Jorge Hernández Pieldivina
Two Poems
Translated from the Spanish
by Brandon Holmquest


Díles quién eres
un buzón rojo con la mandíbula destrozada
un hoyo transparente expuesto al sol
que a veces habla con los psiquiatras
deja mensajes urgentes en las esquinas
el zigzagueante fantasma de esta ciudad
que saluda los tranvías y los escarabajos
el caballo dulce el pájaro triste
doblado desdoblado por la sorpresa y los hechos imprevistos
el chevrolet 1945 sin ruedas y sin placas
el televisor en blanco y negro
con el cinescopio alrevés
el que piensa con los zapatos a bajas y altas temperaturas
y desperdicia su tiempo
como un semáforo bajo la lluvia
y no es por gusto que amontona papelitos
polvo humo briznas de ternura en esta época
cuando Karl Marx está muerto
y hay que ser caníbales-dialécticos racionales-clandestinos
para que la neurosis no nos bombardee en las calles abandonadas
esta es tu tarea music hall de las catastrófes
ya no es suficiente tu paraguas oxidado
para los aullidos radioactivos
las barricadasprostíbulos no detienen nada
no detienen nada
ni la ternura
ni la muerte que nos espera masticando cebolla plomo pólvora
ahora juegas con tus ojos a las canicas
y retuerces tu monotonía buscando una salida
que te sorprenda como un espatasuegras fatal.



Tell them who you are
a red mailbox with a shattered jaw
a transparent hole exposed to the sun
that talks at times to psychiatrists
leaves urgent messages on corners
the zigzagging ghost of this city
that greets streetcars and beetles
the sweet horse the sad bird
bent unbent by surprise and unexpected facts
the 1945 chevrolet with no wheels and no plates
the black and white television
with a backwards tube
the one who thinks with his shoes at low and high temperatures
and wastes his time
like a traffic light in the rain
and it's not for fun that he piles up scrap paper
dust smoke strands of tenderness in these days
when Karl Marx is dead
and there must be rational-clandestine cannibal-dialectics
so neurosis won't bombard us in empty streets
that's your job catastrophe music hall
your rusted umbrella isn't enough for the
radioactive howling anymore
the brothelbarricades don't stop anything
they don't stop anything
not tenderness
not death that waits for us chewing onion lead gunpowder
now you play marbles with your eyes
and twist your monotony looking for an exit
that surprises you like a fatal noisemaker.



Frente a cualquier frontera,
frente a cualquier comedia o pantomima
la belleza y los ojos lúcidos.
Los hombres de la mentira cambian como los días.
Frente a eso, las pinceladas-cuchillo amasadas con carne viva;
entonces la llaga sobre la piel desnuda
hasta que nazca un Nuevo Tiempo relampagueando entre dos o más nubes,
cantarlo desde nuestras gargantas: ¡no más coágulos, que la sangre fluya!
Sólo nuestros sueños como tormenta galopando.

El Sol se desbarata cogiendo con tus ojos.
El crimen es breve en el umbral del tiempo
y en los pliegues de primavera
la línea resinosa de la vida guarda sus secretos.
Inmensas coincidencias,
codicia de frutos resquebrajados,
rescate de la eterna agitación --hervidero de sangre-- luz que nos une
y el amor seguido de soles hechiceros mordiendo el camino que se deja.

Tomo de los latidos de tu corazón el grito de los ángeles.
Para empezar el día te regalo mi canto,
mis caderas constructoras,
el aullido de mis verdades de acero.
La vida la vida la vida ¿quién dijo?


We Will Open Our Lungs to an Unpoisoned Air

In front of any border,
In front of any comedy or pantomime,
beauty and lucid eyes.
The men of the lie change like the days.
In front of that, knife-brushstrokes kneaded with living flesh;
then the sore over naked skin
until a New Time is born flashing among two or more clouds,
to sing from our throats: no more clots, let the blood flow!
Only our dreams like a galloping storm.

The Sun ruins itself fucking your eyes.
Crime is brief on the threshold of time
and in the folds of spring
life's resinous line keeps its secrets.
Vast coincidence,
greed for cracked fruit,
rescue from eternal agitation—swarm of blood—light that unites us and
love followed from spellbinding suns biting the road left behind.

I take angel screams from your heartbeats.
To begin the day I give you my song,
my contractor hips,
the howl of my steel truths.
Life life life who said?


