Three Poems by Luis Bravo, translated by Catherine Jagoe

circle of blood


There are times you reach the limits of the finite.
And no one knows how to be the other that, without knowing it,
you are already.

Any adolescent knows, and forgets years later:
being born was a banquet of blood.

Afterwards there’s a certain calm,
children are born wrapped in their red gauze
and you get lost in them, for a long time.

Time thickens into liquids.
Tears, milks, urine, juices, rain, alcohol,
and another blood starts circulating, without warning,
little pools collecting.

You start not knowing
which bit of what you were, and are, and are no longer
is winding up in other currents.
And you’re drenched by the inexplicable
cries of a baby, echoing through long nights.

Different blood is laid down like a law
that the static mirror thinks is temporary, just like thirst.
Then you run along the sand
naked, staggering, and the mirror shatters,
glass shards around your feet.

You’re surrounded, spinning in circles
of your own blood that’s become other, its other liquid
as much your own as someone else’s.

That’s when you’ve crossed the outer limit
of the finite.

And you know it, and wish you didn’t:
your other blood has gone through time’s womb,
that other womb, invisible and headlong,
born implacable at birth.



fleeting nature


For Arturo Carrera


There’ll come a day, a night,
when I’ll stop knowing about anyone
even myself.
When the hummingbird of oblivion
hovers over the flowers
and the last garden

like a melody that’s mislaid its instrument
the air will forget to flow through my lungs

the alveoli, like bunches of withered grapes
will soak the earth in ink.
The earth itself will one day
be that night,
all eye, a white aerial wet-nurse watching.

Everyone will have an end
and a beginning
and a violin, opening the secret.

Without being granted a word
as if nothing, and no one,
all that’s named will depart,
shed the intangible substance of speech.

That day slips away day by day
through your hands it happens
the hourglass turning this way then that,
sand slipping away,
omitting nothing from the rhythm
of the circle
of fiery rose
of the winds
that won’t return.

Now go outside
go out and look at the stinging sun
the multicolor moon
—the golden eyes—
stare up at the sky
the rapid transit dimming, what passes
from the fiery disk to its cold reflection.
That’s us, that’s how we are.

The lights change, in the thicket of the stars.
A ghost molecule in the millennia to come,
because in the end, dear death, my love,
there’ll be no memory, clairvoyance everlasting,
an unreadable genetic chip,
a frozen heart,
random red womb.

Hallelujah hummingbird, moon,
and this mirror on a white background
that we drink from altogether only once;
hallelujah although words remain the same,
other, always other, night after night,
fleeting days whose meaning is elusive.

Ancient cloth of the same naked tree
where men mature, season
after season, worrying about sustenance,
if we live, about those who wish us dead
if we fall, about our doubts, if any certainty’s still
standing when love leaves,
that lame foot of life.

You must have come hotfoot, wanting a fight
wanting to be convinced that something’s worth it:
the heroic struggle you plan to outline
later that night, while the king,
the cook, his dragon and the saint on the white steed sleep,
the saint majestic in his golden helmet
like cheap prayer card.

Speechless, you’ll be left barren and empty-hatted
and something will fly over you, from you
(what you are no longer)
a cloud of dust, a nest of light.

Forget it and go on to the end, sipping
the sweet and bitter nectar, the intransitive
of this unique page and its deaths.
Go on as you forget, Chinese butterfly,
deer’s mouth, prodigious brain,
tiny imitation cosmos,
exquisite miniature,
bonsai of one and many gods.

Here’s your limit:
the eye, blind glass.

So celebrate, turn on the lights and kiss
with your eyes the smooth surface
of transparent things
you’re painting in your mind now, fine reticle,
porous substance of the feasible,
enjoy the giant imaginary dome,
keep digging out the shining with your shovel.

The depths of the night are yours
for a second, like that star.

Germinate and be the flower
and the motorized bird
and the one who stares
and the one who sings and the one who flees
while time still blows in your favor.

And please, take that pack
of dead letters to the river later.

