Lucina Schell translating Miguel Ángel Bustos: ARRIVAL IN THE HEAVENS


of how I went in search of a language
and had to descend for who 
knows how long.


May your farewell be
enlightened toad dark feline
from the streets of oranges.
To howl ad
pit of water cher
dark black of the streets of oranges.
They have gone
I remain dying in the pasture of a million years my whole
      mouth feels the light returned in the metals. Such sad eyes.
When the word in its string of cutting vocals will be
      more than a tongue.
Body departing from a single blow take leave of me night
      take leave of me.
Why have you forsaken me.
Because I forsake you arriving in the heavens with my
      whistling tongue.
Metals waters I am a slave of the kilometer and the light force
      word descends like a people.
May your farewell be my greatest blow
my lost loss
my most my mass of farewell
for this life without limits.



Humid rain the moon will be cut
at the brim of the bloodied heavens that from me fall.
For each time always
I enter and leave
with my heart of sun over the horizon.
I will give to all
the setting of that heart
at six in the morning on the purest day.
I make the night make it known that I speak visibly invisibly.
I will not be of those with only one iron and one soul.
Light I don’t forget what my blood imagines in your veins my mouth
      that is not mine.
I am a thousand by a thousand from all sides
a body world of a thousand tongues.
I don’t forget believe me I don’t forget
I am just born I’ll never forget.


how long will there be oranges on the streets
of Tigre
and not my love’s heart.
Pulp of your tremendous mouth I touched it and it left through the night
      between the orange trees it returned to hit me like the frailest
      branch or the coldest wave gathering a tempest.
And I who believed we would join ourselves in our life of
      a thousand years.
Horn extinguish the light for I descend alone to the city of
      men. Extinguish laments of iron and bronze among the
There I go wash your body and we’ll leave. Oh holy skin of youth
      the world will be ours.
Silence with the deaf joy. Now it finally sleeps. Bugle
      among the oranges.


An oboe sounds son of all the great city’s trees.
     Bell of leaves and branches you will make me cry. Perhaps
     scream. Never a naked sound no more. Lost satellite
     that falls whistling fire. Metals and words. Listen how
     the new mouth of such a sound must be. Word mass of
     the heavens. Not the dying scale of solitary voices
     masturbating in the void not a nail from the aerial cross of
     each man. Already the word ceased to be lover only to
     be mass. Sea land they are thick they crash against the air they are.
     Billions of stars. Tides of words tide of every day
     I will order the sea that speaks and leaves for the heavens.
I can cry. Oboes sound that wound and one has a heart:
     HEART made of dead froth. If I had broken sounds
     musical noises to last a lifetime I would not write
     poems but rather voices beneath the water sand of voices.
I’m reminded that these are not poems I write essays of worlds
     displacing entire peoples. Metallic speaking mass
     that raises strange breaths.
Populations for a new heaven of masses. I wish you had seen me
     my love it was night and the seas swelled.


This was how Christopher Columbus discovered the sky in a ship
     of silk strings one blue Caribbean night. Sweet elevation of
     leaving us.
A son of his sons eaten more than four centuries ago with a hundred
     wings of gold and with calm winds saw America open her-
     self between volcanoes.
The golden-winged one Yuri of the land of Gagarin had vigor.
     Ancient purity new health.
Oh oceans just-trampled stars great year of the virgins. I have
     gone so crazy I will go down to the flowers and climb
     their sap.
Taut silk strings wings of gold rising up to the sun. For what
     am I going to stay sitting pecking some thing without life
     when the heavens are every time more immense.
This was how I put on the human strings human wings and
     entered the heavens.

Translator’s Note

In 1959, precipitating the gathering and flourishing of the Argentine Generation of 1960, Miguel Ángel Bustos’ first full-length book of poems appeared, Corazón de piel afuera. In his prologue, Juan Gelman called it a “book without precedent in Argentine poetry, of a powerful and mature, unexpected and tender lyrical flight.” Certainly, the poet’s strong and prophetic voice is already present in this early volume, his orientation toward spiritual and human concerns. Yet, we can also see Bustos influenced by and influencing his generational peers, playing with the hallmarks of this generation, the everyday, the local, in simple and conversational language.

From 1960-1963, Bustos departed from his country and the predominant poetic aesthetic of his generation, traveling into the north of Argentina, and then on into Bolivia and Peru, finally spending large periods of time in Rio de Janeiro, where he became intimately acquainted with concrete poetry. In 1964, he suffered a nervous breakdown and was interned in a psychiatric hospital, where he met poet Jacobo Fijman. It should come as no surprise, then, that Fragmentos fantásticos, dedicated “to my friends, my brothers, to those who speak from the mouth of dreams” is also profoundly influenced by Bustos’ reading of the poètes maudit, in particular Nerval, Lautréamont, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, and many of the poems in this volume contain epigraphs from these poets. It is in Bustos’ complex engagement with all of these influences—the poètes maudit, pre-Columbian indigenous myth, world religious traditions—that his poetry truly distinguishes itself, beginning with Fragmentos fantásticos in 1965, then three years later, the Buenos Aires Municipal Prize winning Visión de los hijos del mal, and finally in his last published book El Himalaya o la moral de los pájaros in 1970. Bustos’ prolific career was cut short when he became an early victim of Jorge Rafael Videla’s military junta in 1976.

“Arrival in the Heavens,” a cycle of poems from the middle of Fragmentos fantásticos, represents the poet/prophet’s arising toward the divine, while remaining profoundly grounded in the world of sensory experience. The influence of Brazilian concrete poetry can be observed in the wordplay here, which enhances Bustos’ inherently musical language, reaching its pinnacle in these poems conceived as musical compositions. Thus, musicality was my guide in nearly every translation decision, and these poems presented many. (The breaking of words into syllables in the first poem posed particular challenges.) Before settling on “farewell,” for example, in the refrain of the first poem, I also tried “goodbye,” “going,” and “leaving.” In English, I find the musicality of Bustos in alliteration, internal rhyme, and sonic echoes like sound/wound. As the epigraph states, he is in search of a language, and I as translator follow him closely in that search. Though the poet, tragically, is no longer with us, I was fortunate to be able to go back and forth with his son, the poet Emiliano Bustos, about many of these translation dilemmas.

Lucina Schell

Lucina Schell is founding editor of, a review of literature in translation written by translators. Her translations of Miguel Ángel Bustos appear or are forthcoming in Ezra Translation Journal and The Bitter Oleander, and her literary reviews have been published in Ezra and in Zoland Poetry. Follow her @LucinaSchell.

Miguel Ángel Bustos

Miguel Ángel Bustos (1932-1976) was a major poet of the Argentine Generation of 1960, as well as an illustrator and journalist. Among his five published books of poetry, Visión de los hijos del mal, with a prologue by Leopoldo Marechal, won the Buenos Aires Municipal Prize for Poetry in 1968. Bustos became an early victim of the military dictatorship, which ushered in decades of censorship of his poetry. His collected poetry was republished in 2008, the first time it had appeared in print in more than thirty years. Bustos’ remains were identified in 2014 by forensic anthropologists.