Editor's note: Translator Samantha Schnee worked closely with author Carmen Boullosa throughout the translation of the latter's “Sleepless Homeland.” The following exchange, with its multiple rounds of drafts, queries, and responses, provides an instructive glimpse of the process.
Did we lose you in a game of dice?
Did you escape from us in one snort?
In which junkie’s syringe did you become trapped, my Homeland?
Maybe some addict
from the north?
When did they
[brand ] you with the mark of the pill that gives short-lived pleasure?
I’m addicted to you
, [but not the mess you’re in/your circumstance/the way you are now] ..
One diamantine [or hard, bright] day you stammero, !
Ever more aware of the nature of your wound, more alive
the mouth of an open wound!
and fierce (sounds better than voracious but meaning is less specific)!
Whoring around in your shadows, ,
you sell each part of yourself for the pleasure of others,
wearing dark glasses,
you sing along to the accordion and tamborines,
until you’re hoarse.
[you lose your voice?],
In bed you feign pleasure but feel pain.
(And sometimes you make music without poisoning others with your own flesh.)
(And sometimos, my H
Omeland, you laugh without losing your voice.) ).
Where did you fall, sleepless homeland,
like the star in the story,
like the drunk who crashed into a lamp post?
mass [what you are made of] is denser,
can be compressed into a thimble,
or the embroidery on that blouse.
Of wh ere you are No doubt you existno question. there is no ques
But where are you?
Through the smoke of a war
[that consumes] us all,
in which no one
–the bullets that fly have no conviction,
they’re on the payroll of the fed, the state,
this or that drug lord…
rounds of bullets for hire.
[slipping away from us ], homeland in flight.
of rounds of
[bullets for hire. IRE ])
(Your breath of garlic and chocolate and chiles.)
(Your pestle-and-mortar breath
of garlic and
Honey and chiles and pepper and cinnamon.)
(Your breath of sacrificial stone,
of a heart still beating.)
I love her anyway
y country land, my water, my roots, my masts and flower,
little feminine island,,
mine, mine, as only you can be,
I call to you from another island without stones,
where the eagle and the hedgehog work together,
planning to devour you.
We have made cactus
stew of my Homeland!
A delicious soup of pleasures
[, ?] and everything else.)