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We, the Generation in the Wilderness

Ricardo Feierstein translated from the Spanish by J. Kates and Stephen A. Sadow

25th Anniversary Edition 1

We, the Generation in the Wilderness

Books by Ricardo Feierstein

La balada del sol (1969) • poetry Inventadiario (1972) • poetry Letras en equilibrio (1975) • poetry Sinfonía inocente (1984) • trilogy of novels La vida no es sueño (1987) • short stories Mestizo (1994; 2000 in English; 2010 in German) • novel Homicidios tímidos (1996) • short stories La logia del umbral (2001) • novel Las edades/The Ages (2005) • poetry anthology Consorcio Utopía (2007) • novel Cuaderno de un psicoanalista (2010) • novel Las novias perdidas (2011) • novel El caso del concurso literario (2013) • short stories

We, the Generation in the Wilderness 25th Anniversary Edition

Ricardo Feierstein translated from the Spanish by J. Kates and Stephen A. Sadow


Originally published in 1989 by Ford-Brown & Co., Boston, Mass. This twentyfifth anniversary edition published in 2014 by Northeastern University Libraries, with permission. Provided as an open access publication by Northeastern University. All rights remain with the author and translators.

Acknowledgments: Some of the translations in this book have been previously published in Literary Olympians II (Crosscurrents), The Minnesota Review, and Third World (Pig Iron Press). The translators would like to thank the following for their support: A.M.I.A.—Communidad Judía de Buenos Aires, Asociación Argentina Por el Judaismo Laico y Humanista, and Northeastern University.

CONTENTS Introduction from La balada del sol / The Song of the Sun Viejos Judíos / Old Jews Datos / Vital Statistics Cédula de identidad número / Passbook Number Nombre y apellido / Full Name Domicilio / Place of Residence Edad / Age Sexo / Sex Nacionalidad / Nationality Estado civil / Marital Status Profesión / Profession Familia / Family Señas particulares visibles / Distinguishing Features

De la nostalgia / Nostalgia Como asesinar la indiferencia / How to Kill Indifference Argentina 1983 / Argentina 1983 Nosotros, la generación del desierto / We, the Generation in the Wilderness

ix 2 4 10 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 28 30 32 34 36 38

INTRODUCTION In a 1985 letter, Ricardo Feierstein quotes Malraux’s remark that all literature is autobiography. It is a telling comment, for Feierstein’s own work is saturated with autobiography. His life and the people in it are his sources. It is possible to converse on a street corner with the model for Mario, a character from a novel, or dine with Dani and Lili, now adults, who are fixed as children in novelistic time. (“I knew you as kids,” I said in astonishment when I met them.) He is married to Susana of the love poems. In spite of the autobiographical emphasis, Feierstein is neither narcissistic nor self-deprecating. In his shorter poems, he does analyze the sources of his own joys and pains. Elsewhere, though, he presents the content of his experience as emblematic of his “age.” In some poems, “age” means just that: maturational stages people pass through on the way to adulthood. He examines the self as it moves through time. In works such as “Nosotros, la generacíon del desierto” (“We, the Generation in the Wilderness”) the “age” means a historical generation, of which Feierstein becomes the ambitious bard. He isolates details from his own past—games played, books read, movies seen—and uses them to illustrate moments of crucial psychological transition: almanacs replete from the start with smiling artistes whole cartons of illustrated magazines and collections of books and balls fabricated from rags and figurines inexhaustible in form and color…

Sometimes with a royal “we” his voice becomes that of all those who shared the experience with him. The generation both lauded and decried is that of those born during the cataclysmic events of the 1940s who found themselves “left out” of history. He writes specifically of Jews who missed (fortunately) the Holocaust and (reluctantly) the founding of Israel. Feierstein builds “We, the Generation in the Wilderness” from a huge amount of detailed information: memories, objects evocative of ephemeral popular culture, and fashionable philosophies. Throughout, Feierstein’s use of language is ferocious and playful. He uses an extraordinary command of vocabulary as an offensive weapon against the ix

