Roberto Echavarren and Donald Wellman: Animalaccio

They hunted in the sierra, / ate in canvas chairs. §

  Roberto Echavarren

    and Donald Wellman (tr.)

  Animalaccio / Animal fantasies

They tossed him aside, half-dead. Near the stadium steps
with some others, very much the competitor on the racetrack,
but then? She floated away rippled from the stage
like a jazz-waltz tidal wave;
or was she at the corner
next to the shop window under the rain?
You lowered the window glass and the vapor from inside
the little car was cleared.
A cigarette caught her profile in the storm.
You spoke looking in the rearview mirror: butcher or buffoon?
The curve of the nose, eyes of sweet corn liquor,
apple purée, Leda’s swan,
chlorophyll crap, the display cart bucking its prow
under a leaky drainage tube,
two drenched doves, a broken glass where it drums.
Auto, author, entrance
was no more than exit,
backhand of a glove caught between dunes
while strong air whistled:
the king and the queen pursued by Juno and Venus
entered the grotto; a lantern beam maneuvered
between rocks and sediment.

Antinous? The emperor, afterwards, devoted himself to statues,
he dedicated him as a statue invading this side of the world.
Little teeth whitened the field from Parthenope to Memphis,
columns shit-stained by swallows rob the sea of New York pallor.
Did he speak? Deaf in one ear,
he twisted the other so that you might tell him, quick
under a wing of hard hair smoothed with brilliantine or opaque lacquer
(the birds of his look threatened to fly with each lick of a question;
meanwhile, promptly, you ran your hand through a girl’s mane:
a waste of time?).
We ended at a neighbor’s house, a weightlifter
dyed blonde.
He undressed, leaving only his bathing trunks on.

You were in the hands of someone who could kill you:
‘We are surrounded.’ The word stopped being subservient
to the letter. This life (how to imagine the other
or stop keeping it in mind?) makes us crewmembers
exposed to wear and tear, made real by punishment;
each edge is scraped, but the tanning accumulates time.
Genetrix denies her role as protectress.
Life begins somewhere else: dash, pain, pool balls
at the edge of an assumed danger:
cutting of a hand, gesture of the fingers.
In what style? They hunted in the sierra,
ate in canvas chairs.
The voyage is forgotten but voyaging continues.
With each ball a question is redeemed.
The dead return to give a criterion,
neither prescriptions nor mandates.

‘Why must we girls be so beautiful?’
A phosphorescent summer triumphed in the parking lot.
Feminized lips for mother love
despise a disowned master
who protects the woman who loves him not,
or is it a young boy? Was his dad a sugar daddy?
Does he remember to have been darling?
The silk corsage presses against his muscles and stifles him;
he can’t run or play polo,
a prisoner of love, that assigns him a gender.
They used to call them hobble skirts, women couldn’t board the trams.
Is it a girl’s lace or a cobbler’s knife?
A tongue lashing of affronting sarcasm,
criminal rage, a cocktail party explodes
in the apartment of Solaris, light of two,
clouded screen, plastic jellyfish,
dirty contact lens.
Or a cutting insult on tossing away the towel.
You took a white poplin shirt, ‘crazy’, large,
that belonged to my father, purchased at a sale at Caubarrère,
and left yours all sweaty after the electoral campaign.
Looking askance at feelings? In what story?
If thinking what others might think paralyzes you
humiliation arrives from the least expected quarter.
An edge of danger preserves our atmosphere.

Rooms with few or many furnishings
are snapshots, but, interrupted,
they won’t say what we haven’t said yet.
Your porcelain nostrils dilated like cows nostrils
from having been used so many times.
A well-aimed arrow alighted in your arms.
Half-hidden among the plants,
a woman lived here in another time.
You made a claim to her that doesn’t cease burning.

A homeland, a business center, a real intersection
for opposing stances without attaining power;
power? Was the City Hall a lost opportunity?
A real option remains, hardly labored yet,
a shadow without doffing its beret.
But we all choose.
A show-piece is produced, a first vote:
a hotel, my house, the house of a friend?
It’s worth trying each of those,
different conjunctions occur;
in the house of a friend it will turn out a farthing,
in my house, a meal,
at the hotel he asks me for a shirt
but he abandons himself priceless.

The little backroom near the fig tree,
the double bed, was the drum kit of the maid.
She danced with an arm fastened to the ironing board,
raising the other. The tomb of Gala Placida,
cool at the hour of siesta.

The boy grasped the horns of the ram;
a flyer, it carried him far from Rhodes.
He sacrificed it in a sunny spot.
With his hair over his nose, he looked up
and rubbed himself.
I looked for binoculars in the green strong box
where my dad kept documents
but when I returned he was already gone;
he needed me in place as a peeping tom.
There is always a potential abasement:
either to denounce the kid at the police station,
or that married life might rob us of the chance to be heard,
falling where the other’s power has put us.
Splitting stops the trajectory at a certain point
although signs of disrespect already appear.
Before entering, I didn’t know his deafness,
his muscular curve, his medical past,
or what route he would follow to rein me in.

