still work in a device
that shakes and complains like an old man
before playing a make believe story

That girl
who stops momentarily
before the vertiginous scenes
my mother says that’s me
or at least the one they wanted me to be
long hair tied by two braids
wide forehead/ clean
small face / flush and freckled
the same eyes
fixed on a big piñata
that promised / as life promises
something we thought colorful and sweet

A boy
one I can’t see
because his eyes are covered
swings first
and the piñata sways

another swing
it rips

one more
and it spills over

I would’ve run like the rest
if it weren’t for my father’s hand
his stern voice

telling me

Not you

you’re a big girl now
he lowers the camera
and in that movement my confusion fades
like his own confusion twenty years later
when we still have trouble
Vania Vargas. Guatemala. 1978. Poet, prose writer, editor, and cultural journalist. She graduated from the Letters and Philosophy Undergraduate program of the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. She has published the books of poetry Cuentos infantiles (Catafixia editorial, 2010), Quizá ese día tampoco sea hoy (Editorial Cultura 2010, 2016), Los habitantes del aire (Editorial Cultura 2014, 2016) and Señas particulares y cicatrices (Catafixia editorial, 2015); as well as the short story collection Después del fin (El Pensativo, 2016). Her work has been included in various anthologies like Microfé: poesía guatemalteca contemporánea (Catafixia editorial, 2012), El futuro empezó ayer, apuesta por las nuevas escrituras de Guatemala (Catafixia editorial, 2013) and Ni hermosa ni maldita, narrativa guatemalteca actual (Alfaguara 2012). She was invited to the FIL Zócalo 2012 book fair, and the Feria del Libro de Panamá 2016 book fair; as well as to the Spanish departments of the University of Stanford in San Francisco, California and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, to share her work. She has participated in the international poetry festivals of New York, Granada (Nicaragua), and Quetzaltenango (Guatemala). Lastly, she shared her work during the celebrations of the 2017 book day in the Metropolitan District of Quito, and the Network of Metropolitan Libraries, in Quito, Ecuador.
José García Escobar is a journalist, fiction writer, translator, and former Fulbright scholar from Guatemala. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City. His writing has appeared in Guernica, Words Without Borders, Slice Literary Magazine, The Millions, and is forthcoming in Blunderbuss Magazine and The Evergreen Review. He’s Asymptote’s newly appointed Editor-at-Large for the Central American region.