Bird perches in the strings of flesh 
and sings of the dead.
What we all do.
Same day I heard the story about the boy.
Same day the weather changed,
dark clouds all along the ridge. 
Where they found the boy. Not that
before I thought the world was good. 
The bird perches on the blood-tinted stump
in the grass, what’s left.
Pinkish feathers of his chest.
What can we do but watch. 
Knowing what we do.
The bird devoured all he could.




Poems. Death objects. The eternal deathlessness
of death. Something like a fevered night drip.
Poetry. Urine. Blood.

Death that reeks and leaks. The huge stink of god.
Poetry. Hushed racket of the heart.

Poemas. Objetos de la muerte. Eterna inmortalidad
de la muerte. Algo así como un goteo nocturno
y afiebrado. Poesía. Orina. Sangre.

Muerte fluyente y olorosa. Gran oído de dios.
Poesía. Silenciosa algarabía del corazón.




In one hand, madness and storm. In the other
a cruel and deadly stone.
Balance on the spider’s web that separates
salvation and abyss.
From here: wings, space, feathers. Buried
flight. The hole of the sky, the sky, the firmament,
its well and the root of seven luminous arms.

How can a number replace the multiplying eye?
Why is the sky blind?

Language nests outside. Never in itself. So all
that’s central is a wrong turn, and here is language:
eye of the ruined center. Silence.

En una mano la locura, la tempestad. En la otra
una piedra rigurosa, mortal.
Equilibrio sobre el hilo de araña segregando
la salvación sobre el abismo.
De allí las alas, el aire, las plumas. En vuelo
enterrado. El agujero del cielo cielo, el firmamento
del pozo y la raíz de siete brazos luminosos.

¿Por qué el número sustituyendo al ojo
multiplicándolo? ¿Por qué la ceguera del cielo?

El verbo anida excéntrico. Jamás en él. Pues todo
centro es un camino errado y eso es el verbo, ojo del
centro abolido. Silencio.



Translator's Note:

Blanca Varela (1926-2009) was a Peruvian poet, born into a family of artists and writers. These two poems published in Duende are from her collection of prose poems titled Libro de Barro (Book of Clay). Varela’s poems are both courageous and inscrutable. Octavio Paz said of Varela’s poetry: “it is both the wound and the knife,” and this description reflects both the brutality and self-restraint of her work. She is not interested in traditional aesthetics, not interested in the lyric entertainment of her songwriter mother nor the cold facts of her journalist father. She is interested in deep consciousness, the unexplored interior places to which only language can carry us. Her ars poetica poem that appears here is not like any ars poetica poem I have ever read—ruthless in its brutality and antagonism, it portrays the craft of poetry as destructive though ultimately human and essential. For a translator, her work is challenging: her poems snub narrative arcs; her imagination is cruel and surprising; she often invents words; she writes in multiple languages. As a poet, I am constantly learning from Varela. She has a consistent vision yet a multifarious syntax, admirable restraint that alternates with heedless movement, and she consistently writes with a poet’s unwavering belief that the purpose of language is to carry us into the unknown.



The poems of Lisa Allen Ortiz have appeared or are forthcoming in The Literary Review, Crab Creek Review and Beloit Poetry Journal and have been featured in 50 Best New Poets 2013 and on Verse Daily. She has two chapbooks: Turns Out (Main Street Rag) and Self Portrait as a Clock (Finishing Line Press). She holds an MFA from Pacific University.