“Public Body / Cuerpo Público” by Mariela Cordero / Translated by Aaron Devine

Mariela Cordero
 
 
 
Mariela Cordero is a lawyer, poet, and visual artist from Valencia, Venezuela. She is the author of The Body of Doubt (Ediciones Publicarte; Caracas, 2013) and The Identical Fire (Ediciones Movimiento Poetico; Maracaibo, 2015). Her poems have been published and won prizes internationally in Italy, China, England, Spain, Argentina and more. This poem, “Public Body” (Cuerpo Público), won first prize in the 2016 Colectivo Poetas Hispanos International Poetry Competition.
 
 
Public Body
 
I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body
—broken—
meekly unfurling
over voracious ruins
and breathing the smoke of burnt days.
 
I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body
without bloom
that suffers
stripped of respite
the indelible tremors
of the recently raped.
 
I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body
flush with bones
trained
like knives
that turn cruelly
against whoever dares
maneuver
a tentative caress
across its devastated surface.
 
This body
does not recognize all that is not
a bruise,
an unclosable wound,
or an abrupt act of depredation.
 
I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body
—ravaged—
that dances with massacre
and, impregnated by the most wretched
of the rabid pack,
only knows to birth death.
 
I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a public body
so diminished
that it’s hurt by my faint footsteps
and tormented by the murmur of my hope.
 
I curl into myself,
into a tiny docile place
lethargic
from the irregular pulse
of its fabled, bygone beauty
as I devour
each detail of its meager heat.
 
I curl into myself
and hope that morning
astonishes us with proof
that both
this body I inhabit and I
—survive—
the long night
of the pack.
 
 
 
Cuerpo Público
 
Yo no habito un país, habito un cuerpo
quebrado
que se tiende con mansedumbre
sobreruinas voraces
y respira el humo de los días quemados.
 
Yo no habito un país, habito un cuerpo
sin flor
quepadece
desabrigado de treguas
los indelebles temblores
de lo recién violado.
 
Yo no habito un país, habito un cuerpo
exuberante de huesos
amaestrados
como cuchillos
que arremete sanguinario
contra el que ose
maniobrar
una vacilante caricia
sobre su devastadasuperficie.
 
Este cuerpo
desconoce a todo lo queno sea
la magulladura,
la herida siempre abierta
y los abruptos gestos de la depredación.
 
Yo no habito un país, habito un cuerpo
raptado
que danza con la masacre
y preñado por lo más abyecto
de las jaurías
sólo sabe parir muerte.
 
Yo no habito un país, habito un cuerpo público
tan menguante
que mis leves pisadas le duelen
y el rumor de mi esperanza lo martiriza.
 
Yo me acurruco
en su minúscula zona dócil
aletargado
por el latido irregular
de su antigua belleza de fábula
mientras devoro
las partículas de su exiguo calor.
 
Yo me acurruco
y espero que el amanecer
nos asombre con la evidencia
de queambos,
este cuerpo donde habito y yo
sobrevivimos
a la larga noche
de las jaurías.
 
 
Translation by Aaron Devine
 
Translator’s note: “Public Body” strikes me with its visceral language and vivid metaphor. What does it mean to inhabit a public body? How does the devastation of a national body affect and find expression through the personal? Mariela Cordero’s poem has its articulate finger on the pulse and pain of contemporary Venezuelans uncertain of tomorrow’s body. Cordero’s details and precise language are morsels of hope; they are the poet crafting a space in which to survive.
 
 
 
Aaron Devine
Aaron Devine is a writer, translator, and educator based in Boston,Massachusetts. He is the author of Wonder/Wander: 522 Days in LatinAmerica and translator of Qhapaq Ñan: The Inka Path of Wisdom (AmaroRuna Editions, 2007). He earned an MFA in Fiction (2013) and Certificate in Spanish-English Translation (2011) from the University of Massachusetts Boston where he currently teaches English as a Second Language.
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