from Transit

Claudina Domingo

For my father

the city took me in without fanfare         it slammed every door I knocked on and opened its trapdoors beneath my feet        or rather        “it only took me in” like this (without magic) because nobody warned it I was coming        October Second market        purge penance        the cantinas and the bargirls too        dust (gravel) iron beams outside        squished bits inflicted on the city by a merciless god        (“loading and unloading zone”)

(here) the streets don’t know their own names        routine replaces traffic lights and lampposts        a balcony (somnambular symbols)        a bicycle’s half-skeleton        a charred bucket        attempting a grim grin        a blue-paint-stained teddy bear        a mattress skeleton's springs         (the loony loquita) detective or poet (scribbles in her notebook as people pass by)         “888” they added the outer ones        someone hangs blankets out to dry in the street        open door        (a nod to Chekhov)        a white-gray cat half-shuts its eyes (unfazed)        (la Redonda) fundamental tree trunks (the roots will burst the pipes) closed all day (“drunk teporochos shall not sleep in the house of God”)          Callejón de Obraje        a shooting gallery watched over by our lady of Mictlán (who shows her teeth but doesn’t laugh)        (14) “I can’t remember the inside anymore” just the roof’s filtrations (and those fake bells piercing Garibaldi in the morning’s heat)

night has three doors (“in the name of the father”) (far-off bells like a distant planet’s rings)        Christ’s knees (infantile muck and blood)        the racemes and the wine         (chromosomal fermentation)        “¿isn’t this wound proof of my humanity?”         “in the name of the father” I bear an anathema (father) clear stone in my heart        (the baptist) set a trap for me (a mouthful of sand)        (the baptist) says “june’s a demiurge”         but I’ve got an april that repays me        I say “I too suffer” and people accept it like a holocaust        (I say) “I am the holocaust”         (bad dream) the leaks in the roof sing in their maimed-fairy language

(in the morning) Garibaldi’s befuddled mug        scraggly bags on the ground        jumbled shoes (vomit)        a mariachi player nodding off on a bench        (you’d need to) gather armies of palm branches to reveal (finally) my scar’s transfiguration        Reforma (Tlatelolco to the north)        “pachydermically tired”         the kids huff fumes when they’re not busking in the street        (clear of calvary) the sun interrupts them when it scrapes through a cloud        (I said) “I wish I could take it with me” keep it like a scrap of paper where I’ve written the right figure (I fold it up        and keep it in my pocket)

San Hipólito (lent) “jacaranda husks”         dulces de leche and tamarind (pig-shaped piloncillo cookies)        (red currant snow cones and roasted corn)        Arista “I burned the novel in the boiler”         (in our image according to our likeness) Semana Santa again        palm frond braids will raise up a meek and modest Christ (the bathroom key in his pocket)        sunday (I salute him) “all the hours are mine” and there’s resurrection in my wallet

(Electra) waits at Zarco for the traffic light to give the go-ahead        remembers she mustn’t forget        (in the name of the father) “silence is a conviction whose sentence will be served”         orange-blue fish (in their fish tanks’ immunity)        (Samarcanda) white horses in the desert “we must remember that we’re made of secrets”         Héroes 45 (cloister and staircase)        (to the right and left) vecindades split down the middle        (San Fernando’s cemetery) ruin is its glory        granite (slabs) that don’t make walls       (castrated rocks)        (here’s where adolescence ends)        come “see what your dreams are made of ” lust trauma neurosis        “señorita” (didn’t answer)


For Karen Villeda

¿do I know this city?       road outside Sor Juana’s cloister (quaking aspens) leaves glossed dark with oil        (plagues) an incidence of abandoned storefronts        displaying their threadbare promises (tormented mannequins)        (what to deserve) how to arrive ¿who to ask?        to immerse yourself in a tumultuous city (like a scoffed-at solitude)        Juana de Arco (fourth floor) dressing room        (from that vantage) the church is a half-chewed wafer

to pay the fare (to find a window seat)       to take in three and a half kilos of scenery through your corneas       pewter (aluminum) blue brooms       (piled-up) green buckets small (big)        washbasins        capped (capless) bottles chile ristra        drainpipes ropes       baskets for bread (laundry)     (string) styrofoam plates cups forks gelatin yeast       (stacks) “pickled octopus       (seventy-nine pesos)”        (cluttered heap) confetti balls toy guns (metal bits)       wrestlers (three for five)        (rosary) streamers party blowouts emaciated clowns        (litany) cajeta lollipops spiritual cleansings healings palo azul for ya kidneys “skunks for as little as four hundred”

