Catherine Hammond translating Carmen Boullosa

Another Family Tree



My father was Lazarus, brutal in his silence.
Rise up and walk.
In him, silence traveled
as if alive.
That’s what escaped from the tomb.

I was able to breathe for the first time when his gravestone cracked open.
As a girl, I filled my lungs with chocolate and sweet heat from the stove,
As a teen, the only oxygen I inhaled
came when I left the house.
Otherwise, I inhaled pure body stench.
Either that or the toxic ptomaine of a cadaver.
My mama dead.
I could not understand why, in life, she had married             a Lazarus.
She must have once believed Papa was a handsome young man, intelligent, someone with a future.
She did not understand that being with him meant everything, already, was in the past.


The two talked while facing down death,
turning their backs on life,
very Catholic, that goes without saying.
To the point of eating the body of Christ.


(Can someone explain to me how time for me rides a skateboard? Where does it get its speed and life? How is it that one moment or another you break your neck, yet return again to roll on?

I can answer: you get all that; along with the Host they ate carnitas, moles, big meatballs, cake made from condensed milk, they brought blankets, they laughed, and well, much more.)


My papa’s past held no soccer ball, not a park, not games,
nothing but the bindings of his shroud.

Without knowing it, Mama lived with one foot in the grave.
That’s how memory breathes.

I am and have always been the drowner’s breast stroke,
and I know that the future, for me, is one that will never occur.

The bouquet of flowers, the white dress, laughter, are not going to happen for me.
I remain that kid, yet at the same time, nearly old.
Now I breathe pure ash, inhale.
I give up my very blood,
my flesh shuts down, like stone.
The stench of public blood suffocates me,
The blood of all those others runs in the street.
So much, so much death.
There is nothing more.

Otra genealogía
por Carmen Boullosa



Mi padre fue el Lázaro brutal de su silencio.
Levántate y anda.
En él, caminó el silencio.
Parecía vivo.
Era lo que escapaba de la tumba.

Yo respiré por primera vez cuando su lápida se cuarteaba.
De niña llené mis pulmones de chocolate y dulces al calor de la estufa.
Al salir de casa,
fui el único oxigeno de mi adolescencia.
Aspiré puro sobaco.
Era eso, o cadaverina.
Mi mamá muerta.
No entendí por qué, en vida, ella se había matrimoniado con un Lázaro.
Debió creer que papá era un joven bello, inteligente, y con futuro.
No entendió que en él todo era el pasado.


Los dos hablaban dando la cara a la Muerte,
la espalda a la vida,
muy católicos, que ni qué.
A punta de comer cuerpo de Cristo.


(—¿Alguien me explica cómo mi tiempo corre en patineta?,  ¿de dónde sacó velocidad y vida? ¿Por qué aunque se desnuque de vez en vez, vuelva otra vez a rodar?

—Yo te lo digo: de ellas lo sacaste; aparte de las hostias comían carnitas, moles, albondigones y torta en leche; traían mantillas pero cómo reían, y más.)


El pasado de mi papá no contenía la pelota del futbol, ni el parque, ni los juegos,
sino las vendas de su mortaja.

Mamá vivía con un pie en la tumba sin saberlo.
Así la respira la memoria.

Soy y siempre he sido la brazada del ahogado,
y sé que el futuro, para mí, es un no puede ser.

Conmigo no llegó el ramo de flores, ni el vestido blanco, ni la risa.
Sigo siendo esa chamaca, ya medio vieja.
Ahora respiro pura ceniza, aspiro.
Mi propia sangre me abandonó,
mi carne cerrada, como una piedra.
Me ahoga el olor de la sangre pública,
rueda en la calle la sangre ajena.
Tanta, tanta muerte.
No hay nada más.

            From La patria insomne. Ediciones Hiperion (2011) and used with permission.

Catherine Hammond

Catherine Hammond translates the poetry of Carmen Boullosa from the Spanish. Another translation, “Angel Sound, Mexico City,” was published in American Poetry Review. Hammond has also translated the work of Venezuelan poet, María Auxiliadora Álvarez, and of the Spanish poet, Olvido García Valdés, winner of Spain’s Premio Nacional 2007. Poems from that book, Y todos estábamos vivos, appear as a chapbook, House Surrounded by Scaffold from Mid-American Review. Hammond also has translations in Field, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Drunken Boat, Words without Borders, and many other national magazines. She has three Pushcart nominations for her own poetry.

Carmen Boullosa

Carmen Boullosa (Mexico City, 1954) is a novelist, a poet and a playwright. She has published seventeen novels and more than a dozen books of poetry. She received the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize in Mexico, in Germany the Anna Seghers and the Liberaturpreis, and most recently the Café Gijón Prize of Madrid. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Cullman Center Fellow, held the Chair Andrés Bello at NYU, and the Alfonso Reyes Chair at La Sorbonne. Boullosa was distinguished professor at Georgetown University, Columbia University and City College CUNY and hosts the five times NY-EMMY winner TV show “Nueva York.”