Poem: Dark by Julián Herbert


Translated by Richard Gwyn



I spent the whole night with my arm in a crack.
It was not a hall of saints.
It was an hotel on the outskirts of Querétaro.
Two single beds provisionally pulled together
to hold the three of us (always three) together.
Ascesis: a light sleep: Hannibal Barca, my son, falling
______every 15 minutes into the gap.
It’s trite, but it’s true: I spent the whole night with
______my arm in a crack.
The devil instilled in me a black acoustic fury:
______why do you write poems
if everything that wounds has an empty touch, a tomb’s
Dazzled, very smug and without light (without another light and guide
______without etc., etc.),
I wrote these verses from memory:

“At least touch what you kill.
Feel it slug fuel black snail with which you mark
______– you piss –
plastics: Identity.
Remember, when you go to the cinema to watch films about Nazis,
______that you are not a Jew.
But if you are a Jew, don’t remember anything: at least touch what
______you kill.
Don’t try to act god. Don’t blow up cars. Don’t quote
______the scriptures. Don’t argue with me.
Don’t sell me the stumps of limbs. Don’t bring me heads. Don’t ask me
______to learn respect.
At least touch what you kill.”

They are appalling. I knew it at once.
For a couple of years I haven’t been able to make a poem.
I miss it, but don’t regret it.
We all know that poetry is nothing more (or less) than
______a temporary skill.
A skill which, once lost, becomes you and shines dark.

The same as a father will spend the whole night with his arm in
______a crack
making sure his son’s head never touches the floor.


From ‘One skull next to another skull next to another skull: three poets from Mexico’ introduced and translated by Richard Gwyn with artwork by John Abell in the Winter 2014/2015 Issue of Poetry Wales.

Julián Herbert was born in Acapulco in 1971. His difficult childhood is described, in part, in his award-winning 2011 memoir, Canción de Tumba. He is a leading figure in Mexico’s poetry scene, and lives in Saltillo.

Richard Gwyn is currently preparing an anthology of contemporary Latin American poetry, to be published by Seren in 2016. He is Professor in Creative Writing at Cardiff University.

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