reader, writing of “la boya milimetrada de la fe” (“the calibrated buoy of faith”) and “cascabeles de turquesa avinigrada” (“small bells of sour turquoise”). Elsewhere, he commands a simple, tender language: “Porque me gusta verla dormir” (“Because I like to watch her sleep”). Some poems, particularly in La balada del sol (The Song of the Sun) include techniques derived from music. “Argentina 1983” is an experiment in internal rhyme. Cadences are orchestrated around anaphora. There are pulsing rhythms and startling chaotic enumerations. The verse resonates with Biblical intonations. Born in Buenos Aires in 1942, an architect by profession and best known for his numerous collections of short stories, Ricardo Feierstein now lives with his wife in a building of his own design. For many years he was cultural director for the Asociacíon Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association. There he organized Jewish cultural events. As managing editor of its publications division, Editorial Milá, he oversaw the creation of over three hundred books on Jewish themes. He is now the editor-in-chief of Acervo Cultural Editores, a publisher of Jewish texts. Since childhood, Feierstein has been active in Argentina’s highly organized and highly factious Jewish community. He has written for a wide variety of Jewish periodicals and given innumerable lectures on Jewish themes. After being involved in HaShomer HaTzair, a left-wing Zionist movement, he and his family lived in Israel from 1972 to 1974, a period described in El caramel descompuesto, the second novel in his awardwinning trilogy, Sinfonía inocente. “To explain this experience has taken me three novels—a total of 800 pages—and I’ve hardly begun to reflect on it.” Sinfonía inocente is one of the most ambitious works ever written on an Argentinean-Jewish topic. It deals with growing up Jewish in Argentina, life as an Argentinean-Jewish immigrant in Israel, and return to life in Argentina during the dictatorship. Elegantly constructed on the model of a symphony, it juxtaposes sections as if they were ascending and descending melodies. Shifting suddenly from first to third person, the trilogy includes a dazzling array of prose styles. La balada del sol (1969), Feierstein’s first book of poetry, organized musically into two symphonic movements and written soon after his marriage, is a farewell to childhood. The poems of Inventadiario (1972) are associated thematically with classifications in an old-fashioned Argentinean identity document. “Age,” “nationality,” and “marital status” prompt poems reflecting the poet’s experience of these states. From the “Exteriores” (age, address, sex) can be deduced “Interiores” (the experience of time passing, dreams, favorite authors). The book’s title is a neologism combining the x

words inventario (inventory) and diario in its two senses of daily newspaper and personal diary. Letras en equilibrio (1975) was written after Israel’s Yom Kippur war and is Feierstein’s attempt to deal with the horror and loss of ideals of war. Equilibrium lost and regained, the book is an act of recovery and renewal. While Jewish themes appear throughout the collections, the 1982 poem “Viejos judíos” (“Old Jews”) is the most intensely Jewish of Feierstein’s works, a meditation on those aging immigrants to Argentina whose adaptation to their adopted land was painful and never complete. In “Nosotros, la generacíon del desierto,” his longest and most ambitious poem, Feierstein moves his focal point through time and space: The European ghetto, a kibbutz in the Galilee, and a Buenos Aires neighborhood collide. Aspects of Jewish identity and recreations of “temps perdus” are presented in a kaleidoscope of perspectives. Here Feierstein is naïve and prophetic, disillusioned and confident. Ricardo Feierstein is a vocal and identified Jew in a country where many Jews deny or play down their Judaism, an atheist and practitioner of Humanistic Judaism who numbers cabalists among his best friends, an avowed leftist working for the Jewish Establishment, a leader in the Jewish community and an aggressive critic of it. He has visited the Soviet Union and Cuba, but of the United States he has seen only Miami; College Park, Maryland; and Boston. Like Whitman, Feierstein contains multitudes. He can be simultaneously local and international, Jewish and Argentinean, at home and in exile. He can be aghast at life and life-affirming. Ricardo Feierstein seeks simplicity in the arabesque and remains optimistic in the knowledge of despair. This is the spirit of his poetry. Since the original publication of We, the Generation in the Wilderness, Ricardo Feierstein has gone on to be a prolific writer of novels and short story collections. He also continues to write poetry. His novel Mestizo (1994) that I translated into English in 2000 is a canonical work of Latin American Jewish literature. His subsequent novel, La logia del umbral, is a metaphorical interpretation of Argentinean Jewish history, and Cuaderno de un psicoanalista (2010) is a masterpiece of carnavalesque writing. —SAS, 1989, 2014


“Untranslatable” is the translator’s constant complaint, after which he goes back to work.... It pleases me to believe that [the author’s] genius has overleaped my limitations. —Leonard Wolf

To translate poetry is to try with K. to enter the Castle. Certainly, we have been at least as ambiguously fortunate as K. in being able to communicate by telephone and letter between ourselves and with the poet. From that collaboration has emerged the kind of compromise every translator must learn to live with. While we have been able to echo and imitate, for example, the close assonance and internal rhyme of “Argentina 1983,” we have yet to find an appropriate English equivalent for its introductory fanfare, “La esperanza es una danza.” Feierstein himself, in consultation, has allowed that the overall reproduction of his music is more important than the double measure of that line. Elsewhere but not consistently, we have translated culture as well as language, in order to convey sense without a drag-anchor of footnotes. For instance, where the original Spanish in “Nosotros, la generacíon del desierto”—“y otros apedreábamos colectivos e incendiábamos garitas”—refers to setting fire to sentry boxes, we felt the encumbrance of explaining the disposition of Argentinean police forces during the upheavals of the 1960s, etc., and decided a more northern cultural equivalent serves as well: “we…torched police cars.” The product of any translation is, of course, an idiosyncratic critical reading. At best, readers are invited back into the original to make their own. This collection serves as such an introduction. Steve is the Spanish scholar. Where I limp through Spanish on Latin and French crutches, he strides in seven-league boots over three continents. Generally, we began by Steve roughing out a literal English text from which I refined a version in verse. Then we sat down in front of my flashing screen to work through several drafts together. Afterwards, we each continued to pass back and forth difficult resolutions, consulting where necessary or possible with Ricardo Feierstein and other knowledgeable friends, all of whom we would like to thank here. —JK, 1989


