I’m Here to Fight Epizootics by Paula Abramo – translated by Richard Cluster

or matches can be forbidden

and then

between the fingers of a child

who roasts ants



studies the way they stiffen


retracting their antennae

eyes and mucus membranes

the matches are small lessons

on matter 

and its cruelest



That opacity of a name that enlarges

the person you imagine.


of all the strange creatures, the vermin,

the long-legged godawful monsters

that populate the plagues

your grandfather fought so fiercely

under that hybrid name:

Marcelo di Abiamo du Nancy,

neither French nor Brazilian nor Italian

disguised as a foreigner, disguised

as a foreigner, disguised

as an agronomist

in Bolivia,

in the thirties.

The immense dragnets

against epizootics from the east

journeys stretching from month to month

through forest and lagoon,

into a land of salt and silver

to save the livestock,

amidst all those insects

so many insects:


beetles, like comical

stinking Sysiphi

wind-scorpions more fluid

than the idea of ugliness

cicadas spreading their metallic din

over lands that had once been green.


The journey measured by horrifying arthropods

clouds of black flies,

cycles defined by butterflies

at night,

pure white butterflies, wars

among the ants,

hordes of insects migrating,

carrying their withered larvae to safety,

and storms

of queen ants,

carnivorous wasps, amputated

spiders filled with worms, gravedigger

flies and emerald ones:

translucent hopes,

eclipsed by broad sweet veins,



the drizzly nights

and the smells.


While at home, Anna Stefania,

cloaked in skeins of yarn and patience

knits and studies while waiting for her man.



did that viscous time roll on,

that decade of the thirties?

Surrounded by mirabilia in a country

with so many mines

and so little food, and still,

it was possible,

without putting on airs,

to pee like an Argentinean

in a round


silver basin,

listening to the tinkle of your urine

that came out tinted with ater

(atra, atrum)

yes, opacity of soot,



and, at the same time,

the tinkling

of leaks from swollen ceilings


in the spare kitchen

the tiny parlor lacking in furniture,

furnished with fissures,

the daily conversations

weighted with echoes.


And, like a record of the afternoon,

there’s a floral tablecloth, the flowers

like thumbtacks

on a map.

records of a passage

out on the farthest edge.



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.