Two Poems by Blanca Varela

BOMB 74 Winter 2001
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The Things I Say are True

A star explodes in a small plaza and a bird loses its eyes
and falls. Around it men weep and watch the progress
of the new season. The river flows and bears in its cold
and muddled arms inscrutable matter that has
accumulated for years and years behind windows.

A horse dies and its soul flies up to the sky, smiling, its
large wooden teeth stained with dew. Later, among the
angels, it will grow black, silky wings to shoo the flies

Everything is perfect. To be locked in a small hotel
room, to be wounded, cast off, impotent, while outside
rain falls, sweet, unexpected.

What is it that’s happening, that throws itself down
from above and covers the leaves with blood and the
streets with golden rubble?

I know I am sick with a ponderous malady, brimming with a
bitter liquid, an inclement fever that whistles and
scares anyone who hears it. My friends left me, my
parrot has died, and I cannot keep people and animals
from fleeing at the sight of the black and terrible
splendor that my passage through the streets leaves
behind. I always have to eat lunch alone. It’s terrible.

—From This Port Exists, 1949-1959.


Family Secret

I dreamed of a dog
an eviscerated dog
singing its body was its red body whistling
I asked the other person
the one putting out the light on the carnivore
what’s happened
why are we in the dark

it’s a dream you’re alone woman
there is no other person
the light does not exist
you are the dog you are the flower that barks
gently sharpen your tongue
sweet black tongue with four paws

the skin of man burns in dreams
human skin combusts vanishes
only the dog’s red pulp is clean
true light inhabits the crust on its eyes
you are the dog
you are the eviscerated dog of every night
dream of yourself that’s enough

—From Light of Day, 1960-1963.

Translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen.

Esther Allen is currently editing and translating an anthology on José Martí, forthcoming from Penguin Classics.


Blanca Várela, born in Lima, Peru in 1929, belongs to the generation of Peruvian poets that also includes Sebastián Salazar Bondy and Jorge Eduardo Eielson. Varela’s poems exhibit economy of language, Surrealist imagery and a meditative voice. Among her poetry collections are Ese puerto existe (This Port Exists, 1959), Luz de día (Light of Day, 1963), Valses y otras falsas confesiones (Waltzes and Other False Confessions, 1971), Ejercicios materiales(Material Exercises, 1993), El libro de barro (The Book of Mud, 1994), and Canto villano: Poesia reunida, 1949-1994 (Villain Song: Collected Poets).

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Signor Hoffman by Eduardo Halfon

From the train I could look out onto the infinite blue of the sea. I was still exhausted, wakeful from the overnight transatlantic flight to Rome, but looking out at the sea, that Mediterranean sea that was so infinite and so blue, made me forget it all, even myself. I don’t know why.

Originally published in

BOMB 74, Winter 2001

Featuring interviews with Damiela Eltit, Alavaro Musis, Carmen Boullosa, Gioconda Belli, Sergio Vega, Gunther Gerzso, Valeska Soares, Pedro Meyer, Marisa Monte, Cubanismo!, and Ned Sublette.

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