Nosotros, la Generaci贸n del Desierto We, the Generation in the Wilderness

from LA BALADA DEL SOL mirá que hay que ser sonso. meterse esa tristeza entre los ojos y después no saber qué hacer con ella quedó enredada en párpados y pliegues es inútil frotarla con las manos. mirá que hay que ser sonso tener así encajada la tristeza.


from THE SONG OF THE SUN look here what kind of patsy are you. putting that grief between your eyes no idea what to do with it until it’s tangled up in your eyelids and wrinkles and you can’t rub it out with your hands. look here what kind of patsy are you to be furrowed with sadness.


VIEJOS JUDÍOS Sobrevivientes golondrinas sin retorno posible llegados desde Lodz, Odessa y Vilna Praga y Lemberg, quizás hasta de Viena con el cielo europeo entre los ojos carreteles de perdido esqueleto hechizados por algo a nuestra espalda y buscando más allá distraídos por su añorar de azules huérfanos a pesar del esfuerzo del curvo mentón hacia delante de temblores a veces contenidos de vocales aprendidas que se abren jambas de una ventana al infinito. Son los viejos judíos laboriosos caníbales de afecto poetas que compartieron la historia y las cárceles y el pan de los grandes en un glorioso pasado, bajo retículas de estrellas europeas en pétalos de idish que se desgranan como único equipaje ya no calle ancha y gemido de carros ya no borrachos y nieve en la ventana ya no taberna de sillas ruidosas ya no aquellos rabinos cabalistas con su lenguaje de espinas y corcheas propio, rastrillado por el día. Y también los otros: lituanos que bordan hilos ajenos carniceros kósher de oscura barba gorreros de rara profesión mercachifles de Estambul y Damasco matrícula de oficios judaicos de orgullosos buzos de superficie y todos, todos ellos 4

OLD JEWS Survivors swallows barred from ever going back landed from Lodz, Odessa and Vilna Prague and Lemberg, maybe even Vienna with the skies of Europe in their eyes bobbins from a mislaid skeleton bewitched by something at our back and seeking farther along distracted by their yearning for blue orphaned in spite of the strain of thrusting the bent chin up and forward of tremors sometimes held in check of studied vowels opening out like casements on the infinite. These are the old Jews hardworking cannibals of affection poets who shared in the history and prison and the bread of great men in a glorious past, under laceworks of European constellations in petals of Yiddish sifted through like the odd piece of luggage no longer wide streets and the groan of wagons no longer drunkards and snow on the windowsill no longer the tavern with its rackety chairs no longer those rabbis of the Cabala their characteristic language of thorns and quavers, groomed by daylight. And then the others: Litvaks who embroider unfamiliar threads Kosher butches with shadowy beards the outlandish workmanship of hatters peddlers from Istanbul and Damascus roster of Jewish occupations of strutting divers into the surface and all, all of those 5

ruidosos y ágiles como delfines deambulan por las calles porteñas sin feca, grela, mina ni canyengue la mano en un costado, como si recién se percataran de haber perdido algo en su sabiduría de inmigrantes. Niños atornillados a su sorda extrañeza de estar vivos perdidos entre los guiños cómplices de una ciudad abierta y ya sin celos son los viejos judíos, fiel flotilla de corsarios sin mar ni comandante que caligrafían sus esperanzas con ecos de espanto. Y aquél que, en calles varsovianas fuera un político de sutilezas ahora empequeñece turbios negocios o especula con sus paisanos ricos de torpe y hemipléjica cultura para así esquivar los baches del hambre… Y en verdad quién puede no enternecerse viendo esos mástiles que golpean con furia a ambos lados llenos de sonidos sin energía presagios y recetas afiladas y conmovedores congresos de idish sólo iluminados por cenizas de fuegos encendidos en una lejana selva junta al Rhin años atrás y ya sin combustible radiales pasajeros de la noche dueños, no obstante de nuestras carencias en los retoños hebreos de un jardín que no hemos plantado pero amamos. Ay, mis viejos judíos pasaportes de apretados diptongos de extraño vestir y ojos que se mueven de caminar urgente, como si algún 6

loud and lithe as dolphins saunter through the streets of Buenos Aires nothing to smoke, cuddle, kiss or sing hand on their ribs, as if just now they realized they misplaced something in their immigrant wisdom. Children riveted by their witless amazement at being alive lost among the conspiratorial winks of a city wide open, and no longer grasping these are the old Jews, faithful flotilla of pirates stripped of their main and master who artistically compose expectations with echoes of panic. And that one, who on the streets of Warsaw may have been a politician of subtleties now picks out grubby little deals or speculates with his wealthy compatriots in a dull and half paralyzed culture to swerve around the potholes of hunger‌ And who, really, would not be moved to compassion at seeing those mastheads shake with fury on either side filled with the inert sounds foreshadowings and honed prescriptions and turbulent gatherings of Yiddish illuminated only by the ashes of fires ignited years ago in a far-off wilderness alongside the Rhine and still without tinder radial passengers in the night owners, in spite of everything, of our deficiencies in the Hebrew seedlings of a garden we didn’t plant and yet continue to love. Oh, my old Jews, passports of thick diphthongs of foreign clothing and shifting eyes of hurried walk, as if some 7

