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Poetry

Embers Fed

By Xavier Valcárcel
Translated from Spanish by Raquel Salas Rivera
The anti-mythical poetry of Xavier Valcárcel, translated here by Raquel Salas Rivera, re-sculpts the domestic, taking on Virgil and the patriarchy as it winds from old bedrooms to taxis fleeing to Punta Cana.
A burning match against a blue background
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Nothing of pyres, nothing of Dido, nothing of Carthage

My mother and I will burn it all.
I’ve seen her eyes torn tonight
her hollows, her bitten nails
the rage identical to mine and I know:
we’ll send it all to hell, soon
at the same time humming
the anthem of evaporated cries.

Hand-in-hand, fed-up
we’ll open our boxes
clean our matches one-by-one
salt crystalized on the heads
to build a fire in some return.

Coronated
we’ll burn our men and their chairs
mugs stained by kisses’ envy
sheets from covering so much
cords, fridge, oven, dolls;
we’ll burn the couch
all six TVs and our cars
even our clothes, already frayed from their beards.
We’ll burn dinnerware, knives
silver threads, windows
and later, faced with screams and light
we’ll flee in a taxi to a hotel in Punta Cana
to sleep off the sum of those years lost
over men
until everything behind the eyelids
loses its alphabet and gives up
and until there is no more home nor scapula
ginger with milk
or bottles full of pills
only ashes flying over old tiles
our mango tree burned down
cartilages roasted
dogs roaming the neighborhood
and the firemen, the prosecutor
the cops cordoning off with yellow, all for nothing
the perimeter of an assassinated void.


Monday

I wake at my mother’s house, alone
open my eyes
and all that one day dissolved in memory
reappears:
the feel of my old room
fate’s filtered light outside
that mirror
particles of dust floating in silence
like glitter.

I didn’t know the house would be this:
looking within at presence and absences
fixed solitude and its exoskeleton
the pacing and passing of skin
my mother dressing my shirts
fear’s cavities.

But this is the house
and this is why I still don’t place my foot on the floor.


Doppelgänger

I did not come to solitude

she packed my suitcase and said go.
She put an egg in my suitcase
she put leavening in my suitcase
she put salt in my suitcase
flour, sugar, and warm water.

I came to my mother’s house to sleep for days.
I closed all the doors.
I took off my clothes, my watches.
I left the suitcase on the floor unopened.

Now hungry,
with my eyes I rummage through the things I brought.
They have taken everything.

All that’s left is the egg, there, intact
beside the bed
and, when facing the mirror,
I feel strangely committed to its care.

© Xavier Valcárcel. Translation © 2022 Raquel Salas Rivera. All rights reserved.

English

Nothing of pyres, nothing of Dido, nothing of Carthage

My mother and I will burn it all.
I’ve seen her eyes torn tonight
her hollows, her bitten nails
the rage identical to mine and I know:
we’ll send it all to hell, soon
at the same time humming
the anthem of evaporated cries.

Hand-in-hand, fed-up
we’ll open our boxes
clean our matches one-by-one
salt crystalized on the heads
to build a fire in some return.

Coronated
we’ll burn our men and their chairs
mugs stained by kisses’ envy
sheets from covering so much
cords, fridge, oven, dolls;
we’ll burn the couch
all six TVs and our cars
even our clothes, already frayed from their beards.
We’ll burn dinnerware, knives
silver threads, windows
and later, faced with screams and light
we’ll flee in a taxi to a hotel in Punta Cana
to sleep off the sum of those years lost
over men
until everything behind the eyelids
loses its alphabet and gives up
and until there is no more home nor scapula
ginger with milk
or bottles full of pills
only ashes flying over old tiles
our mango tree burned down
cartilages roasted
dogs roaming the neighborhood
and the firemen, the prosecutor
the cops cordoning off with yellow, all for nothing
the perimeter of an assassinated void.


Monday

I wake at my mother’s house, alone
open my eyes
and all that one day dissolved in memory
reappears:
the feel of my old room
fate’s filtered light outside
that mirror
particles of dust floating in silence
like glitter.

I didn’t know the house would be this:
looking within at presence and absences
fixed solitude and its exoskeleton
the pacing and passing of skin
my mother dressing my shirts
fear’s cavities.

But this is the house
and this is why I still don’t place my foot on the floor.


Doppelgänger

I did not come to solitude

she packed my suitcase and said go.
She put an egg in my suitcase
she put leavening in my suitcase
she put salt in my suitcase
flour, sugar, and warm water.

I came to my mother’s house to sleep for days.
I closed all the doors.
I took off my clothes, my watches.
I left the suitcase on the floor unopened.

Now hungry,
with my eyes I rummage through the things I brought.
They have taken everything.

All that’s left is the egg, there, intact
beside the bed
and, when facing the mirror,
I feel strangely committed to its care.

© Xavier Valcárcel. Translation © 2022 Raquel Salas Rivera. All rights reserved.

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