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Poetry

Bad News on a Scrap of Newspaper

Translated from Spanish

These days when my friends die
only their names die.

How can one yearn from the inhuman pit
to grasp more than newsprint,
shiny black wispy letters,
arrows sunk into private memories?

Only one who lives outside prison walls
can honor the corpses, cleanse himself
of sorrow for his dead with embraces,
clutch gravestones with fingernails and tears.

Not so the prisoners: we just whistle
so the echo drowns out the news.

Read Roque Dalton's “Ars Poetica”

English

These days when my friends die
only their names die.

How can one yearn from the inhuman pit
to grasp more than newsprint,
shiny black wispy letters,
arrows sunk into private memories?

Only one who lives outside prison walls
can honor the corpses, cleanse himself
of sorrow for his dead with embraces,
clutch gravestones with fingernails and tears.

Not so the prisoners: we just whistle
so the echo drowns out the news.

Read Roque Dalton's “Ars Poetica”