There’s a thousand and
one pigeons over there. Only
they’re invisible. Visualize where vision
invents stars, ecstasy, first place
in the queue at bus stop, in the queue
of success. The eye’s blindly out of there,
retina fallen in self-seeing mirror,
drowning in now of wave.
Pigeons that don’t fly off remain. Stay put.
Real pigeons are invisible. Alive. There’s a thousand and.

Ahí hay una y
mil palomas estables. Sólo queno se ven. Vencen al ver allí donde el ver
inventa estrellas, éxtasis, primeros lugares
en las paradas de autobuses, en las paradas de
éxitos. El ojo entonces se retira ciego, se arretina,
cae en el espejo de verse,
de ahogarse en el ahora del agua.
Palomas que no se van se quedan. Están y son estables.
Palomas como lo real no se ven. Vivan. Ahí hay una y.



I hear: if you don't escape from writing
you won’t attain altitude of grace. Time
to hear, ear my way round the word hear. Here
in the whispering jungle, I hear. Spring 
at last all spring, not lacking one odor
of mint but rather heat rising from hands
to limbs of my mate, we enter slowly.
Hear hear here. Echo of a gone song, hear.
Hummingbird hummingbird. Note I can't say.

Oí: si no escapas de la escritura
no ganarás la gracia ni la altura. Ya era hora
de oír, de ese rodar de la palabra oír. Era
selvático de selva rumorosa, oí. Primavera
entera durante toda la primavera, ni un olor
a menta menos sino un calor que sube por las manos
a los miembros de mi hembra, entramos despacito.
Oí, oí, oí. El eco de un sonido ido, oí. Colibrí,
colibrí, colibrí. Como nota que no sé decir.



I enter time like someone entering
you: I want to write about what’s left over
from St. John, I want to eat the leftovers of Sor 
Juana Inés de la Cruz, surprised in first person
which is the person of someone else or hunger.
Get this flashlight out of here so it will shine
in the chamber of prayer, the rounds of the oral
moon, open mouth which one could enter
to feed from woman’s hand, thousands of mutts
don’t wag their tails, what’s real is what’s shaking
when you listen to imprisoned roses grow.

Entro en el tiempo como quien entra
en ti: quiero escribir los deshechos
de San Juan, quiero comer los deshechos de Sor
Juana, sorprendida en su primera persona
que es la persona del otro o del hambre.
Ahora quita esa lámpara de aquí para que alumbre
allí en la sala de orar el rodar de la luna
oral, boca abierta por la que uno entra 
a comer de la mano de la hembra, animales de por miles
no se cimbren, lo real es que se cimbra cuando
se oyen crecer algunas rosas reas.



Translator's Note:

Eduardo Milán is a man without a country. Born of a Uruguayan father and Brazilian mother in 1952, he fled Uruguay in 1979, when his father was jailed by the dictatorship, to settle and marry in Mexico City. So Milán is an outsider to the Mexican poetry scene as well as the Uruguayan. As Jack Spicer told us, “Poetry comes from Outside.”

Vida Mantis, the book from which these poems are chosen, carries an epigraph by the great Cuban poet José Lezama Lima (1910-­1978): “Inaccuracy in poetry may contribute to the integration of poetry’s meaning. Nevertheless, accuracy is much more dangerous; it is always attracted to the sum of similar accuracies.” Lezama Lima is the progenitor of the Neobarroco, the Neo­Baroque, the uniquely Latin American continent­-wide postmodern poetic and cultural movement that specializes in piling meaning upon meaning until signifiers are blurred, distorted, obscured. Eduardo Milán was included in the seminal neobarroca anthology, Medusario (1997), with a somewhat apologetic paragraph in the introduction by editor Roberto Echevarren, apologizing for Milán’s relative terseness. It’s true that Milán gets a lot done in not too many lines.

Eduardo Milán’s appreciation of inaccuracy allows him to be uniquely vulnerable to the reverberations of language. His deeply political perceptions are shaken by wordplay’s concatenation of suggestion, association and appropriation, until a tender erotic moment leaves us eating the leftover breakfast of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651­-1695), a Mexican nun who was the greatest poet in the Spanish language of her half­-century. We’re in an urban jungle, with pigeons and lines at the bus stop, or a garden with hummingbirds.

Eduardo Milán’s shimmering obsessive play leaves his translator free to whistle for analogous effects in the target tongue. When we’re cooking I’m his Charlie McCarthy, and Milán tinkles out of me with unrestricted flow. Eduardo insists that my translations are better than his poems. “Lo que suena de locura en español suena de poesía en inglés.” In fact, no less an observer than the very important Mexican poet Pura López Colomé told me in conversation, “Eduardo Milán is the best poet writing in the Spanish language today.”



Eduardo Milán was born in Rivera, Uruguay, in 1952, was exiled for political reasons, and has lived in Mexico since 1979. He has published sixteen volumes of poetry. His Selected Poems is out from Shearsman (2012) and he is featured in Hotel Lautréamont: Contemporary Uruguayan Poetry, edited by Kent Johnson and Roberto Echevarren (2011). This selection is from his book La Vida Mantis (Mantis Life), published by Editorial Tucán de Virginia (Mexico City) in 1993.

John Oliver Simon’s poetry is published from Abraxas to Zyzzyva. He is also a distinguished translator of contemporary Latin American poetry, recipient of a NEA fellowship for his work with Chilean surrealist Gonzalo Rojas (1917-2011). He is River of Words’ 2013 Teacher of the Year and Artistic Director of Poetry Inside Out, a program of the Center for the Art of Translation. His next major book, Grandpa’s Syllables (White Violet Press), is out November 2014.