Baco was at first as terse as a geisha;
hair thick and blue, the nest of a goshawk, bird of Zeuxis,
a floating fortress, not of algae, of interlaced vines.
With lacustrine shudder, pulse of an ecstatic hummingbird
he held a tumbler of pressed grapes; his heavy eyelid
was the bread and blood of a submarine sky.
An almost deaf puppet, did he turn a gesture of disdain?
Was he alive? He was living without death
unsettling us as we accepted his mandate.

The lizard came in later.
The arm suddenly clenched
under the impact of a voltaic arc.
The lewd toga revealed a smooth shoulder, convulsed;
the space between eyebrows, a curved Borromini window, bulged
more alarmed than furious. The nest
collapsed but still held a flower in it.
Furor construendi constrains unto pain
the boy overcome by surprise.
In biting his hand, the lizard bit its own tail.
The leaves were hiding a nest of serpents,
Animalaccio, sold by Leonardo’s father
to the Duke of Milan.

You weren’t there, neither was I.
One had to pinch. You did with zest.
The severed head twisted an elliptical, extreme leer.
A gorgon on the shield, whom to attack?
Whom to defend?
Perseus decapitated Medusa,
Delilah cut Samson’s hair,
Judith beheaded Holofernes
(an old woman in profile, her eyes bulging, awaited
the fall of the gift into her lap).
David decapitated Goliath; he exhibited the head to the people at war.
Absalom was hung by his hair,
then a lance pierced his back.
Caravaggio painted the grin:
swollen, identical, Goliath to Holofernes.
He crossed swords with Pietro di Cortona.
Seizing the horns and laughing,
Baptist lost his head for Salomé.
They kill, they die, they are free of death.
I rasp a leather thong with a metal brush.
A boat piston circles inside my tripe,
a bull’s eye, gold for eye.
Vapor. There’s no one here,
in the street there were plenty.
In twenty minutes twenty-one years.
Why did you this to me?
The blood runs from the knife blade to the water, mascara;
it runs parallel to a neon line on the wall.
Opening a way, conceded to whom,
to all?
Something is brushed askance when said
until it comes to life in an almost invisible way.
A whipping top spins for a moment where nothing is.
As I look at you, the windshield shifts a rugged mountain chain.
The event has wings short or long
as it advances a peculiar pattern:
to walk on foot barefoot
over grass gravel sand macadam.
Where to stop, and when?

The girl on bicycle fell in front of the car
(it wasn’t yours: it was a Fiat).
The wheel stopped against her breast.
Her throat almost bled.
We entered a house in front of the fortress-lighthouse La Barra.
A priest said: ‘It’s half past eight if the clock hasn’t stopped.’
It’s also one thirty in the afternoon
according to the slant of light inside the church.
Something ends — begins.
The fruit of a circumstantial compromise,
an experience blends with another
but isn’t confused with it;
not to repeat is the watchword, in order to advance still further
where the path breaks off.
Another turn or the wheel will reveal
what some hid or showed
but we didn’t manage to define.
It happened at times, although it did not last.
Signs multiply a never thorough knowledge,
impeded by dilatory circumstances:
few years, little money.
So Gatsby or Stahr contemplate the lobster
displayed in the window of a ​café.

Donald Wellman
Donald Wellman
Roberto Echavarren
Roberto Echavarren

Donald Wellman is a poet and translator. As editor of O.ARS, he produced a series of annual anthologies of experimental work, including Coherence (1981) and Translations: Experiments in Reading (1984). His poetry works with sources from several languages. His collections include Roman Exercises (Talisman House, 2015), The Cranberry Island Series (Dos Madres, 2013), A North Atlantic Wall (Dos Madres, 2010), Prolog Pages (Ahadada, 2009), and Fields (Light and Dust, 1995). He has translated books by Antonio Gamoneda, Emilio Prados, Yvan Goll, and Roberto Echavarren. Albiach / Celan: Reading Across Languages is forthcoming (2016) from Annex Press.

Roberto Echavarren has several prize-winning books of poetry to his credit, most recently Centralasia (Xalapa, 2014; bilingual edition Sao Paulo, 2014) and El monte nativo (Buenos Aires, 2015). Recently published in English translation by Donald Wellman and the author is The Espresso between Sleep and Wakefulness [El expreso entre el sueño y la vigilia] Cardboard House, ​2016. A native of Uruguay and professor of world literature, long associated with New York University, Echavarren is the co-editor, along with José Kozer and Jacobo Sefamí, of Medusario: muestra de poesía Latinoamericana (Medusario: A Survey of Latin-American Poetry), the leading anthology of poetry in the Neo-Baroque style. Echavarren’s critical prose addresses the distinctive characteristics of innovative Latin American poetry. His poetry is definitive. Rooted in both surrealism and contra-constructivist practices, it employs both dislocation and disjunctive series.

 

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