cono de sombra esperara su regreso corriendo por la máquina del tiempo con bruscos y oxidados cuchicheos corbatas de mal nudo entre sociedades de residentes y gordos benefactores de asilos que escupen de costado y encuadernan el pulso de rencores sin sentido abanderados de causas perdidas siempre desubicados frente al mundo. Buhoneros tozudos rencor y hasta envidia que claman ciegos, alérgicos de la alegría tan lejanos de mí, tan sin palabras y obstruyen el avance de lo nuevo y oponen la historia a la aventura y hasta se hacen odiar por su torpe manera de ser malos y, sin embargo, cuando pienso en todo aquello que pudieron ser si el viento no los hubiera arrancado truncando un vuelo acabado de nacer cuando imagino a la tierra estéril y a sus tristes raíces desgajadas ay, como os quiero, viejos judíos.


geometry of shadow might be lying in wait running through the mechanism of time with brusque and rusty whispering ties clumsily knotted among communities of inhabitants and stout philanthropists of asylums who spit sideways and restrict the pulse beat of irrational grievance standard bearers of lost causes always displaced in the eyes of the world. Stubborn peddlers clamorous with grievance and even envy blind, allergic to joy so distant from me, so speechless and blocking the progress of the new setting history against enterprise and making themselves hated by their awkward manner of being evil and, nevertheless, when I consider everything they could have been if the wind had not torn them up cut short a newborn ascent when I imagine the wasted land and their sad, bleak roots oh, how I love you, you old Jews.


DATOS CÉDULA DE IDENTIDAD NÚMERO No, no crean que no me he dado cuenta. Ustedes, sin duda, lo percibirán: un quiebre, un rasguido de hoja seca que comienza a crecer desde las tapas quizás antes de la mitad de este libro; un chirriar de tenedores contra un plato gris de loza falta de unidad, picazón, ruido de palabras y frases que se chocan como osos caminos de sus cuevas o insaciables caballos de ajedrez pasando sobre otras piezas sin tocarlas (pero cimbra el aire bajo sus vientres). Esta incisión honda y dolorosa soy yo mismo, claro, ante mis cambios ante la certeza de que el viento puede besar a todos. O a nadie. Ya que la poesía escrita es inútil porque ha enfermado incurablemente de triste solemnidad y las cicatrices se han abierto. Hay que cortar, digo, con el pasado (que sin embargo habita nuestros huecos) con este mismo libro, que puede ser una prueba de su impotencia De su fría y desgarrada lucidez. Desgarramiento. Eso era exactamente lo que quería decir.


VITAL STATISTICS PASSBOOK NUMBER No, don’t believe that it hasn’t occurred to me. All of you, I’m sure, will apprehend: a crack, a rip in a dry leaf starting to spread outward from the boards, perhaps even from the middle of this booklet; a scratch of fork against a gray earthenware plate a lack of coherence, an itch, a racket of words and phrases lurching into each other like bears on the track from their dens or insatiable chessboard horses jumping the other pieces without a touch (except the quivering air under their bellies.) This deep, painful cut is I myself, lucid, before my transformations before my certainty that the wind can kiss everyone. Or no one. Now that written poetry is useless Having caught the incurable malady of melancholy pomp and the scars have come open. I say you have to break with the past (all the same it haunts our viscera) with this very book, the proof of its own impotence its cold and rending brilliance. Rending. That’s exactly What I meant to say.


NOMBRE Y APELLIDO Mirá lo difícil que es aprendernos saber la altura exacta de los brazos (que sólo se percibe cuando pegamos) llegar a dibujarnos las orillas el lugar donde se esconde el espejo que refleja nuestra imagen fría. Yo pasé las etapas escabrosas: mártir, aventurero, intelectual, vendedor, guitarrista y empleado (no creo que puedan repetirse) y ya tampoco podré llegar a ser agente secreto, tarzán de los monos, jugador de fútbol ni actor de cine (porque esas cosas hay que humedecerlas moverlas a tiempo en el cubilete). En esta historia por saber quién soy me han quedado, sí, algunas enseñanzas. A la primera, la uso como nombre: prefiero la vida antes que los libros el llanto de un niño a cualquier poema. Y la segunda como apellido: después de pelear con las palabras siempre está el follaje de nombres claros amor, ternura, asombro y bronca, Llegar a la sencillez por medio del arabesco bueno, lo siento, pero ése es mi camino hoy.


