from United Left

Álvaro Lasso

Artwork by Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

Beijou sua Mulher como se Fosse a Última

The great man decided to go to prison. It’s not that he was crazy, but he needed a vacation. His children had grown up enough to walk through the mist. His wife’s tied-back hair smelled of perfume from the countries in the East.

They told him he could retire, just like the greats. A nice prison complex, with all the comforts, with enough solitude to write his final pages. They were also allowed whores. It occurred to him to lead a workshop for them: “Convey other messages,” he burst out, “push yourselves, restore love.”

Only one woman came back for the second talk. She brought a blanket. The great man who had kissed his wife as if for the last time told the young woman the story of his marriage, and about the foreign perfume. And in the middle of their discussion the prison managers opened the doors. They all watched, like a performance, the takeover of the State.

Young Poet from Peru, Second Place

Suppose you wrote three books and that your eyes had different filters, in spite of the great education you’d received from the armchairs at home. Suppose you were admitted to Medicine. Suppose that when you saw a dead member you got an erection you couldn’t explain. Suppose no one read your books. Your three books. So you wrote one final book and tore out all the pages like daisy petals so they’d get lost in the hands of the poetry workers. You were their trade unionist. You were them. Suppose you never earned a degree in Medicine and the pain of not being able to heal wrecked you. Suppose you handed over your burden on the train tracks. Suppose they scraped you up with a spatula. And even now they can’t find all the parts of your body, or all your poems.


That thing about playing bumper cars not only applies to men without visas, but also to countries that have just regained their independence. The accountants draw up a document to legislate them, then demand the poets draft the myth. The party smiles. People run horror-struck through the wide streets, like bulls during the festivals. Everyone’s in the plaza, covered in sweat and self-confidence. In their theater seats, thousands of fanatics have the pleasure of mounting the first opposition. No one has died yet: ghosts don’t reach manhood.

translated from the Spanish by Kelsi Vanada