from Colonists

Leonardo Sanhueza

Buy and Sell

As there’s not enough space here to tell you the story of my life
at least let me tell you about my death.
I was dreaming about being a boy once again in Gijón
when the doorbell woke me
and suddenly I had to age half a century
while straightening my eyeglasses enough
to say: Good morning. No, it wasn’t my mother.
Nor a wayward mass of bees.
Just one of those sad little peons
that work the road to Trintre with shovels
and go around with their head inside a sack,
just in case. Chilean, naturally.
He put a rifle wrapped in a couple of
old shirts on the counter.
Little by little, fold by fold, my eyes fixed upon
a shining Belgian Comblain, the kind they use in the army
and, yes, I took it in my hands, fingered the watermark,
and, closing an eye, pointed it at my name printed in the shop window.
But what the hell was I going to do with a Comblain?
So I passed it back to this serf,
shooed away the bees buzzing on my nose,
and said to him: You intend to defraud me; get out,
take this jewel of yours to Governor Gorostiaga, see
what he says, I’m sure he’ll have a reward waiting for you.
The little peon scratched his head,
took the Comblain’s weight in his arms and asked me:
You think this rifle doesn’t work, you old fuck?
I didn’t know how to respond. Just look and see, he said.
And the bees began a gallop from my nose to the barrel.

Rudolph Philippi

One hundred and five polypetalous, ninety-six
monopetalous, twelve apetalous, sixty
monocotyledons and three pteridophytes:
on the penultimate page of my herbarium,
just before the Hedyotis, Dioscorea, and Senecio,
Rosita Brenner opens her arms suddenly, in umbel,
and looks at me: What are you reading there, you old loon: the nervation
of your octogenarian’s body? Her father was a pleasant Jew
banished from Kiev by the Czarist regime
and his business was the one light that burned
through the night rains of Quillem.
I have but the small room, he told me, and there,
with my daughter, is where I rest my bones: terribly sorry,
but I can make a bed for you on the counter,
some comfortable rolls of fabric, don’t worry yourself,
for sleep all you need is weariness,
and frankly, you look terrible, like those willow trees
that don’t cry in pain but from insomnia,
because the noise from the brook keeps them awake.
That night I dreamed about the Ourisia coccinea, the same
that routed Traiguén’s stream from me
and in the dream that beautiful scarlet Scrophulariaceae,
exhausted, fell from the sky to the herbarium, onto the
smudged ink of its name in green. Assisted by the sun between the shutters,
I returned the rolls to their pyramidal order,
and when I went to thank Mr. Brenner for his warmth
I found only his daughter, sitting on a wicker chair,
her eyes of litmus paper oil, her Liliaceae freckles:
Je m’appelle Rosita, et vous? The morning yawned
on its endless way, out to the brim of the ragwort,
the last species I found for science
prope Quillem in Araucania locis hyeme inundatis,
before concluding my excursion and leaving this earth
bound for a new dream in which autumn,
this time, covers the violets in frost
and Rosita Brenner’s freckles in blood,
Rosita who dies of cholera, a book in her hand.

Louis Viande

This shining rifle reflects the entire world
the cat has its gaze fixed there, there on a point between the ashes,
on the red, slit-throated embers of your dress
on your skin, seared into the muslin of your voice.
The ibises glide across this metal in my hands
where you’re playing again on the hill, your forehead
a field of daffodils once more, and a field of snow
on your mother’s breast, when you ran
to Papa, frightened by the thunder, the braids
you drew onto your vowels and the braids
that danced on the wind in the pages of your diary,
like the day you were born amongst the flying fish
and we finally made it to port and the impenetrable jungle.
Ah, my little one, but that was the land of milk and honey:
the black blankets, the Yatagán saber crossed and, then, the ash
on which roll the red currants of your blood.
For now, sleep under the rifle’s gleam
and warm my steel-cold hands with your embers,
for already outside the sound of horsemen shudders
and my head has filled with beetles
like from the black earth when the plow has opened it.

translated from the Spanish by Tim Benjamin