FULL NAME See how hard it is to know ourselves to know the exact lift of our arms (noticeable only when we stretch) to get around to sketching the edges the place where the mirror is hidden that gives back our own cold image. I passed over the difficult terrain: martyr, adventure, intellectual, seller, guitar strummer, and employee (I don’t think I could do it again) and it’s too late for me to turn into a secret agent, Tarzan of the Apes, a football player or a movie star (because those you have to irrigate— shake them around in the dicebox.) In this story, wanting to know who I am a few lessons have remained. I use the first as my given name: I prefer life to literature the cry of a child to any poem— and the second as a surname: after tangling with words there is always the foliation of lucid nouns love, tenderness, wonder, anger. To get at simplicity via the arabesque okay, I’m sorry, but that’s my path today.


DOMICILIO Podría decir: mi casa es el mundo ningún lugar humano me es ajeno y estoy de vuelta con mi escepticismo mi sed de cosmopolita porteño y las calles se me abren como un bostezo donde ando sin temor ni sobresaltos. Podría, pero resulta tan fácil, es casi gratuito. Lo cierto es: las ramas de los árboles crecen haciéndose más angostas nunca a la inversa, y son los pájaros ellos que pueden volar, los que eligen trepar hasta los bordes más sutiles para ejercer su canto y su ternura. Los mástiles crecen hacia arriba sí, pero desde abajo. Por eso, mi barrio es Villa Pueyrredón pero llevo el domicilio a cuestas tengo el cuerpo abarrotado de puertos busco nubes y están en todos lados busco sangre y ya corre entre mis huesos la calle es aventura y no un encuentro. Mi casa, en verdad, está donde está la mujer que quiero.


PLACE OF RESIDENCE Say: my house is the whole world nowhere human is foreign to me and here I am back with my skepticism my urbane, cosmopolitan thirst where the streets open out like a yawn and I walk without fear or surprises. Maybe, but the words come so easy they’re worth almost nothing. Truth is: branches of a tree narrow as they grow never the other way around, and birds that can fly are the ones that choose to perch on the most subtle twigs to practice their singing and tenderness. Flagpoles grow upward, of course, from underneath. So: my district is Villa Devoto but I carry my home on my back My body is walled in with harbors I look for clouds and find them everywhere I look for blood and find it flowing among my bones the street means adventure more than encounter. And really, my home is with the woman I love.


EDAD En el hueco de los ojos llevo encabalgadas las nostalgias. Por su dureza es posible calcular las coordenadas de mi tiempo. Las cosas más importantes del mundo se dieron cita en el barrio: Un manisero ató su lomo con la locomotora de juguete Un vendedor de barquillos desparramó la magia de la vida Mis primeras figuritas las gané contra la pared al puchero Un afilador de cuchillos rodó las mañanas con su trípode Un titiritero manejó los delgados hilos de la lluvia Una pelota frotó su espalda contra los vidrios de la sala. Ninguno de ellos vive ya.


AGE In the hollows of my eyes I carry the nesting places of nostalgia By their durability I can measure the co-ordinates of my era. The most important events in the world took place in this neighborhood: A peanut-vendor carried ice cream on his back A man selling cotton candy scattered the magic of life I won my first football cards against the wall at suppertime A scissors-grinder whetted the mornings on a stone A puppeteer set in motion the narrow threads of rain A ball rubbed its back against the living room windowpanes. None of them is still alive.


SEXO Se percibe tras lento aprendizaje el olor de misterio, de selva y arroyo el verdoso hechizo de las zonas oscuras los labios ásperos como sogas arrolladas y las colmenas oscilando lentamente como granadas de miel prontas a explotar los ojos extraviados del animal de bosque el vértigo de arrojarse en un mar de espuma sentirse pez, espada, tiburón, aleta. Luego comienzan a apreciarse la línea que parte rápida del cuelo para terminar aferrándose al mentón la oreja pequeña, en cuclillas junto al rostro la espiral curvada que recorta los hombros un hueco escondido detrás de la rodilla la joroba que asoma tímida en la muñeca la esquinada colina de un tobillo errante esa zona de nadie entre los omóplatos. Quiero decir, por si no se ha entendido que todo el cuerpo crece ágil como un vegetal un organismo móvil donde cada cosa se organiza en función de otra y otra y otra donde a la garganta siguen hombro y brazo y luego articulación, antebrazo, mano y dedos que terminan en uñas a medida un simétrico traje de piel y huesos que siempre es perfecto, a veces algo más.


SEX You can sense, after a slow apprenticeship, the perfume of mystery, of jungle and rivulet, the greenish fragrance of secret areas lips coarse as coiled rawhide and hives slowly rocking back and forth like honey-grenades at the point of explosion the unsettled eyes of a woodland animal the vertigo of immersion in a sea of foam feeling yourself a fish, a sword, a shark, a fin. Then they begin to value the line that runs rapidly down from the neck to end at the point of the chin, the tiny ear, squatting alongside the face, the curving helix outlining the shoulders. A hidden hollow behind a knee, a shy bump at the wrist, the sharply angled slope of an erratic ankle, that no-man’s land between the scapulae. I mean, if you don’t already understand, how the whole body grows limber like a stem a supple organism where every part works with another and another and another where the shoulder and arm lead one way to the throat or articulate the forearm, hand and fingers ending in nails individually styled a balanced costume of skin and bones that is always perfect, and sometimes more.