“here’s Manzanares” (44)       starving warehouses (wooden crate paradise)       “ to bless your child” (la Candelaria)        avocado on the ground (between hedges of rotting lettuce)        (clement ground) drunk teporocho’s repose       old playthings (chewed up by kids or mice)        (sprawling from an erupted chest) costume necklaces (decades airing out)         ten pesos” on the pavement

smell of fruit and raw fish        of tires over asphalt       meat (viscera and chops on display)       props (except for the blood puddles where flies usufruct what’s left of what’s left)       powdered and stalactited mole (longanizas almonds piloncillo blocks)        (in the shadows) rattle of devilish handtrucks (skull rack of nopales)        (inside) the nave of a church under the confessional light of its dim lamps       (above) wires hang from dying or decapitated lights like lifeless tits       to attend to the mystery or the revelation of the names       pulla morita       pasilla “squash blossom”         (the ashes of a crucifix in heat) smooth balls (bulging)        white shrouds (freshly flowing from the wound)       the sacrifice spilled out into seed (coagulated into fruit)

“a pair of holes for sounding out the world”        memories condensing into saliva       hands (teeth) cut paths through soft mangos or run up against the hopeless olive pit        a (pregnant) glance passes between devils and crates        (gurgling of grapes)        grandiloquent solemnity of potatoes       rheumatic (noni) stumps       purple plantains (perfumed gangrene)        the caustic sweetness of oranges       the fiercest acitrón in skies of shining onions        (behind) the hallways where the parade of pápalos and wildest herbs never ceases         in the half-light (but there’s no half-light)        (and at last) cloaked in the street cry’s undergarments       piñata tertulias (metal wheels) bouquets of crepe paper flowers        sweets and chocolates (globs of honey)       (yo-yos) little Medina        (heart- and star-shaped) jellies (sweet-and-sour mutants)        sugary ice creams (glucosed jellos)       blue roses beads (plastic teardrops) rubber fruits        “gynecologist delays”

San Marcos (the trigger)       the peephole (aspens and laurels)        rebar sand (remodeling)        tangerine skirt (tomato heels) furrowed brow        Circunvalación         the lord of humility rests on his throne of tile and glitter (in the street’s blunt break)        wildflowers (for the coronation)       little chicks dyed blue and violet       “the coronation” midday (thirst)


In memory of Ramón López Velarde

(Venus) brimming bronze amid gurgles of fetid water        (old letch) looks for a way in (not out to buy roses or gum) a meal “and a hundred pesos”         (the air threatening) water        a grackle pecks at a man’s shadow (in the grass)         marble (and mallets) warp the lintel where the hypothetical nightingale perches        a ditch (guards the garden) sixteen or seventeen years old (pretends to be a student) waits for the old men        they’ll never call him “ephebe”         (Neptuno) all that fuss (won’t save you from Tlaloc)        Humboldt (naive tourist) there’s no noble savage here (mange and beauty answer to the same wink)

(in the air) so as not to say “airborne”         the sun (longitudinal summer) decides on a high-flared outburst         Correos (ivory balustrades) panoramic witnesses to a riotous century         “I’ve only got a hundred on me” (and I’m asking you out to eat) “ándale” novohispanic señorita        your ancestry was a farce         (a peasant girl) a clodhopper (at best) facing the electric century still wrapped in a rebozo       “señorita” ¿how deco was your baroque heart?

callejón Condesa (the poet’s a reporter that fucks when he has money)         (you undress her) backlit against the century        (you don’t know it) but she brings torture into pleasure        itches (fevers) daybreak discoveries         (pleasure) mercuric phoenix “charges too much” and is the cheapest of hours        (love) simultaneously demands everything and nothing        (trinket and incalculable diamond)         it likes the gloom of warehouses (sex in the midst of piss) and silk sheets        (but after and before anything) “love” crosses the street       lowers its eyes (or stares head on)         prey or hunter “prey and hunter”         (courtship) calculate the distance over the velocity of intention multiplied by the tenacity of effort (and the size of the wallet)        love isn’t good (isn’t bad)         “it’s just sick” (and it festers)

over her shoulder (and out the corner of her eye)        La Latino’s clock chimes out five p.m.        thunderclap agglomeration (in the sky) “and in the air as well”         the slums (novohispanic señorita) will escape the ditch         (I was joking) I was only joking when I said all those harsh things about you         señorita (I’ll call you) until (and even after) you realize that you too have a price           I’ll call you “señorita”

(the poet watches the street) is inspired “so to speak”         takes a breath of air (takes flight) poetry (full of nothing)       (the poet) isn’t what he believes ¿does he believe what he sees? (and it rains) no trope could put off this disaster (torrential vituperation against I don’t know what)        it picks up my pace         (plays tricks) sweat or tender blood on my hands         (shouts its head off against the rooftops) rustles the branches        (and appeals to the kettledrums) “in the air”         (the poet) is caught up in his century (the poet) doesn’t have penicillin        inhumane (city)         wild daydreaming precocious (turbulent)        looks for an awning (it shines) the flash between two clouds (which had seemed to be a single font)        hailstones (poetry in the air grabbing onto nothing) shotguns against the windows         (columns) where dust trickles down        stairs where he stumbles        (throws in the towel) alongside the raging lions        “a city” site of a barbaric girl against men        “it rains” (after all) it’s just water in the air


translated from the Spanish by Ryan Greene

Click here to read Claudina Domingo’s poem “Tremblings,” also translated by Ryan Greene, elsewhere in the Summer 2018 issue.