Notes on a Return to the Ever-dying Lands

Arturo Desimone’s series on Latin American poetry for The Drunken Boat Poetry Review.


BY MIROSLAVA ROSALES (El Salvador, 1985)
and a prelude to Rosales’ yet-untranslated poetry collection “República del excremento (antología personal mínima)”
“El Mundo Prometido’’ Antonio Berni, Argentina


And my mother gave me refuge from knives,
 gunpowder, rain, quicklime,
 for nine months in her womb,
 she thought of seagulls for my heart,
 of sunflowers, interstellar dust, clematis,
 and gave me her rivers, her grains of aurora and oats,
 her milk, her heat,
 her word, source of blood and melody,
 and built for me with her hands, with her mouth,
 a world of silence and aluminum.
 And I grew up

to be aware of destruction,
 that the surest word is death,
 that sunflowers exist no longer, my yard open to the sun,
 the cypress round which I played always alone in the afternoons,
 the galaxy that I watched from my telescope as a girl,
 and now I live in the winter mist of a ghostforest,
 on a journey to the centre of catastrophes,
 and now there’s no way back.
 Now there’s no way back.

Translation by Dylan Brennan

Audio link to “CANNED COAL BIRD’’ recited by actress Ayesha Mendham, on The Drunken Boat soundcloud station
painting/relief from the “Juanito and Ramona series’’, Antonio Berni, Argentina

Where’s your Nicaragua now?

Where’s your laugh like a nightclub

like a plagueless summer of abundant mangoes

like a morning of skylarks in the window

like a gust of splendid parakeets?

Where’s your electric-fenceless sky

with no watchmen at the gates?

Where’s your sea and the caress of her waves?

Where are the daisies of the city

(killer of the small

of the bread seekers

of those who self-consume like altar candles)?

This country is a death ticket

a prison

in continual decline

for your daily devoured sex

for your 28 gunshot heart

for your unlistened-to symphony.

Nobody knows your real name

a virgin in this carnival of wolves

in this fetid accumulation

in this warren of cocaine.

One day you’ll be

an unidentified corpse.

translation by Dylan Brennan

Editor’s note: in the interview, Miroslava talks about having accompanied a North American photographer who went to red light districts of San Salvador — this gave the poet an opportunity to get to know prostitutes there, many of whom are from Nicaragua and under the surveillance of gangs.

Painting: Juanito Laguna, ‘’Ser o no ser’’ by Antonio Berni

canned coal bird

By Miroslava Rosales
transl. Jessica Rainey
inside the screech

I am a canned coal bird


in every aisle


in a sky that spans a credit card

plastic temple in the hand

sky of plastic and ash

Juanito Laguna series, Antonio Berni

and I


insubordinate flare


a metal in grief

falling through the cash machine

into the shopping mall pit

into the grave of work days

endless lines


shops and sculpted hair extensions


a catwalk of ants on the rope with no end

watch out

the fire approaches

extinguisher extinguisher

here come the extinguishers

here come the joys of waking

here come the offerings the prayers

the caresses of teddy bears all come into my life

I ride the escalators seeking the sunrise

and I am a coin dropping over the edge

into a cellar I feel trapped

seeing myself in the shop windows alone

the mannequins loyal to the shining night

such a joke those frozen models

and my voice

I don´t recognize

I don´t recognize my voice in this screech of bats

in the same old café


like steel




all this rain at night

all this rain swiftly entering a body

and draining its vitality

sunrise in the shop window

you see?

an uninstalled heart

in the café

with no one

I ambush dreams, a cigarette quickly burns out

vast networks make newspapers

trade in the ephemeral makes me laugh

life in paper money

life burnt out by paper

efficiency efficiency child

the ghosts tell me

the ghosts throb in the metal

and I


my word an antenna in this sphere

Published in Theatre under my Skin. Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry (Kalina Press, 2014)

allegro vivace

(painting by Rufino Tamayo)

love a single syllable

of electric waterfalls and snowstorms

of planes and kites

doorway to my flaws and shipwrecks

we climb to the same heights

love you taste like níspero honey and oats like an endless earthquake

like melon in a courtyard of clarity and tenderness

like a month of sea air and dolphins

like a kiss beneath a gateway of daisies and polished stars.