NACIONALIDAD Nací en Buenos Aires en 1942. Aquí ya tuve mi primer amor, los resbalones de la lluvia una pelea donde metí al otro en una zanja la marcha peronista en los parlantes de la calle cine a tres por ochenta, barriletes asmáticos la primera televisión que llegó al barrio uniformes y caballos, fervor y mucha gente la loca camiseta de San Lorenzo tallé un corazón en el pupitre de la escuela fui al entierro de Evita por ser mejor alumno pude ajustar los fríos anteojos de la noche recorrer árboles, prostitutas, ruidos, siestas, espejos de luz al brotar los ojos de mis hijos miré al sol como un acordeón contra el crepúsculo trepar montañas, plegar amaneceres. Llevo esta tierra en mi sangre. Nací en Buenos Aires en 1942. Ese mismo año mil o cien mil o un millón o varios millones se convirtieron en flameantes columnas de humo ennegrecieron los cielos germanos y polacos posiblemente muchos pero ya nunca futuros hermanos-amigos míos estuvieron allí también supe que fuegos rojos y alabanzas desmoronan los cabellos de la noche una vieja historia me fue invadiendo los sentidos dibujó un cántico azul sobre el mapa de mi ancestro entre las venas encontré la palabra judío la hice bailar, soñar con plumas, sembrar el viento rodar por los caminos como una torpe arandela para reunirse con su sal y sus temblores y a los tropezones ando tras de ella. Llevo este eco en mi sangre. Nací en Buenos Aires en 1942. Ocho días después fui circuncidado. 20

NATIONALITY Born in Buenos Aires in 1942 where my first love came early, the slide of the rain, a fight where I decked the other guy the Peronist anthem from loudspeakers on the street triple features for a buck, asthmatic kites the first television on the block, uniforms and horses, excitement and multitudes the motley colors of my football club I carved a heart on my school desk best in class, I attended Evita’s funeral I could focus the cold eyeglasses of night to pass through trees, prostitutes, noises, fiestas mirrors of light when my children’s eyes bloom I looked at the sum—a concertina in the dusk to scale mountains, to enfold dawns I bear this land in my blood. Born in Buenos Aires in 1942 the very year a thousand or a hundred thousand or a million or several million were converted to flaring columns of smoke and blackened the German and Polish skies how many never-to-be brothers and friends of mine were already there And more, I learned, I learned that red flames and praise eradicate the hair of the night an ancient chronicle overwhelmed my senses, drew a blue canticle on my ancestral map in my veins I came across the word Jew made it dance, dream of feathers, seed the wind roll down highways like a runaway wheel to rejoin its salt and its trembling and I follow it by fits and starts I bear this echo in my blood. Born in Buenos Aires in 1942 on the eighth day I was circumcised. 21

ESTADO CIVIL Como civil mi estado es más o menos éste: tengo la apariencia de un casquete polar que el rojo sol de tu vientre derrite con el tiempo. Inundamos días, espigas, recovecos con la escasez de gestos de un vendedor de cigariilos golpeándonos como locos con los ojos. Cuando no te tengo me dedico a atornillar rocas a bordarle costurones al silencio a desovillar letanías como un pájaro ciego. (Creo que exagero, Susana. No todo es así tan definitivo, tan esencial, tan con tonos plenos). También están las fronteras cotidianas los altos y bajos de gestos, palabras, tropezones sinusoide, rama, tobogán gigante el agua, los pliegues, la sonrisa, el yo no quiero, los labios que emboscamos como un juego los buenos días, el erizo imantado de la piel esa sensación de pudor, de no sé qué como la de mendigos que debutan en su oficio. Tal vez el secreto sea comprender nuestra geografía no sólo como centro apreciar bordes, orillas, espacios intermedios.


MARITAL STATUS As a civilian my status is more or less this: the semblance of a polar cap melted in time by the vermillion sun of your belly. We flood our days, cornstalks, hideaways with a cigarette-girl’s economy of gesture striking each other with our eyes like crazies. Without you I concentrate on shoring up the cliffs embroidering long seams on the silence, unraveling litanies like a blinded bird. (I believe I exaggerate, Susana. It’s not all so definitive, essential, full toned.) Also there are the daily checkpoints, the ups and downs of gestures, words and obstacles, sinuosity, branch, enormous toboggan, the water, the creases, the smile, the I-don’t-want, the lips we make a game of ambushing, the good-morning, the gooseflesh, the flush of modesty, of I don’t know what like beggars at the start of their career. Perhaps the secret lies in knowing not just the center of our geography, in valuing the edges, littorals, spaces in between.


