He who waits watches the landscape for the one who is not coming.
He who is not coming can be spotted easily in the near distance.
He can be spotted in a lone boat, in the sky, in the clouds.
Two trees lift their branches to toast the day’s success.
He who waits would be happy if the sun coming into the living room
would decide to turn into the one who is coming.
He who is not coming rides by on the back of a fly without saying hello.
(Even though later, in many places, they will greet each other.)
He who waits would prefer the lone boat and the clouds to worry.
It wouldn’t hurt if the trees showed a little concern, too.
Every day, gamblers, prostitutes, and beggars come to the bar.
At midnight, a van with no one at the wheel pulls up to the door
and drops off men in white suits.
In their pockets they carry pistols capable of conquering much beauty.
The street lamps realize but decide to ignore them.
The Indians put on their masks and gather their earnings.
The new arrivals point their pistols at light bulbs, and let the bullets fly.
Gamblers, prostitutes, and beggars fall into the dark.
At dawn the garbage collectors in their tuxedos clean up the mess,
replace the bodies, select songs, turn on the lights . . .
When others do us harm, the powerful one orders us to build a miniature lake.
He turns us into clay figures—we navigate in tiny pieces of wood
and attack our enemies on the lake.
In the darkness we see the powerful one take charge of things,
and our enemies drown with their pigs and chickens.
When we return on our pieces of wood, he lights our path
and heals our wounds with clay from the shore.
The powerful one drinks aguardiente and kicks back in his bathtub of piranhas.
The boy’s bulletin board gathers the world and its things together.
A full color Batman cut-out next to the Virgin Mary.
They could almost be at a picnic.
Mother and father smile beside Bugs Bunny.
Tranquil beasts and distant stars live in the Jurassic Park advertisement.
The butterfly with a pin through her stomach complains at night.
Streamers rained from the clouds onto the theater set.
The actors, animals and trees, were walking on and off the stage trying on their masks.
We applauded the ingenuity of the animals and our friends the trees.
The Mother of the Forest who came out to show us her many medicines
had a few aguardientes and begged us to help her get back home.
(An Anaconda had two heads: one trying to leave and the other trying to stay.)
Next two wizard trees who could turn leaves into money
appeared and made a few poor trees into millonaires.
The other trees clapped their leaves for this trick and for all the other magical acts.
A Mama turtle serving as our waitress brought us tom collins on her back,
claimed she was moving to Tibet to study meditation.
When the applause was over, a few fanatical monkeys pulled off their heads
and tossed them at us, the spectators.
Translated from the Spanish by James Kimbrell and Rebecca Morgan.
James Kimbrell was the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the Discovery/the Nation Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award and has twice received an Academy of American Poets prize. His work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in Poetry, the Nation, Field, and the Boston Book Review. A volume of poems, The Gatehouse Heaven (1998), was published by Sarabande Books, who will also publish his forthcoming collection My Psychic later this year, as well as a volume of his co-translations with Yu-Jung-yul, Three Poets of Modern Korea; Yi Sang, Hahrn Dong-seon and Choi Young-mi. He currently teaches in the creative writing program at Florida State University.
Rebecca Morgan’s Spanish translations of American writers have appeared in Colombia’s El Tiempo and Cuba’s Union. Her translations of Latin American poets have appeared in several American journals including the Atlanta Review, Prism International, Mississippi Review, West Branch, and Poetry International. She teaches Spanish and Foreign Language Education at Valdosta State University.
—Juan Carlos Galeano was born in the Amazon region of Colombia in 1958. He is the author of the poetry collections Baraja Inicial (ULRIK, 1986) and Amazonia (2003), and the book Pollen and Rifles (Editorial Universidad Nacional, 1997). His poetry has appeared in anthologies in Latin America and has been published in the United States in the Atlantic Monthly, Field, Partisan Review, Ploughshares and TriQuarterly, among others. His book Cuentos amazónicos (Amazonian Folktales) was published in Mexico in 2005. He has also translated the poetry of American poets such Charles Simic, Sharon Olds, and Rita Dove. He teaches Latin American poetry at Florida State University.