What can I say?

Fernando Alegría

(Unauthorized English Translation by Grecia Bate & Marcia Campos)

When the Chilean goes out into the dawn to pull back the stars
And, damp with morning dew, lights the fire in his spurs;
When the red horse leaps the hurdle of the sea
And the lake trembles with a gentle mist of ducks;
When the wizened larch falls and betwixt its branches falls the sky,
I say with nostalgia: “Viva Chile, Mierda!”

When the deep-sea diver lights his suit
And the whales draw close to suckle at the belly of the boats;
When the country’s skeleton sinks to the bottom of the sea
And like a dead cow, is dragged away by an ancient wave;
When they work the mines and set Antarctica on fire,
I say, pensively, “Viva Chile, Mierda!”

When winter comes floating along the Mapocho River
Like a corpse tied with wires, to flowers and jars;
And dogs lick at him, and he shrinks away embalmed with cats
When it carries one child, and another sleeping child in its frost
And it keeps stirring and stirring its soiled bodybags;
I say, enfuriated, “Viva Chile, Mierda!”

When a squatter camp grows by the light of the moon,
When another crumbles and another factory goes dark;
When a Northern port dies and they wrap it in sand;
When Santiago reeks and its white plazas rust;
When the wine is all gone and the widows morgage their houses;
I say, head bowed, “Viva Chile, Mierda!”

I ask myself suddenly and with amazement why
I say, “Viva Chile, Shit!” and not my… er… beautiful country?
Perhaps in my ignorance I repeat the echo of another echo;
“Viva!” says the seeker with the the gold nugget between his fingers;
“Chile!” says the wind to the green sky of the drunken valleys;
“Shit!” replies the frog to the old witch of Talagante.

What is this deep problem hiding in the lines of my hand?
Is my country an illusion that follows me like a dog’s shadow?
My friends: Is there no Life between us without its shit?
The one for the slave, the other for the master
The one for the exploiter of nitrate, copper, coal, and livestock,
The other for the miner whose life is a subterranean death.

And as we grieve through life on our narrow land overlooking the abyss,
Who was the first to shout out the curse?
Was it a soldier wounded in the battle of Rancagua?
Was it a sailor in Angamos? Or a corporal in Cancha Rayada?
Was it a striker in La Coruña? A clenched fist in San Gregorio?
Or an Easter Islander bleeding in the nightfall of his beaches?

Didn’t the troubador croon his solitude unto the divine
While his humanity, hanged himself with the strings of his guitar?
Didn’t he follow the Holy One on horseback, while his knife’s kept the devil away?
Ah! What a giant undertaking for such a measly destiny!
Between snow and sea, with all our heart, we beat ourselves against a pathway that is walled in.

As a result, in the morning, when God ignores us,
When an earthquake’s shudder rouses us at midnight,
When the sea loots our houses and hides in the woods,
When Chile can no longer be sure of its maps,
And we crow, like a rooster that will peck the sun into pieces,
I say, with resolution, “Viva Chile, Mierda!”

And what I say is a battle cry,
A prayer without end, a farewell call, a fierce command,
A bloody digging in of the spurs, with the reins in the air;
The gallop of Chile’s stallion across centuries,
The grinding of tectonic plates, the ring of fire,
The ancient blue wave of impatient icebergs.

My bird-country, green root, corner where the world ends,
Whoever yells it shall have no peace, will move forward only to fall again,
Because from island to island, from the sea to the mountains,
From one solitude to another, as from one star to another star,
The verdict of the earth will go on howling in our ears:
I say finally, “Viva Chile, Mierda!

h/t to the blog on Fernando Alegria


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