Childbirth. Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, 1941 by Paula Abramo – translated by Richard Cluster

the match

shows the distances

between things

reveals oppositions symmetries when everything

was dark

and then

everything goes dark



but in all those tiny flashing gleams

how many

revelations fit

a wire, scorched and discarded, in a corner

a red dress

amid a jumble of cups plates

on the table in a weird marriage of places

and times

a hammock in the jungle the damp belongings

of the prospector the logger

who felled the embaúbas the chickens

sleeping on thatch stools

in Vincenzo’s tiny yard 


how many illuminations

that last just as long as the match’s




the matches bring it all to life

like a childbirth but here

many lives at a time

brought together


a box of matches these writings a box

where my body takes a seat

and sitting

imagines a body

of tales


Illumination and childbirth are the same thing

in my grandmother’s adoptive tongue

she illuminates, alumbra, da a luz.

She gives birth to a boy

with Lenin’s big head, Anna Stefania

ship’s captain,

this ship

of broken waters.

Yes, there’s the ship,

foundering, leaking,

with her at the helm

captain of a birth

this birth

she gives orders

ties knots

waves a bloody flag

from the darkest porthole,

Anna Stefania bursts

and it’s like tightened cordage snapping

and then she’s

open, red

like a pomegranate

adrift in the grass

once it has sated

the hunger of the birds.



Paula Abramo’s collection Fiat Lux won the 2013 Premio de Poesías Joaquín Xirau Icaza for the best book of poetry by a writer under forty. She co-authored Yo soy la otra: las mujeres y la cultura en México (2017) and the art installation Ropa Sucia (2017), both exploring the invisibility of Mexican female writers and artists. She has also translated 50 books from Portuguese to Spanish.

Richard Cluster’s most recent translations include Gabriela Alemán’s Poso Wells (City Lights, 2018), Mylene Fernández’s A Corner of the World (City Lights, 2014), Pedro de Jesús’s Vital Signs (Lavender Ink/Diálogos 2014), and his anthology Kill the Ámpaya!: Best Latin American Baseball Fiction (Mandel-Vilar 2017). He also writes history and fiction, including The History of Havana (co-authored with Rafael Hernández) and a crime novel series.