View this article in Spanish | bilingual

Self-Portrait

At one and a half I rolled up the stairs
to the second floor.
At six I almost drowned in a pool.
At seven a current swept me down a river.
They hit me with a stick, with a rifle-butt,
with a two-by-four. They rammed an elbow into my face,
my stomach too; they kneed me, whipped me, slashed me with machetes.
The neighbor’s dog bit my arm.
They cut my ear when they pierced it.
I’ve been knocked cold. Slapped. Slandered.
Booed. Stoned.
Chased by sergeants on motorbikes. By two bill-collectors.
By three Mormons on bicycles.
By girls from Herrera and El Trece.
I’ve been mugged thirty times.
In shared cabs. Private taxis. On scooters. On foot.
A guy gave me a ride and told me: “I’m gay.”
They’ve stolen my TV set, my mattress,
six pairs of sneakers, four billfolds,
a watch, half my books.
They’ve filched several manuscripts, and committed plagiary.
(With what they’ve robbed from me
they could open a pawnshop in Los Prados.)
I’ve broken my right arm, my ring finger,
my hip, my thighbone, and I’ve lost four teeth.
My brother Abelardo gave me a bump on the noggin that still hurts.
At my graduation bash they lit into me with bottles.
Then I published a book of poems and a neighbor read it.
Skeptically, she said she could write
better poems in half an hour, and she did.
An accident with a donkey on the highway.
Attempted suicide in Cabarete.
Tachycardia. Hepatitis. Fucked-up liver.
Satanized in Eastern Europe. Kicked by Mexicans in Chicago.
In Montecristi, a waitress threatened to kill me
(right now she’s sticking pins in a doll that looks like me).
The neighbors dream of shooting me.
The poets dream of writing me elegies.
Other guys want to douse my head with gas,
flip a burning match, and see my curls on fire.
Girls want to jump in bed with me.
A few weeks ago a policeman stopped me
and asked if I was the poet who’d read poetry
that night and I said yes and the policeman
said those poems were good
and made a bow, sort of.

"Autoretrato" © Frank Baez. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by Hoyt Rogers. All rights reserved.