Names for This

You Lightning-Flasher, Shirt-Raiser,lack-of-control Power Blinker, toss the trees around like wet cotton candy, they’re drunk marionettes, Power Cutter, Bed Rumbler. The night is a black-eye disco, and you’re a violent drunk, Night Storm. Drenching dreams, nowhere to go but right on top of us, roof Slam-Dancer, Sky-Splitter Night Light, Gutter-Defier, Waterfall-Caller tumbling down window panes, Door-Groper, a puddle on the tile. The nosleepers are listening to you, Tomorrow-Maker, Midnight Rumbler. Sharp clouds and nosleep, yer no quitter, Kid, Mountain Bowler, cement puddles, and a mud romance.

The clock blinking 12:00 in fear of You.

Nombres para esto

Tú Destellarayos, Levantacamisas, Parpadeador neumático sincontrol, zarandea los árboles como algodón de azúcar húmedo, son títeres borrachos, Cortador de Poder, Retumbacamas. La noche es un disco ojinegro, Y tú eres un borracho violento, Tormenta Nocturna. Sueños empapantes, ningún lugar a dónde ir salvo encima de nosotros, Slambailador de techo, Luz Nocturna Cortacielos, Desafíalcantarilla, Llamacascadas Tumbando paneles de ventanas, Tientapuertas, un charco en la losa. Los nodurmientes te están escuchando, Hacedor de Mañanas, Retumbador de Mediasnoches. Nubes afiladas y nodormir, Tú nunca renuncias, chico, Lanzamontañas, Charcos de cemento, y un amorío de lodo.

El reloj parpadea las 12:00 temiéndote.

Trad. de Alfredo Villegas Montejo

What Burns Above My House

There is so much happening in the skyit's all we can do to keep ourselves distracted.

The monsoons roll in the late summer. We set the mowers against the grass, they graze like domesticated helicopters. Their growl fills up the neighborhood.

Hawks fly down from the foothills bending the wind with their wide arms. They watch for mice running from the mowers' whirling mouths.

The clear sky hemorrhages a beautiful white cancer, the sun becomes more beautiful in its gradual eclipse because we notice only transitions and invent things like boredom to camouflage our moments.

Everything smells of clean electric sex. The wind has distance on its breath. The afternoon begins to explode.

A season like this makes me wonder how we ever managed to shove time into clocks and watches, keeping time like a tiger on a leash, oblivious to its obvious rebellion.

Sooner doesn't always come before later. Now is never stuck in the middle, monsooner or later it will all come down.

The dirt roads will arrive eventually. Today they're running late.

Taxco, Something in the Sky

Early in the morning,
the sun still young,
the woman blows up balloons
on the steps of the church,

blowing three big breaths
then twisting them,
twisting them, twisting
them tight so that
their silver cellophane
bodies come taut,

and she ties them
on sticks, sticks them
with the rest and
does this again,

three breaths, three times
in, three times out,
building a blossoming
cheap tree of balloons
pulled together, all
tight, all taut
together on the stick
like cellophane silver fruit,
born of mechanical blooms
and breath in a bundle,
a bundle she'll carry, all the

balloons stuck, waiting
for a child to see them,
a child to want one,
and a parent to want
to see their child happy.

She'll walk, all day, through
tight plazas and steep streets, waiting,
longing to sell her lungfuls, waiting
for a child to buy her breath wrapped
in a silver balloon, the wrapped
gift of her lungs, the push
of her diaphragm, the flexing
of her fingers cherished

until a child lets go and her
breath blows away, stray
balloon blows higher—pops,
breath escapes into the white sky,
where it hangs like a lost prayer.

Her breath, loose,
looks down and watches her.
Her breaths are the tiny souls of her moments.
Her chest rising, her fingers aching,
still waiting.

Arizona Freeway Sunrise

The grasses are always dancing in the median,headbangers, seed sowers, dry spines twisting. Freeway flowers face early decapitation— guillotine tirewind, lit by skyfire:

here the sun is literally a star, made of beaten copper, sharp, imperfect. As the star pulls itself up again, the sky goes streaked, the improbable pattern of yellow-red, vivid.

The radio stations are just murmurs in the Spanglish static. The cities hide behind the horizons. The tires break grass necks. The flowers throw themselves like colorful, suicidal philanthropists into the eastbound, into the westbound.

Saguaro shadows are twirling sundials on the clock face of burning sand, they tick, they spin, they speak until they’re spoken to, torn down, paved over, left in piles, sold.

