Monday, January 27, 2014

La Hora de los Niños

Remembering Mexican poet José Emilio Pacheco (1939–2014)

Los niños traficaban con una nueva especie de ratas,
Anilladas como langostas y de color magenta y celeste.
Sabor extraño al principio
Pero como el hambre no miente
Nos habituamos a hornearlas.

Ya que uno es lo que come
En menos de un año
Nos volvimos como ellas.
Primero los ojitos alarmados, la pelambre y la cola.
Poco después los dientes de taladro,
Las garras como sierra de partir huesos.
(¿Hará falta decir que a este respecto
No tuvieron gran cosa que enseñarnos?)

Ahora son hombres los niños que vivían de las ratas.
Actúan como sicarios de un poder invisible
Y poco a poco pero noche tras noche
Nos eliminan a balazos.

— José Emilio Pacheco

Regarded as one of Mexico’s foremost poets and short story writers, José Emilio Pacheco died on January 26, 2014. In winning the 2009 Cervantes Prize, Pacheco was called, "an exceptional poet of daily life, with a depth, a freedom of thought, an ability to create his own world, an ironic distance from reality when it's necessary, and a linguistic use...that is impeccable."

La Hora de los Niños is one of three poems that Pacheco contributed to PEN International's 2012 Write Against Impunity anthology. The anthology was intended as a protest against the culture of impunity that prevails across Latin America where writers, bloggers and journalists are being killed on account of their work in numbers more associated with that of a war zone.

The following translation of La Hora de los Niños is by David Shook. You can read more of Pacheco's contributions to the Write Against Impunity anthology at PEN International as well as reading the complete text of Write Against Impunity online. Other poets and writers featured in the anthology include Claribel Alegría, Homero Aridjis, Gioconda Belli, Lydia Cacho, Ariel Dorfman, Elena Poniatowska, Sergio Ramírez, Gloria Guardia, Carmen Boullosa, Victor Terán and Luisa Valenzuela.

The Hour of the Children

The children traffic in a new species of rats,
Ringed like lobsters and colored magenta and sky blue.
Strange flavor at first
But since hunger doesn’t lie
We grow used to baking them.

Since you are what you eat
In less than a year
We become like them.
First their panicked little eyes, fur and tail.
Then, quickly, teeth like drill bits,
Claws like a bone saw.
(Is it necessary to say that in this regard
They didn’t have to teach us much?)

Now the children who lived off the rats are men.
They operate like hit men contracted by an invisible power
And little by little but night after night
They eliminate us with gunshots.

— José Emilio Pacheco

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