Estuary by Pura López Colomé, Translated by Dan Bellm


                                    —with music by David Wood

I. Leagues away from languages

At two leagues, two tongues,
a sudden romp of otters,
seals, sea lions, herons
in wakeful sleep, sweetenings.
Name on the skin, ethereal skin,
muzzles, tusks, uvulas,
inexhaustible vapor in their eyes.

I don’t know what a league is
in the number-language of the elements,
I don’t know what a tongue is
in the aerial language of the truth,
and even if I knew,
if I had an explanation,
I wouldn’t be able to imagine a word
that would encompass from here to there,
from the far beyond to the same sea.

And what are we made of, then:
a gloomy lugubrious liquid
of no concern to the sea,
but of sustenance to the spirit.
II. Inverse of rain

Little points,
needles of water,
oration of oceans,
and underneath,
soaked stars,
whirling waves of sand.
Unquiet sand
returned back here.

I’ve lost the mirror of the years.

Elsewhere far away,
or what’s called far away,
a body lies at the outskirts.
Not knowing the hour has come.
It is the mirror.
III. Veil with no sail

Veil, I’m talking to you:
come forth and command.
Let me see
whether those who were
were breathing,
who were they,
were their scenes
and their actions
brotherhoods, a city, a story.
Compass in the crystal ball,
rose of the dead
closing its petals,
opening its eyelids.
IV. Unbridled

On one side, turbid and muddy,
on the other, a transparent
nest, a raft
built in
dwelling, not coexisting.
Lend me a wounded stork’s
so I might have everything in hand
and float.
V. What is this

that flows
and doesn’t slip,
that drags itself
like a flawless
linkless chain,
in Sunday
with no clapper,
or sea chart
that traveled by chance
by air
like a kiss or a goodbye
with no juggling,
no tricks:
“There’s no one here
to tell you
where to go,
whether to advance
or to capture
that deep
that coveted
Say no more.


Pura López Colomé, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed contemporary poets, has published eleven volumes of poetry, most recently Lieder: Cantos al oído, cantos al olvido (Hearing and Forgetting) (2012), and Poemas reunidos (Collected Poems): 1985-2012 (2013). In 2008, she was awarded Mexico’s most prestigious poetry prize, the Premio Xavier Villarrutia. Previous work in English includes No Shelter (Graywolf) and Watchword (Wesleyan), both translated by Forrest Gander. López Colomé has also published Spanish translations of work by Samuel Beckett, H.D., Robert Hass, Seamus Heaney, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, and others. She lives with her family in Cuernavaca, Morelos.


Dan Bellm teaches literary translation in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Antioch University Los Angeles, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Recent and forthcoming books of poetry in translation are: Description of a Flash of Cobalt Blue (Unicorn Press, Greensboro, NC, 2015) and Nostalghia (La Diéresis, Mexico, DF, 2015), both by Mexican poet Jorge Esquinca, and Song of the Dead (Black Square/Brooklyn Rail, New York, 2016) by French poet Pierre Reverdy. He has also published three books of poetry, most recently Practice (Sixteen Rivers Press), winner of the 2009 California Book Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.