Jorge Hernández Pieldivina was born in Pochutla, Oaxaca, México in 1953. He was, in the 1970s, a member of the Mexican poetry movement Infrarealism, founded of course by Mario Santiago Papasquiaro and Roberto Bolaño. English-readers will likely be familiar with Bolaño's highly fictionalized version of him in The Savage Detectives, a character named Piel Divina in the Spanish, translated by Natasha Wimmer as Luscious Skin. That character is only loosely based on the real man, who in fact did not die a singularly depressing death of a brain tumor. The Infrarealist poet Edgar Altamirano has this to say about his friend: "He's lived in Paris for a long time, married to a French woman, a painter and college professor. He comes to Mexico once a year to see his father. He is in fact separated from Infrarealism and dedicates himself to sculpting in wood, giving classes for children and painting a little." The poems presented here date, I assume, from the mid to late 1970s, and are fine examples of Infrarealism's general style and principle concerns, as well as of the sheer quality of a great deal of Infrarealist poetry.

Brandon Holmquest co-editor of this journal and will be reading extensively from Infrarealist poets this Valentine's day in Philadelphia.

Manuel Rivas, "Ferrol"
Translated from the Galician
by Jonathan Dunne


A Rafael Bárez

Dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Abebera o sol nas fontes,
de rego en regodela brinca a luz
e rola a montaña de infancia e herba brava.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Entre cima e ceo vai a aguia do mar,
o ronsel dunha nave irredenta:
non hai perda no inmenso.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Penso no norte, sen cazador
nin lei que protexa a morte.
Penso nas vidas que non fun e que me agardan ao norte.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Feliz, felices tempos!
Eu sei onde atopalos.
Ninguén bailará sobre as cinzas dos tempos felices.
Mas dóeme o silencio da ría
sen o tambor do home.

Sen o tambor do home,
sen a lenda tecida a carón do lume,
sen o alento garimoso da tribo,
sen o deus dos pequenos que canta contra o escuro,
sen o mal, sen bondade,
dóeme o silencio da ría.



for Rafael Bárez

The estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

The sun drinks at the springs,
the light leaps from brook to stream
and childhood, wild-grass mountain rolls.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

Between peak and sky the sea-eagle goes,
the wake of an unrepentant ship:
nothing to lose in the vast expanse.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

I think of the north, no hunter
or death-protecting law.
I think of the lives I was not, waiting for me in the north.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

Happy, and happy times!
I know where to find them.
No one will dance on the ashes of happy times.
But the estuary’s silence hurts me
without man’s drum.

Without man’s drum,
without legend woven next to the fire,
without the tribe’s warm breath,
without the god of little ones singing against the dark,
without evil, without goodness,
the estuary’s silence hurts me.


Manuel Rivas (Coruña, Spain, 1957) has published six collections of poetry: Carnival Book (1980), Anisia and Other Shadows (1981, with Xavier Seoane), (1985), Mohicania (1987), Ballad on the Western BeachesNo Swan (1989) and Death Coast Blues (1995). His collected poems were published under the title From Unknown to Unknown by Espiral Maior in 2003. He has also written a play, The Hero (2005), six novels and six collections of short stories, three of which have appeared in English: The Carpenter’s Pencil (2001), In the Wilderness (2006) and Vermeer’s Milkmaid & Other Stories (2008). His latest novel, Books Burn Badly, an epic of some 700 pages, is due out in English translation in 2010. His poems have appeared in Absinthe, Modern Poetry in Translation and Poetry Wales. He is a regular contributor to the Spanish daily El País. Rivas is also an active environmentalist, helping to found Greenpeace in Spain and spearheading the protests in Galicia over the oil spill and subsequent sinking of the Prestige in 2002 and the Spanish government’s handling of the catastrophe. This culminated in 100,000 protesters congregating in Santiago de Compostela’s main square with empty suitcases.

The poems in this selection are taken from a forthcoming anthology of Manuel Rivas’ poetry in English translation, also entitled From Unknown to Unknown and to be published in early 2009 by Small Stations Press (

Jonathan Dunne studied Classics at Oxford University and holds advanced diplomas in Spanish and Galician from Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela Universities. He has translated five books by Manuel Rivas: The Carpenter’s Pencil (2001), In the Wilderness (2006), Vermeer’s Milkmaid & Other Stories (2008), From Unknown to Unknown and Books Burn Badly (both forthcoming). The Carpenter’s Pencil was nominated for the 2003 International IMPAC Award, In the Wilderness for the 2004 Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize. He also translates from Spanish (Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas was nominated for the 2008 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize), from Catalan and from Bulgarian. His study of word connections in the English language, The DNA of the English Language, in effect a translation of English, came out in 2007. More information can be found on the website