Wait for morning, for evening,
for frost, for another day;
name the names of those who brought you
to the pit, to the summit;
play the lying game with them,
the game of dreams and veiled consciousness.

And in the end, be generous and humble,
like the animal you are, fleeting nature:

let silence spread its white mantle
over the planets’ singing dark.



Man Crying, Raw Footage


I’m not only a man who cries when he’s alone.
I’m a man who cries, whose crying makes a boy of him once more.
I’m the boy who cries in the mansion of his own man.

These words are wringing wet.
I’m crying as I write. Crying makes the eyes burn.
It’s pain that’s liquefied, like lost time.

A grown man crying is no poetic matter.
Like poetry, crying doesn’t matter any more.
I’m not boasting. A man cries with every member.
[I’m not talking about women, who’ve cried hard enough].

There’s a cryer perched on a little chunk of sandstone.
And more electrocuted crying dangling from a barbed-wire fence.
It’s orphaned, homeless, with no breast or man to turn to.

Crying is trapped between the past and future,
its passport to the present confiscated.
It’s not allowed in any life but the open grave of the border.
It wonders just how much it did to deserve the rain of hate.

Steely men who police their crying are audibly, sordidly silent.
That silence is made up of millions of men who cry.
It has the faintest tremor, like the shame-faced crying of the aged.

Suddenly the sky cries laser beams that go straight to the heart
of bloodless chalk amid the rubble of a classroom.
A pitiless port floods the crying wreck with poisoned water.
Men shed rivers of tears into a sea of tears like grains of sand.

Crying travels on underground trains.
The crying of breathless voices transported by the subway every day.
No one wants to talk, even if there were someone to talk to. Crying is talking to no one.
The unspeakable panting of a night train disappearing into history.

In a corner of the city, the shrieking of the sirens is a delirious dream.
Their screams thread the veins of the streets and the hours.
So there are men out there to save men and suddenly that epic dissolves in tears.
The crying of men who couldn’t save crying from mankind swells soundlessly.
Muffled crying carries the hermetic trophy of that black hearse.

Here’s the crying of a dog gunned down in blazing sunlight like a man.
The dog who lost his man to the flames of hell.
The human reptile among the stones in the desert
And the crying of a stony man with puffy crocodile eyes.
No one sees the trace of animal crying in the human face.

This is the sea of men who cry.
Tonight you can hear the wandering planets crying.
They’re not dead but they cry as if they were.

I’m a lightless man among millions of stars.
They’re crying for the joy men are deprived of.
Some have felt joy, but didn’t know until they lost it. Pointless sniveling.
Those who’ve never felt joy were also denied it.
There’s a fleet of tears floating around the sea of crying.

Man, boy and poet are lumped together in a grating lachrymal strifurcate.*
Whether men are broken or they aren’t, none of them are human.
Those men and I are all, in different ways, awash in tears.

And no one loves men who cry.
Crying is the only possession for which no man would kill another.

I’m the man who cries for men before they swallow their own tears.
A world in which men cry without knowing it, or why.
The sea of men crying throughout men’s little world.

“For crying out loud,” I said, “Stop sniveling like a little kid.”
Little boy lost in the labyrinth of manhood, in the madness of mankind.
Men who could cry for a child’s gaze, you need to get together.
Right now, sons of man, with no more crying or procrastination.


*The invented term lachrymal strifurcate is taken from poem IV from Trilce, by César Vallejo.


Luis Bravo, a university professor, poet, essayist, critic and radio host in Montevideo, has published ten books and recordings of poetry since 1984, including Árbol Veloz, a referential work in Latin American multimedia poetry. His poems have been translated into six languages. Bravo is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Notre Dame.

Catherine Jagoe is a British-American poet, essayist and translator specializing in Spanish and Catalan. Her translations have recently appeared in American Poetry Review, América Invertida, and Drunken Boat. She is the winner of a 2015 Pushcart Prize for creative nonfiction and the 2016 Settlement House American Poetry Prize for her poetry book Bloodroot.