Cristián Gómez Olivares – Market – translated by Alexandra Lytton Regalado

My social life is reduced to talking to the cashiers
of the supermarket. To tell my friends
how the cashiers return to their homes
to turn on the TV to have something to listen to
as they cook, and afterwards they plant
themselves in front of the screen because they like
to fall asleep with background noise
when the transmissions cease. White noise, I tell
them it’s called, white noise are what the lines
emanate from the screen. Whatever, the cashiers
respond and then change the subject, disconcerted
by my knowledge of electronics.
And what’s it called, they ask, when the horizon
is plagued by antennas on rooftops.
And how do you call it, they want to know, when the protagonist
of a television series later becomes the villain
of a soap opera. “There must be a German
word for this,” said a poet
whose last name I wish I could remember, maybe
a session with a psychoanalyst could help me
explain why I’ve forgotten:
Inge Christensen would surely know the answer.
Inge Christensen could write a poem about that lacuna.
I can only write this poem about my conversations with cashiers.
The way they rest their feet upon the dinner table
when they’re rapt in the last chapter of The Simpsons.
And popcorn constitutes the core of their diet.
And the popcorn will never become a popgun.
And popcorn will litter the seats of the movie theater.
And their high saturated fats. And the means of production
hoping the inevitable will happen
while the credits roll across a darkened screen.
Federico García Lorca was his pseudonym. My social life is reduced
to talking to his real self standing in front of a cash register.


Mi vida social se reduce a hablar con los cajeros
del supermercado. A contarle a mis amigos
que los cajeros regresan a sus casas
a prender el televisor para escucharlo
mientras cocinan, y después se plantan
frente al aparato porque les gusta
quedarse dormidos con el ruido
que sale de la pantalla cuando terminan
las transmisiones. Ruido blanco, les digo
que se dice, ruido blanco se le llama
a las líneas de la pantalla emitiendo
ese sonido. Whatever, me responden
los cajeros y cambian el tema, desconcertados
ante mis conocimientos de electrónica.
Y cómo se llama, me preguntan, el horizonte
cuando está plagado de antenas en las azoteas.
Y cómo se dice, quieren saber, cuando el protagonista
de una serie de televisión después es el malvado
en una telenovela. “En alemán debe haber
un nombre para esto”, decía un poeta
cuyo apellido quisiera recordar, pero tal
vez una sesión de sicoanálisis podría
explicarme por qué lo he olvidado:
Inge Christensen de seguro sabría la respuesta.
Inge Christensen podría hacer un poema de ese olvido.
Yo puedo solamente de mis conversaciones con los cajeros.
De la forma en que colocan los pies sobre la mesa del comedor
cuando están pegados viendo el último capítulo de Los Simpsons.
Y las palomitas de maíz constituyen el centro de su dieta.
Y las palomitas de maíz no serán palomas mensajeras.
Y las palomitas de maíz ensuciarán los asientos del cine.
Y su alto contenido en grasas saturadas. Y los medios
de producción a la espera de que se produzca lo inevitable
mientras pasan los créditos por una pantalla que todavía sigue a oscuras.
Federico García Lorca era un seudónimo. Mi vida social se reduce
a hablar con su verdadero yo detrás de la caja registradora.

Cristián Gómez Olivares (Santiago, Chile, 1971) is a professor of Latin American literature at Case Western Reserve University. He participated in the prestigious International Writing Program at Iowa State University, where he also received his doctorate. He has worked on translations, essays, and poetry. His publications include the poetry book Alfabeto para nadie (2008), La nieve es nuestra (2016), and Butterfly (2017), in addition to his essay La poesía al poder. De Casa de Las Américas a McNally Jackson (2018). An anthology of his work, Derechos del yo, was published in 2019. With Mónica de la Torre, he published Malditos Latinos, malditos sudacas. Poesía Hispanoamericana made in USA (2009). He has lived in Cleveland, Ohio since 2011.

Alexandra Lytton Regalado is the author of Relinquenda, winner of the National Poetry Series, forthcoming from Beacon Press in the fall of 2022. Her first poetry collection, Matria, is the winner of the St. Lawrence Book Award (Black Lawrence Press, 2017). Matria was listed as one of the Favorite Poetry Collections of 2017 at Literary Hub, it was a finalist in two categories for the 2017 Foreword INDIES Award, and featured in NBC News, Chicago Review of Books, and Entropy. Her poems, stories, and non-fiction have been published by, BOMB, cream city review, Creative Nonfiction, Diode, Five Dials, Gulf Coast, Los Angeles Review, The Notre Dame Review, NANO Fiction, Narrative, Passages North, Puerto del Sol, Phoebe, Radar Poetry, The Shallow Ends, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and others. Her poetry has been anthologized inThe Best American Poetry 2018, The Wandering Song, In Plein Air, Misrepresented People, Poeta Soy (Ministry of Education of El Salvador, 2019) and Jardín de sangre (Editorial Ladrones del Tiempo, Colombia, 2020). Alexandra holds an MFA in poetry from Florida International University and an MFA in fiction from Pacific University. Co-founder of Kalina publishing, Alexandra is author, editor, and/or translator of more than fifteen Central American-themed books including Vanishing Points: Contemporary Salvadoran Prose (2017). She is chief editor at (a literary magazine dedicated to the Salvadoran community) and she is assistant editor at SWWIM (Supporting Women Writers in Miami). She is a CantoMundo fellow, the winner of the 2015 Coniston Poetry Prize, and she was the recipient of the third Letras Latinas / PINTURA PALABRA DC Ekphrastic residencies. Alexandra is a member of the Board of Directors of MARTE, the Museum of Art of El Salvador, where she works as an advocate for contemporary Salvadoran artists. Alexandra has a black belt in Kenpo Karate and currently lives in San Salvador with her husband and three children. Her ongoing photo-essay project about El Salvador, through_the_bulletproof_glass, is on Instagram and you can also find her at