[Thunder in the Inverted Sky]

By Verónica González Arredondo

Translated by Allison A. deFreese

Spanish
English Translation

Excerpted from Verde fuego de espíritus/Green Fires of the Spirits

_    _

_    _

_ _ _

We fled the fire 

by boarding barges— 

They were giant orchids, 

illuminated cocoons 

 

While the flowers of Edo 

spread flames everywhere, 

inside the orchidarium 

we began our game 

in shadow 

 

Navigating the night 

in a procession lit by luminaries, 

we descended 

down to the river 

Mamá, 

don’t turn out the light 

 

Something dangerous 

is climbing the foot of my bed, 

pairs of eyes and legs 

 

Each step, an ascending note, 

scaling my nerves with melodies 

not from this world 

—     

It will come for me, 

entering through the window, 

with a body covered in scales of water and wind 

 

It will come in with the shipwreck 

to sing melancholy songs, 

holding a small box in its hands 

 

It will enter, its shadow embedding 

in the windowpane 

the way walls become stained 

from murder 

 

Upon opening the box, 

a dragon turns into 

a firefly streamer 

—   

I descend, heading down— 

 

to the jaws at the bottom of the staircase 

 

Inside them I feel the cold 

 

There is no door and no knob, 

no footsteps looking back 

 

Terror before me 

 

The void surrounding me 

Mamá, 

sing to me 

even when the butterflies 

get lost in the desert 

 

Sing to me 

when the sand dampens my feet 

as the bed sinks deeper 

 

Sing to me 

when the shadow appears 

on the horizon 

to cover the earth 

 

Sing to me each night 

when I slide below my worm-eaten belly 

with its colossal crawling 

 

Sing to me 

even if I don’t wake up again 

With three fingers 

you were catching the green spirits 

 

They fled from you 

in the darkness— 

lights blinking 

They are fireflies 

No

They’re green fires 

 

The ones over there are yellow on the outside 

and green inside 

 

Some that are both colors, 

their skins turned inside out 

 

No 

they are spirits. 


Translator’s Note: In her succinct—yet richly imagistic—poetry, Verónica González Arredondo explores arid ecosystems of deserts that were once oceans, as well as themes related to immigration, social justice, femicide, perilous border crossings, and the disappearances of countless girls and women from Central America making the journey to the U.S./Mexican Border. She writes about extinction and survival, disappearing landscapes, displaced peoples, and the inhospitable climate (physically and metaphorically) that remains in their wake.


Verónica González Arredondo (Guanajuato, Mexico) has received several prestigious Latin American literary awards, including Mexico’s National Ramón López Velarde Prize in Poetry/Premio Nacional de Poesía “Ramón López Velarde,” for Ese cuerpo no soy/I Am Not That Body (Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, 2015) as well as the Dolores Castro Prize /Premio Dolores Castro, an annual prize awarded to a woman writing exceptional and socially conscious work in Spanish, for her book Verde Fuegos de Espíritus/Green Fires of the Spirits.
Poet and translator Allison A. deFreese is based in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and coordinates literary translation workshops for the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters. She has previously lived in Mexico and South America. Her literary translations of work by Verónica Arredondo González, Luis Chitarroni, and María Negroni also appeared this spring in Asymptote, Anomaly, Bangalore Review, Burningword, and Waxwing.

Image credit: “Green Smoke” by Flickr
Spanish Read by VERÓNICA GONZÁLEZ ARREDONDO
Translation Read by ALLISON A. DEFREESE

 

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