Volume 10 (Fall 2015)

Three prose poems by Karen Villeda

          translated Josh Rathkamp

These pieces are part of a book length collection of prose poems, Dodo, set during the 1598 Dutch expedition of the Gelderland to the island of Mauritius, home of the dodo. The poems depict a harrowing journey of conquest through which Villeda maps out new territory in Mexican poetry and moves into a poetics of radical experimentation in the avant-garde. - translator's note

“They abandon this beating”

                     They abandon this beating. They take the heart out of the dodo.

                     They look at it. The alveoli regurgitate. We shut them down with

                     one bite, neck severed. A grocery store of grease. The wind swells.  

                     We tighten our teeth. We honor this favored one.

“Este latido que abandonan”

                     Este latido que abandonan. Toman el corazón del dodo, lo

                     observan. Los alveolos regurgitan. Los callamos de un mordisco,

                     cuello trozado. Abacería de grasa. El viento se despereza,

                     apretamos nuestros dientes. Damos honor al favorecid

“We slit its throat”

                    We slit its throat with our nails, we all drool. We gift ourselves the  

                    luxury of swallowing all of it down to its tail feathers, without pity.

                    Rumbling teeth anoint the hungry. Tallow on seven foreheads and

                    fourteen armpits. We eat the piles of wax with gusto. Forty-nine

                    kilos, beating in a spiral. A thorny sensation invades our seven


“Lo degollamos con las uñas”

                   Lo degollamos con las uñas, todos babeamos. Nos damos el lujo de

                   tragarnos hasta las plumas de la cola, sin piedad. Retumban dientes,

                   la unción de los hambrientos. Sebo en siete frentes y catorce sobacos.

                   Montones de cera que comemos con gusto. Cuarenta y nueve kilos,

                   latido en espiral. Una sensación peliaguda invade a siete gargantas.

“We touch up our eyebrows”

                  We touch up our eyebrows and dress in jewels. The Admiral

                  improvises a choker out of the dodo's intestines and tambalacoque

                  seeds. Six heads bow to rough hands. A beak spears at us. His

                  pollution greases six peeled backs. Seven, seven arquebuses render

                  them defenseless. The Admiral never slips. We throw down roots.

“Lo retocamos las cejas”

                   El Almirante improvisa una gargantilla con el intestino del dodo y

                   semillas de tambalacoque. Manos toscas que someten a seis nucas.

                   Un pico embistiéndonos. Su polución engrasando a seis espaldas

                   descarapeladas. Siete, siete arcabuces bastan para dejarlos indefensos.

                   El Almirante jamás resbala, nosotros echamos raíces.

Karen Villeda was born in Tlaxcala, Mexico. Over a four year period from 2010-2013, she published four books of poetry, Constantionpla, Dodo, Babia, and Tesauro. Villeda has been awarded grants from the Young Creators Program of the National Fund for Culture and Arts and the Open Society Foundation. She has won numerous literary awards, includingThe Youth Prize of Mexico City, The Fine Arts Prize for Children's Fiction, and the “Elïas Nandino” National Award of Youth Poetry. Villeda has also translated Keats' Lamia into Spanish. Karen Villeda can be found at poetronica.net.

Josh Rathkamp is a poet and translator. He has published two books of poetry, A Storm to Close the Door (forthcoming from Georgetown Review Press) and Some Nights No Cars at All (Ausable Press). His work has appeared in numerous literary journals and public art projects, including American Poetry Review, Arts and Letters, Narrative, Poet Lore, and RATTLE. He has been awarded the Sow's Ear Poetry Prize and an individual artist grant from the Arizona Commission for the Arts. He directs the Creative Writing Program at Mesa Community College.  

On Libations: In poems full of sailors and cane juice, what could go better than a spiced rum concoction? Something like Planters' Punch: rum, lime juice, sugar, water, and ice (if you're lucky enough to have it). Whether cold or not, turn toward the closest ocean. ¡Salud! - JR

Photo by Tom Haydu