The rush, the hush, the hiss of wind and the immutable silence of light. The piston explosions, the cellphone syllables.

Two realities in the same moment. Two landscapes that never touch.

Arizona freeway sunrise. A breeze blowing through barbwire.

Amanecer en carretera de Arizona

Los pastos siempre bailan en el camellón, de atrás para adelante, esparcen la semilla, sus secas espigas se tuercen. Las flores de carretera enfrentan temprana decapitación; viento-guillotina de llantas, iluminadas por el fuego del cielo:

aquí el sol es literalmente una estrella hecha de cobre forjado, puntiaguda, imperfecta. Mientras la estrella se levanta de nuevo, bandas cruzan el cielo, el improbable patrón de amarillo-rojo, intenso.

Las estaciones de radio sólo son murmullos en la estática. Las ciudades se esconden detrás de los horizontes. Las llantas rompen cuellos del césped. Las flores se arrojan como coloridos y suicidas filántropos hacia el este, hacia el oeste.

Las sombras de los saguaros son manecillas que giran sobre el cuadrante de la arena hirviente, hacen tictac, giran, hablan hasta que se les habla, derribados, asfaltados, apilados, vendidos.

La prisa, la calma, el silbar del viento y el silencio inalterable de la luz. Las explosiones de pistones, las sílabas de celulares.

Dos realidades en un mismo instante. Dos paisajes que jamas se tocan.

Amanecer en carretera de Arizona Una brisa silbando entre alambre de púas.

Trad. de J. Emilio Rodríguez

The old man rides an old bicycle

The old man rides an old bicycle in slow rhythm along the bay, on his way home to his wife after watching the technicolor sunset on the old dock. "¿De qué año es su bicicleta?" I ask him as he peddles by me. "Tiene 50 años," he says, smiling as he stops the bike next to me.

"¿Es un tipo Schwinn?" I ask, being into this type of thing.

"No, se llama Super Rex," he tells me, and pulls out of the breast pocket of his half-open cotton shirt the ancient registration card, which is paperclipped to his carné de identidad. "El gobierno me dio este papel pero como no saben escribir bien pusieron 'suder res.'" We laugh.

He asks me where I'm from. "Oh!," his eyes flush with emotion as he folds up his thick glasses. "I lived for five years there! In New York! Nineteen Fifty Five until Nineteen Sixty. But I think, not because I'm Cuban, that here, Cienfuegos, has the most beautiful sunsets in the world."

"Looked pretty good to me," I tell him.

"How do you like Cuba?"

"Me facina," I say, smiling.

"The same for me in New York," he smiles too. "I love my country," he says the words slowly, as if describing an ache, "but this situation here... it's not good. I stay against my will because I love my country. But this system doesn't work."

"I agree with you," I tell him. I realize he only has the courage to say these things because we are speaking in broken English. By this time we've stopped walking and we're leaning close to each other. He starts laughing.

"I must go," he says, "my wife is waiting for me. It was a pleasure to talk to you and practice my broken English."

"For me too. Tell your wife I say hello and take care."

"Ok, goodbye."

The Cuban Writers' Union

I.Some writers working for the state have clandestine dreams of smuggling out a manuscript to the presses of the capitalist world.

Others just rearrange the same adjectives around the words revolución and Fidel because Customs has long forbidden the importation of new words into Cuba,

so the remaining writers are like everyone else in this country, making do, shuffling the same broken puzzle pieces, searching for new endings.

The writers here are just like the men who sit on the sidewalks behind dirty wooden stands, injecting new aerosol breath into old disposable lighters and the womens’ fine hands in the relojería, fixing old watches with skill, then searching for the hour to set the watches by, the hour that this country lost long ago.

II. On the edges of this living city there are piles upon piles of all the abandoned thoughts, dirty and wet, buzzing with flies, putrid in the tropical sun.

And there are coasts where the government allows no one to swim because there too they have dumped all the aborted ideas of the island, coasts where the waves mumble unintelligible promise and people stop on the seawalk to gaze at the hollow horizon. Sometimes the weight of their unintended sighs is enough to push the cool breeze back out to sea.

Here for every kilo of true creativity the streets are polluted with a hundred liters of tears. Maybe it’s no wonder that the bookshops read like the dictator’s personal library and all the true writers sit in buildings about to collapse, trying to inject new breath onto thin sheets of cheap paper, while others have stopped writing altogether, and spend their days folding their quota of paper into airplanes which they bring down to the shore and toss into the sea, hoping they’ll catch the warm propulsion of an entire nation sighing.

