In this issue:

an Interview with Ivón Gordon Vailakis

Two prose pieces on poetry

Her translations of Gabriela Mistral

Other translations from Colibríes will be online at www.drexel.edu in May


Vailakis photo Ivón Gordon Vailakis

From Colibríes en el exilo
El Conejó Press, Quito, Ecuador, 1997

Why not imagine
that you pass naked before the moss
whose tenderness delineates the road
and the borders are erased
you explore someone's back, crisscrossing it lovingly
but you don't explore how it conforms to your touch
you explore it as if it were newborn earth
and the borders of north and south
disappear like scorpions lost
in the entrails of your hair
we broadcast the seed
while the rifle corrodes
in the disordered abandon of your mouth

Why not imagine
that you are wearing the suit of dark wool
and that every loop of the necklace
is devoured by the afternoon.


To think the night is the disruption
of the infant's dream
devised out of a lack of originality

to think
that the other day disappeared
in the flushing
and the toilet paper
did not choose sides

to think that the soap and the night
are mixed-up with the dripping of water
and because there is a shortage
I don't call you

to think
that as things fall apart
in the Gulf
it is like seeing my grandmother full of perfume
and breath failing
I remain quiet

when the ends of the circle don't meet
the necklace dangles
without caring about which side to take
don't allow anyone
to fasten it
because it will turn out to be the tango
that no one will dance
waiting       to see how it all ends.


So undressed and nothing taken off
so laid bare by outcry
so unclothed by closeness
so revealed by the vapor of your breath
       so undressed
       and so completely jeweled.


In the cobbled street, I search for footprints
you left behind when you were going down
to the corner shoemaker
to leave some stockings to be darned
under the paving stones I look for the little ridges
you made going back and forth to the door
that opened to the patio fragrant with barley and cabbage
where the sky and the mountains touched like hands
and in the angle of the wall, the fig tree kept bursting with honey.

In the attic I search for the plastic sandals
for playing the queen
and for the long veil that hid your expressive face
I search the armoire filled with cobwebs
and the odor of moss.

I come up with a set of keys
that don't fit
and a lady of the house
who knows nothing about you. Translated by J.C. Todd and Ivón Gordon Vailakis


Your childhood bear—plush
companion of night's passages—
is tumbled from the storage chest
when you wonder if you hear footsteps
in the cobbled street

by now you have lost the silly grin
by now you have lost the natural flair
for the clock upside down from a peg
by now you have felt heartburn
mixing oranges with coffee
and Dr. Peñaherrera has had to come at two in the morning
to examine you
because you are doubled up from
acid in your stomach
that seems to be filled with pigeons, whirling
and you reach back to your plush bear—blue
one eye gone, cotton popping from its seams—
true friend, the only one who stuck by you through nights scary
with all that you should have paid back tormenting you
like a filthy worm working its way through the pillows
and you're wide awake keeping vigil
for the footsteps passing on the cobblestones
and you reach an agreement with yourself
you should open the window
and not the pasteboard boxes of the past.


We are going to know us in a rush
without the precision of the clock
or the cover-up of morals
we are going to forget who we are
in the disguise we wear
away from this room
you and I
we are going to put ourselves into the middle finger
and we are going to travel the two kilometers of paths
that stretch themselves out
and we are going to work the body into love
until it spins in the dark of the light that shines
from our eyes that burn clearly
our fingers travel in parallels that wet down
the exact meeting of moisture heating up
our fingers restore the place between the bones
to find the rhythm of moan
let's go, it's already late.
Translated by J.C. Todd