PROFESIÓN Mis oficios terrestres: niño preguntón de dónde saca Dios tanta piel para forrar a la gente desengañado de religiones yogabudistalogósoforosacruz (intenciones) cadete de oficina mandadero, limpiador de polvos, estafeta de correo espectador de desencuentros promotor de estabilizadores de tevé (una profesión de mi siglo) resfrío de veredas caminadas hombreamante padre flecos de sol pulverizando los rincones empleado público la muerte es una oficina tapizada de silencios dibujante cartógrafo ruido de ojos golpeando diariamente los tableros como bolitas vendedor de libros de medicina arañas de penumbra en los hospitales olor estudiante de arquitectura de sociología de ocultismo de literatura de geopolítica de política proyectista las líneas son prolongaciones de los dedos los edificios reflejo invertido del armazón del cuerpo militanteactivistareunionespintadaspegatinas 24

PROFESSION My worldly trades: inquisitive child where did God get all that skin to wrap people in disillusioned with religions yogabudhistlogosophrosacrucian (tendencies) office boy gofer, duster, mail clerk observer at misunderstandings promoter of television cabinets (an occupation of my times) cold-in-the-head from pounding the sidewalk loverman father tassels of sun pulverizing the corners of a room public employee death is an office upholstered in silences draughtsman cartographer noise caused by eyes like marbles daily striking the drawing-table medical textbook rep spidery shadows in the half-light of hospitals the smell student of architecture of sociology of the occult of literature of geopolitics of politics designer the lines are extensions of the fingers the buildings, inverted reflections of a body’s frame militantactivistmeetingpoliticalgraffitiartist 25

temblor insomne y dulzĂłn al regresar por las noches conferencista ordenar la palabra en ramilletes repartirla entre discretos comensales diagramador simplemente encuadrar la vida diseĂąar flores creciendo organizadas periodista un teclado de luces que se impone taconeando la colina de los dĂ­as empecinadoinquieto buscador de lluvias como un licor de sangres como una muerte creciendo silenciosa.


returning at night to a sleepless and oversweet tremor lecturer arranging words into bouquets dispersing them among discreet dinner companions diagrammer making life just fit in organizing flowerbeds reporter an insistent keyboard of lights tapping out the drift of days stubbornunquiet seeker of rains like a liquor of bloodstreams like a death growing mute.


FAMILIA Las cosas son tan simples como el amarillo de las naranjas. A saber: ella es la ternura del pan fresco tan expresiva como las líneas onduladas de las yemas de los dedos de las patas de un león. Yo busco en el aire luminoso la sombra que proyectan sobre el fondo del mar dos corales verdes y rosados (también anochece en los orificios de sus canutos). Tenemos dos ositos lanudos y enrulados como semillas: uno es el sabor de América que brota agazapado para atrapar el día con las manos; Otra es la colina donde el sol va a buscar el rebote de sus ecos. También soñamos con rumores parecidos con celestes transparentes como el cielo de Jerusalem. Y alguna vez hemos pulseado con la muerte pero la violamos, sí, violamos su abanico de afilada espuma la dejamos allí, llorando como un niño.


FAMILY Things are as simple as the yellow of oranges. To wit: she is the tenderness of fresh bread expressive as the wavering lines on the tips of the toes at the feet of a lion. As for me, in luminous air, I’m looking for the shadow cast on the ocean flood by two corals of green and rose (meanwhile it grows dark in their tubular openings.) We have a couple of bear cubs, nappy and furry like seeds: one is the tang of America who hunkers out to catch the day In his hands; the other a hill where the sun will find the ricochet of her echo. And we dream of similar sounds in a blue transparent as the sky around Jerusalem. And from time to time we have tangled with death but forced her open, yes, forced open her fan of honed spindrift abandoned her weeping, like an orphan.


SEÑAS PARTICULARES VISIBLES La extrañeza de vivir. Un corazón así de grande. Algo egoísta.


DISTINGUISHING FEATURES Amazement at being alive. A heart as big as this, A touch of selfishness.


DE LA NOSTALGIA No quiero, no quiero ya dejar de lado mi pasado y mis humores ni la ancha placidez de un lejano río ni navegar del medio hacia la costa sin saberme alto, judío, americano. No quiero, no, plumerear melancolías. No estoy, no estoy en eso de andar sacudiendo las nostalgias como un mechón de pelo sobre la frente o un perro lanudo después del baño lanzando lluvias como búmerans. No estoy, no, queriendo vivir en el pasado. No digo, no digo hoy que el hombre es la suma de sus recuerdos pero ellos cuchichean el rumor futuro acumulan vida en tonel abierto como sangre que late y se percude. No digo, no, que es excluyente. Sólo aporte.


NOSTALGIA I’m not willing, not yet willing to set aside my past or my moods nor the wide contentment of a far river and navigate from the center to the bank without acknowledging myself tall, Jewish, American. I’m not willing, no, to dust off melancholies. I’m not, not in the habit of shaking out nostalgia as I go along like a lock of hair across the brow or a woolly dog after the bath throwing off cloudbursts like boomerangs. I’m not willing, no, to live in the past. I’m not saying, I’m not saying now that a man is the sum of his memories but they do whisper rumors of the future they collect life in an open barrel like blood pumping and pulsing. I’m not saying, no, that it excludes. Instead, it adds substance.


