Translating Carmen Conde for the Web
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Carmen Conde translated by Barbara DeCesare


You come from the center of the sun.
You are the mysteries of fire.

Once I raised my hand to the sun,
and kept my eyes away,

but your burning swept through me
like endless bells ringing.

I do not know myself.

Once I raised my voice to the sun
but turned my eyes away.

My throat is a volcano,
a torrent of panic.

I am the border of what I was.
I am the faintest evidence of me.

—USA, Summer, 2006


The city is in profile, everything is half,
the predator thins himself out against
his own exposure.
Each lost half is an unexplored forest
full of creatures who fear
only their own fearlessness —
not the streets or their attendant
The sky is a mask of paper tigers,
the buildings are flat statues
without voice or definition.
Everyone who flees
flees to his secret half,
from the city through the forest
to sacrifice to the god of
his own brutal ocean.

—USA, Summer, 2006


Jesus came to us as a blind dog we could not understand.
We sat in the doorway. We asked the dog for garlic.
He asked us why. We told him we needed to look at it.

He brought it and sat across our laps and we opened and opened
the white thumb-flames and we told him about Tomorrow,
we described it so he could understand.

Then we burned all our clothes to explain the garlic,
so the dog could hear the flickers of the paperwhite.
We ate the garlic all together and held ourselves before the fire.

He told us about Lazarus and we told him about birds.
He told us about the water and we told him about the water.
We told him about distance and he asked us to heal him

and we took his eyes into our mouths, we left our cowardice,
we held his head in our hands and fed our breath into his eyes,
and the fire sent up signals that only the dogs could hear.

—USA, Summer, 2006


The ocean had gone before me into the house.
The bookshelves lost their mouths.
Poetry became inscrutable pools.
Decision or dimension – I know some things:
how fruit comes from the forest,
the indestructible shades of your question,
the way friends go and come, like the stars,
their beauty the tail
that erases their absence in the sky.

—USA, Summer, 2006


Al pisar esta ola

Of all of us, you are the only one who asked to be born.
You knew the beaches before they were yours,
your hand dangling, out of the dismal mother country,
into them. You were the owner
of ambivalence, the sacred place
of knowing the indescribable, the humbled animals,
the tender poisons of friendship.
No one else wanted to leave the paper ship,
the jungle of arteries,
but you move from sea to sea.
We begged for eternal protection.
You wanted to know want.

—USA, Summer, 2006


Nicaragua mi hizo

No one expected to return to Paradise
after she did, her to me, the dance of
that sweet voice that dragged me to the roots
of warning. And stopped there.
The inside of me wanted
to call doctors, call a concert,
stop the morning from making is passage,
wanted to purify myself with a single
lonely beauty. Cruel to think the power
was hers to give – eternal life or lasting memory —
cruel and foolish to think there is a Paradise
that lives to receive me.

—USA, Summer, 2006