I have also seen you diluted in days of alcohol and cocaine

in the voice of robert johnson and the electric howls of ginsberg

in dizzy spells

and short-circuits

something about edges entices you until you become one

a solitary and noisy midnight

without sedatives


your word is an obelisk that appears on this page without warning

a wellspring where I acknowledge my wounds

you know how much of my foliage was felled in the war

but in this country we come to an allegro vivace

Translation by Jessica Rainey

Published in Theatre under my Skin. Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry (Kalina Press, 2014)

“From the Decapitated Country’’ Dylan Brennan’s prologue to Rosales’ untranslated República del excremento (antología personal mínima)

“país país país país país” — her country is the República del excremento, a place populated by “madres decapitadas y ninfas sarnosas” where life is cheap and depravity is king. Yes, this is poetry that has a social element. The kind of poetry we had forgotten about, poetry that has something to say. Something that needs to be said. Sometimes the metaphors and allusions are useless and the poet needs to simply state the facts as they are. In “Keysi en el barrio El Calvario” Rosales does just that:

En el barrio

el cadáver pequeño de un ángel es encontrado

envuelto en una sábana

This is what happened. This is where it happened. Don’t you dare turn your eyes away from this. Rosales forces us to confront reality, something necessary in a world ever more easily bypassed by online trivialities. But there is beauty here too. “La visita íntima” reminds us that, though we must not fail to acknowledge the horrors that surround us, we must also go on living and, indeed, loving:

¿Por qué no besas mis pezones

y los muerdes

como manzanas en fiesta de año nuevo […]?

The invitation to love takes the form of a question and questions are central to these poems, for it is in these questions that we find the other themes of Rosales’s work, namely love and hope. In “Niña con caramelos y albahaca en el corazón” the young woman who “sabe del peso de la noche y del semen” asks:

¿Algún día morderé la paz?

¿algún día seré un melón luminoso en el centro de un jardín?

The question does two things. It contrasts the beauty of an imagined alternative with the harsh desperation of reality. However, it also presents the possibility of future relief. In intensifying pathos it also depicts the potential for overcoming suffering. Rosales loves her characters, loves her country. For that reason she depicts it as it is while allowing for the possibility of hope:

¿Cuándo serás la música del alba y no de la rabia endurecida?

Make no mistake, Rosales’s voice is her own, but somewhere, no doubt, Roque Dalton is reading, smiling and approving. A fantastic collection of poems.



¿Dónde quedó tu Nicaragua,

tu risa juguetona parecida a una discoteca,

a un verano de abundantes mangos y sin plaga,

a mañana de alondras en la ventana,

a una ráfaga de espléndidos pericos?

¿Dónde el cielo sin cerco eléctrico,

sin vigilantes a su entrada?

¿Dónde el mar y sus olas de caricias?

¿Dónde las margaritas para la ciudad

(homicida con el pequeño,

con el que busca un pan,

con el que se consume como un cirio)?

Es este país el boleto a la muerte,

la cárcel,

en deterioro progresivo,

para tu sexo devorado diariamente,

para tu corazón con 28 disparos,

para tu sinfonía nunca escuchada.

Nadie sabe tu verdadero nombre,

virgen vos en el carnaval de los lobos,

en este fétido hacinamiento,

en esta colmena de cocaína.

Serás un día

«cadáver no identificado»

pájaro de carbón en lata

en el chillido

soy un pájaro de carbón en lata


en cada pasillo


en el cielo que expande una tarjeta de crédito

templo de plástico en la mano

cielo de plástico y cenizas

y yo


insumisa luz de bengala


un metal en tristeza

cayendo al cajero

al agujero de un centro comercial

al féretro de las jornadas de trabajo

siguen las filas

los bancos

las tiendas y sus cabelleras de vidrio

las filas

un desfile de hormigas en la cuerda que no cesa


el incendio se acerca

extintor extintor

vengan los extintores

vengan las alegrías de verse despierta

vengan todas las ofrendas las plegarias

las caricias de osos de felpa a mi vida

Buscando el alba subo las gradas eléctricas

y soy una moneda que cae al precipicio

y es un entrar a sótanos esta sensación

de verse frente a las vitrinas sola

los maniquíes fieles a la noche reluciente

qué risa estos modelos de congelador

y mi voz

no me conozco

no me conozco en este chillido de murciélagos

en el café de siempre

las palabras

como acero




cuánta lluvia en la noche

cuánta lluvia se adentra de pronto a un cuerpo

y se adueña de sus energías

el alba en la vitrina


un corazón desinstalado

en el café

sin nadie

asalto sueños a un cigarro que pronto se apaga

el periódico es una red de kilómetros

me río del negocio de lo efímero

la vida en el papel moneda

y se quema la vida con el papel

eficiencia eficiencia niña

me dicen los fantasmas

los fantasmas palpitan en el metal

y yo


mi palabra una antena en esta esfera

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