Poem to be Read on Inauguration Day

Alberto Pucheu

Walking down the sidewalk of the street I live
on, toward the Cobal Supermarket, for instance,
where every day I go to buy something
just to rest a bit from the quotidian
work I have at home, and walking
by a person, I am to that person
what that person is to me: Someone
going up or down a street, nothing more.
Perhaps, at this moment, I am
also to me and they are also to them
what we are to one another: A person
who has forgotten where they’re coming from,
where they’re going, their name, their job,
someone going up or down a road, nothing more.
Or something more, or less, who knows, a passerby
eating their name, their job, their relatives,
the demands that fall on our shoulders,
throwing them bit by bit into the trash cans
that hang from the light posts, letting them fall
on the curb, in between the wheels of cars,
to fulfill the destiny common to all that is discarded.
On the sidewalk, walking up or walking
down, going or coming back, it doesn’t matter
where to or where from, while we walk,
this time we have no meetings scheduled
with ourselves. More persistent
or more absent, louder or quieter,
diverse lives come and go in a single body,
one always pops up whenever one
is summoned. But there are moments when,
between the house and the city offices, between
making a purchase at Cobal, for instance,
and using the purchase when we get home,
before some contract, before some right,
before some convention, before free will,
before marital status, before bone sizes,
before the shape of ears, before fingerprints,
before fingers, before facial extensions, before photos
3 x 4 or 5 x 7, before frontal and profile
photos, before exclusive images of irises
and retinas and 3-D scanners,
before the cameras that film us in banks
or on streets, before DNA stored away
inside some national archive, before beauty
and ugliness, before bar codes on the backs
of necks–I dreamed about them last night–making
bodies available to a machine that would insist
on recognizing them by some number
in which we would never recognize ourselves,
before these and thousands of other ways
of being apprehended, the empty idleness
of an abandoned body (a naked life
or a place of pure distraction
in which the living forget themselves,
or something like that) go up and down a street,
nothing more. They are killable bodies, like
at the end of a soccer game,
like during an assault, like in the waiting room
of a hospital, like with a stray bullet
or an on-target bullet from police or traffickers,
like by accident, like from drugs, like from hunger. . . 
They are glorious bodies, like during
a soccer game, like during the week of
Carnival, like at a rock concert,
like at a bar with a table full of friends,
like diving in the ocean by day or by night,
like when they make love or when,
even without making love, they love
each another their whole lives or just for
a few moments. They are dubious bodies,
when they dance at a baile funk in the sights
of an AR-15, when they flee gunshots
jumping athletically between rooftops,
over water tanks, running down alleys,
when they explode on land or in air
against the concrete of a building
or when they throw themselves from the heights
of the same building. They are functional bodies,
at crowded checkouts in supermarkets,
frying on top of jackhammers in the asphalt
of the sun, inside the kitchen at my house,
at my ear, in the telemarketing center.
They are bodies . . . They are bodies that, at some moment,
forgotten, anonymous, go up and down streets,
nothing more. Going up or going down a street,
we attest to this hiatus of unknowing
between the abandoned body and the different lives
that try to colonize it, between the naked life
and the living garments that cover it,
between raw life and whatever part of it is cookable,
between open life and lived life. We attest
to the crack in this hiatus, a bunch of emigrants of distance
in this hiatus that we cannot ward off,
a bunch of foreigners, of travelers, of strangers,
of gringos, of barbarians in this space
that makes use of words in order to speak
a foreign language, a bunch of Indians
in this space, this sting, this clearing,
a bunch of Berbers and the void of the desert ripping
the Berbers, a bunch of Eskimos and the void of the snow
amplifying the Eskimos, a bunch of fishers
dispersed by light, drawn through this diluted
space between the sand and the suns of water tables,
the space where the explosive burns
between the genitals and the underwear of the man
on the plane. We attest to this space in words
that make use of words to speak.
Apatriates, we have no homeland in the Portuguese language
and no other would be native to us. We were born
without language, open to whatever jargon
that wanted to unfold in us, we were born
without people, open to whatever band
that wanted to unfold in us,
we were born lawless, a bunch of left-handed bandits,
of werewolves, of burros, of mules,
of cows, of piranhas, of deer,
of mares, of tapirs, of pigs,
of jennies, of asses, of whales,
of bitches, of sharks, of animals,
of critters, of worms, of beasts,
of savages, of outlaws
abandoned to whatever law
that could govern us, abandoned
to whatever law we might have to unrule.
Survivors, we descend from a class
of dangerous, practically forgotten, eras,
exiled from the city within the city,
and, even though being, staying, health, city,
forest, river, ocean, backlands, nature,
and other words are intimately related to us,
we navigate, apatriated, the opening, the without,
the no, the neither, the a- that won’t let us go.
The more they want us not to, the more we bring
the empty spaces with us distorting the possibilities
that are daily offered to us
of what we are, of what water is,
of what the river, the ocean, the city, the country,
the world is, and, the more they want us not to,
our saliva is the sweat of our unspoken words,
and, the more they want us not to,
we mix what is separate, we bring with us
the city and its beastly nature, the poetry
of the finger missing on the hand of our president.

translated from the Portuguese by Robert Smith