Agustín Lucas

Translator’s Note:

With only 3.4 million people, Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America, but it has always been well-populated with poets. On most nights in Montevideo, there are poetry readings at multiple venues ranging from the national library to neighborhood bars. This poem is one of many works I selected for América invertida: An Anthology of Younger Uruguayan Poets which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. For that anthology I matched 21 Uruguayan poets under 40 with American poets who were also translators. Agustín Lucas is the poet I translated.

 

Agustín Lucas is an Uruguayan poet and author of three books, Insectarios, No todos los dedos son prensiles and Club. He also a professional soccer player. His poems have appeared in The Collagist and Diagram are included in América invertida: an anthology of younger Uruguayan poets which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press.

 

Jesse Lee Kercheval (translator) is the author of 13 books of fiction, memoir and poetry including the novel My Life as a Silent Movie and the poetry collection Cinema Muto. She is the editor of América invertida: an anthology of younger Uruguayan poet forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. Her translations have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Agni, the Boston Review and other magazines.

 

General Flores without Flowers

Avenida General Flores is beautiful in the nights so late they are early Monday mornings, with traffic lights red, then green, with the customary desolation and mystery in its side streets.

General Flores in watchfulness, watching autumn hesitate with dead leaves on this paradise of cement and stone, of plastic and wood furniture for sale.

The corner with Blandengues is entangled with the wind in a relentless whirl of one way streets; the bus terminal, abandoned, transformed, melancholic: the melancholy that lies alone, forgotten, incapable on the platforms occupied last Sunday by drums and boys, competing with litany of seven o’clock.

The Terminal Goes, Marcelino Sosa street covering its back: quick, attentive, dark; the community center and library, the posters, the sidewalks, the wind revolving in the bars.

Transients take short strolls along the sidewalks, characters that remain nameless for all time, and from the city buses, faces shout against sleep, blinking at the stops, they miss the rain or leave a dirty image to be washed away by the drops on the windows. The transients outside also get soaked.

The dirt of some flowerbed splashes mud on the clay pots. The desolation is implacable, and is not disturbed by the lost whistle that warns of who comes or goes, feels or thinks, sings or hums the sadness of a tango with dark circles under his eyes. Then the novelty dance happens, the loneliness that sings in the instant when lovers are left at their doors. Not engines, nor the horns when a 169 and a 505 cross, not the bottles that roll, not the bells, not any of these sonorous events, not what will be seen falling down on the inhospitable street, will disturb the inclement desolation of the avenue, home of whores and transvestites, of worker and neighbor, of dealer and crack head on the corners.

The transients sleep, children of the street, with one eye obviously open, the proprietors of the stairs and of the railing, of the glass, of the bottle, of the remains of noodles and the heels of bread, of the blanket and the flip-flops, of the size extra large, or of the toes sticking out. Prisoners of winter, free of the calendar and of the clock, heroes of the tranquility, friends of the dogs.

Transients stroll, return, leave, transients buy, sell, leave, transients keep watch, transients rave, stop, begin again, leave, transients believe, transients steal, leave, transients create, cry, deceive, transients lose, win, leave.

General Flores walks in its sleep, and the furniture and the prices quiet down even more, and the beds cool down even more, the plazas and seductive shop windows lower the voltage of the lights, until it is sparkling, dry, free of shadow plays.

 

 

General sin flores

Es tan bella General Flores en las altas madrugadas de los bajos lunes, con sus luces rojas y ahora verdes, con la corriente desolación y el misterio en sus bocacalles.

General Flores en vigilia, vigila lo que vacila el otoño con las hojas muertas del paraíso de cemento y piedra, de plástico y madera de muebles en venta.

La esquina con Blandengues se enreda con el viento en un implacable remolino del calles flechadas; la terminal de ómnibus, abandonada, transformada, melancólica: la melancolía sola, olvidada, yace incapaz en los andenes ocupados por tambores y gurises del ayer domingo, lidiando la letanía de la hora 19.

La terminal Goes, Marcelino Sosa cubriendo las espaldas: rápida, atenta, oscura; el comunal y la biblioteca, los afiches, las veredas, el viento revoleando de los bares.

Transeúntes se pasean escasos por las veredas, personajes innominados por el tiempo, y desde el transporte capitalino las caras vociferan contra el sueño, guiñan las paradas, se extrañan ante la lluvia o se dejan mojar la imagen sucia que gotea las ventanas. Los transeúntes afuera, también se mojan.

La tierra de algún cantero salpica de barro los ladrillos de la maceta. La desolación se vuelve implacable, y no la perturba el silbido perdido que avisa que viene o que va, que siente o que piensa, que canta o tararea la tristeza de un tango con ojeras. La novedad bailable que acontezca, la soledad que canta al instante cuando se dejan los enamorados en las puertas. Ni los motores, ni la bocina que cruzan en un 169 y un 505, ni las botellas que ruedan, ni los timbres, ni estos sonoros aconteceres, ni los que verá caer la inhóspita calle, perturbará la inclemente desolación de la avenida, morada de putas y travestis, de obrero y vecino, de transa y latero en las esquinas.

Los transeúntes duermen, hijos de la calle, con evidente ojo abierto, dueños del escalón y de la reja, del vaso, de la botella, del resto de fideos y el codo del pan, de la frazada y la chancleta, del talle grande, o de los dedos para afuera. Presos del invierno, libres del calendario y del reloj, héroes del sosiego, amigos de los perros.

Transeúnte pasea, vuelve, se va, transeúnte transa, vende, se va, transeúnte campana, transeúnte delira, cesa, vuelve, se va, transeúnte trata, cree, transeúnte roba, se va, transeúnte crea, llora, engaña, transeúnte pierde, gana, se va.

Gral, Flores reposa deambulada, y se aquietan aún más los muebles y los precios, y se enfrían aún más las camas, las plazas, y se bajan las tensiones de las luces vidrieras seductoras, tintineantes, secas, sin juego chino de sombras.

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