The world has gotten so small that now there’s no more room in the oceans for so many bottles containing the words of so many trapped peoples. The few boats that do manage to leave set sail to the deafening sound of shattering glass and sinking letters. No more messages, no bottles. Here in Cuba all the writers know better than to trust the sea, they study the sky, trying to guess the hour and the best flight plans for paper airplanes.

Gadsden in Sestina

During full moons on the border, the helicoptersare violent in the midnight air, fighting to fly and spy the footsteps that are called illegal in moonlight. My house seems to shudder and move and I'm expected not to notice,

no one is ever expected to notice. The border is a breath caged in steel, created with the movement of a pen, drunk, violent across parchment, never mind that it was almost illegal, this line drawn across footprints.

They say the American, Gadsden, his footsteps crooked, didn't notice how much tequila he drank while debating the particulars. He signed the 1853 treaty for half of what he had been told to: the border was to be pushed halfway to Mexico City without a violent shot fired, but Gadsden, a woman on each knee, was moved to compromise.

If he had been too drunk to move that pen at all, I would have taken my first baby steps in Mexico instead of the U.S. The subtle violence of coincidence almost doesn't exist until you notice it, like the border almost didn't exist until a law was passed to raise a twelve-foot steel wall,

a law was passed to begin patrols with helicopters, to regulate the air moving between two countries, to electrify the border fence, to put landmines under footsteps, to take down bilingual notices, to institutionalize the violence

instead of find the cause of the violence. It shouldn't be legal, this game of noticing effects instead of causes. An American moves into a gated community, a Mexican puts one foot in front of the other, both thinking of the border.

Gadsden, father of border helicopters and my baby steps, father of illegal violence that no one cares to notice: we're all waiting to see how your wild night will end.

La Venta de la Mesilla

En la frontera, durante las lunas llenas, los helicópteros son violentos en el aire de medianoche, luchando para volar y espiar las pisadas llamadas ilegales debajo de la luna. Mi casa parece estremecerse y moverse, y esperan que yo no lo note, esperan que nadie lo note. La frontera es un respiro enjaulado en acero, creado con el movimiento de una pluma borracha, violenta tras el tratado, no importa que fuera casi ilegal esta línea dibujada sobre las huellas de las pisadas. Dicen que el gringo Gadsden torció sus pisadas, no midió cuanto tequila tomó mientras debatía los pormenores. Firmó el tratado de 1853 por la mitad de lo que a él le ordenaron: la frontera se extendería casi hasta la ciudad de México, sin un sólo tiro disparado, pero Gadsden, con una fichera en cada rodilla, fue motivado a cambiar de idea.

Si hubiera estado demasiado borracho para mover aquella pluma, yo hubiera dado mis primeros pasos en México en vez de los Estados Unidos. La sutil coincidencia de la violencia casi no existe hasta que la ves, como la frontera que casi no existió hasta que una ley levantó una muralla acerada de cuatro metros,

una ley que aprobó el patrullaje con helicópteros, reguló el movimiento del aire entre dos países, electrificó el alambrado, colocó minas anti-personales bajo las pisadas, quitó letreros bilingües, institucionalizó la violencia en vez de hallar la causa de la violencia.

No debería ser legal este juego de notar los efectos en vez de las causas. Un gringo se muda a una comunidad cerrada, un mexicano va paso a paso, ambos van pensando en la frontera.

Gadsden, padre de los helicópteros fronterizos y de mis primeros pasos, padre de la violencia ilegal a la que nadie le presta atención: ahora nosotros estamos esperando para ver como aquella borrachera tuya terminará.

Michael’s Fever

20s-era rental built of bent boards,bad carpet and brick. A falling value, south of downtown and neglect by landlords. But at night, through the windows pass drafts and views,

I find him standing when I get up to piss. His shoulders defeated, his open mouth holds a yellow tongue in bubbling bliss, his eyes unkempt. I ask if he's ok.

There’s a sun in the south,

he replies, standing dead asleep. The windchime is the breeze's punching bag, the curtains are canvas sails burning and they leap to catch us, doors slamming, our clothes in red rags.

Forensics will find us tomorrow, but still none can explain the smoldering window sill.

I Confuse the Dead Man,

his bony chin playing the washboardof his knuckles as he thinks me over. He sends moths to burn in the lamp, his hollow eyes fixed from the rocking chair, his teeth, bleached monuments.

Dead men don’t have tongues, some god keeps those for himself. Forget the soul, it’s overrated: you should see this god’s long cape of squirming pronunciations.

I ask the dead man if the rain falling outside is my ancestors running into gutters. There are two cracks running like thoughts at the base of his skull. Time moves in sputters and stops. The room fills with the

sounds of his dry creaking joints as he stands, his jaw moves in words he lacks the tongue to pronounce.

In Ciudad Juárez, They Say the Night Is a Thief

but it was not the night that stole you,night wrapped warm around forehead and under your arms, it was men whose shadows have climbed into their hearts.

Jalisco verde, a childhood in seabreeze spent naming clouds: libélula, golondrina. Then older, to the north, to work. But it was not the night that stole you.

The face of Mamá argued with itself, tears over smile. Papá, moustache black and words: bye, cuidate mucho, there are men who have swallowed their own shadows.

El Norte means hope and hope is a four-letter word spoken between bleeding fingers, between shifts. Then the night stole the day and you waited

for the bus, thick footsteps in sand behind you. Men whistled and called. Then their fingers tore, their shadows swollen inside you.

It is said the longest night births the most beautiful sun. You, far away in wind. May it never be said that it was the night that stole you, for it was men who still walk wearing badges but cast no shadow.

En Cuidad Juárez, culpan a la noche

pero no fue la noche la que te llevó,
la noche envuelta tibiamente en la frente y bajo tus brazos,
fueron hombres cuyas sombras se han infiltrado a sus corazones.

Jalisco verde, una niñez en la brisa marina
que transcurrió llamando a las nubes: libélula, golondrina. Luego al crecer,
al norte, a trabajar. Pero no fue la noche la que te llevó.

La cara de Mamá peleaba consigo misma,
lágrimas sobre su sonrisa. Papá, bigote negro y palabras: bye, cuídate mucho,
hay hombres que se han tragado su propia sombra.

El Norte significa esperanza y esperanza es un insulto
proferido entre dedos sangrantes, entre turnos de trabajo. Luego
la noche se llevó al día y tú esperaste

al autobús, graves pisadas en la arena detrás de ti.
Unos hombres silbaron y llamaron. Luego sus dedos te atravesaron,
sus sombras invadieron tu ser.

Se dice que la noche más larga procrea al sol más hermoso.
Tú, alejada en el viento. Que nunca se diga que
fue la noche la que te llevó, pues fueron hombres que aún caminan
con sus brillantes placas pero sin arrojar sombras.

versión en español: Raúl Gallo Calvo

Arizonan Ghazels

In October all of the leaves turn to stained glass,they shatter like bombed churches across the sidewalk.

The drugs are in the trunk, stuck between gas cans and diapers. Ahead, the border is the horizon, is a line of shimmering coke.

Sparrows bathe in potholes, sunlight falls in chunks. The storm drain sighs and aeroplanes stiff-fingerpaint the sky.

Her head somewhere between cement and god, she stands and begins to brush off her yellow dress.

There are sleepers in the eyes of the sky and morning breath blowing across the city.

Jagged pieces of Spanish falling from the cop's mouth land like sharp tetanus in brown ears.

In the hiss of the nineteen seventy eight-track, ghosts sing between the notes of a country song.

Two black crows make out, all tongues and no teeth in the middle of the rain-stained street.

A coyote spread across the freeway, a rusted shell of a car on the Rez.

The eyelids shed wishes, two thumbs make preemptive war.

Ghazeles de Arizona

En octubre todas las hojas se vuelven vidrio emplomado,
se rompen en mil pedazos como iglesias bombardeadas sobre la banqueta.

Las drogas en la cajuela, atoradas entre tanques de gasolina y pañales.
Adelante, el horizonte es la frontera, es una linea de coca brillosa.

Los gorriones se bañan en los baches, la luz del sol cae en pedazos.
El desagüe suspira y los aviones torpemente pintan el cielo con sus dedos.

Su cabeza en algún lugar entre el cemento y dios,
ella se levanta y empieza a sacudir su vestido amarillo.

Hay legañas en los ojos del cielo y el mal aliento matutino corre a través de la ciudad.
Un español irregular que emana de la boca del policía cae como un tétano agudo en oídos morenos.

En el siseo del cartucho de mil novecientos setenta y ocho
los fantasmas cantan entre las notas de una canción country.

Dos cuervos negros se besuquean,
todo es lengua pues no hay dientes, en el medio de la calle manchada por la lluvia.

Un coyote arrollado en la autopista, una oxidada carrocería en la reserva.
Los párpados derraman deseos, dos pulgares jugando a la guerra preventiva.

Versión en español: Raúl Gallo Calvo y Moisés Regla.