COMO ASESINAR LA INDIFERENCIA Es tarea fácil capturar anonimatos meterse en un cubo de hormigón a medida de ésos que componen la retícula visible de las ciudades trajeados por un sastre que estudia los rincones y fabrica cavernas, para aislar óvalos del frío dejar correr los perros amarillos de la angustia y encerrarse en una conversación privada con las serpientes enlatadas de la duda. Pero no se trata de deshilachar los bordes ni reconstruir paraísos inexistentes hay que acometer al día con prepotencia deshacerlo a tirones, cambiarlo siempre sentirse parte del mundo y no un extraño sacudirse la rutina de las quejas y participar con todo en el diseño una porción de pan nos pertenece no dejemos el destino en mano ajena porque la sociedad también será como la hagamos. Una cosa tan simple: morder la vida.


HOW TO KILL INDIFFERENCE It’s easy work to seize the anonymous to hide in a made-to-measure bucket of cement like those who make up the visible fretwork of cities fitted by a tailor who sizes up corners and fabricates caves, to isolate ovals of cold to let slip the tawny dogs of anguish and to close up into a private conversation with the canned vipers of doubt. But that does nothing about unraveling the edges nor rebuild nonexistent paradise what’s needed is to take on the day with arrogance dismantle it by force, change it always feel part of the world and no stranger shake off a querulous routine and join in with everything in the plan part of the loaf belongs to us let’s not let fate fall into strange hands because the world likewise will be what we create. Such a simple thing: bite into life.


ARGENTINA 1983 * La esperanza es una danza áspera e indecisa como la acción del fuego sobre el mosaico y no termina de elegir si se transforma en lenguas de humo pinceles tiznando la realidad chispas envainadas que juegan de amargura en conjetura tibios oráculos de superficie o, animándose, ya traspasa el frío suelo con su aguja bisectriz entre grietas quiebra gordas capas de concreto hasta tomar contacto con la tierra para un baile caliente, arborescente y esas pequeñas llamas generan incendios subterráneos explosión de púberes y piedras donde saltan los trozos por el aire para estrechar manos que son unión, calor, fuga de sombras son una muesca de sol enamorado son blando peñasco del amanecer. *Año de elecciones democráticas, luego de la dictadura militar.


ARGENTINA 1983 * Hope is a promenade harsh and uncertain as the flicker of fire over mosaic and in the end unable to decide whether to turn into tongues of smoke paintbrushes smudging reality a play of sheathed sparks from bitterness to guesswork lukewarm oracles of the ordinary or, quickening, now tracks across the cold floor with its needle bisecting the cracks to shatter thick slabs of concrete until it jabs the earth into a hot arborescent whirl and those small flames breed subterranean fires bursts of lads and lapidary shards tumbling through the air to grip hands that are unity, warmth, flight of shadows are a swath carved by the enamored sun are soft rockface of the dawn. *The year when democratic elections were held, following the fall of the military dictatorship.


NOSOTROS, LA GENERACIÓN DEL DESIERTO I Nosotros somos los que nacimos en la mitad de la colmena bajo el viento áspero del desierto entre la generosidad y el olvido y llegamos en un momento en que nadie nos necesitaba. Somos los hijos de la guerra mundial las toses de Hiroshima, el Holocausto y la revolución y andamos por el mundo a los empujones grandes y alados como ángeles borrachos buscando a ciegas una agrietada fumarola prometida entre espuma y nigromantes y ya inexistente sin comprender la tormenta de mástiles que se avecina. No somos la historia ni el futuro. II Aquellos de nosotros que nacimos judíos fuimos estafeta del orgullo y el prejuicio bebimos, imantados, la sangre y la resurrección el olor de los campos y la historia heroica de los guetos grávidos de lágrimas, de risas y de llantos de un país levantado a sol y a coraje a despecho de burdos tejedores de milenios. Pero tampoco estuvimos allí. No gozamos la fresca y tornasolada magia del idish ni el populacho dirigiéndose en procesión para recibir al nuevo rabino que llegaba montado en un burro 38

WE, THE GENERATION IN THE WILDERNESS I We are those who were born in the middle of the beehive under the bitter desert wind between generosity and oblivion and we arrived at a moment when nobody needed us. We are the offspring of world war catarrh if Hiroshima, the Holocaust and revolution and we lurch across the world large and winged like drunken angels groping for a chapped fumarole as foretold among foam and sorcerers and no longer there ignorant of the coming storm in the rigging. We are neither history nor future. II Those of us who were born Jews were heralds of self-esteem and partiality magnetized, we imbibed blood and resurrection the stench of the camps and the heroic history of the ghettoes heavy with weeping, laughter and lamentation of a homeland raised into the sun and courage despite the crude weavers of millennia. And we weren’t there. We did not rejoice in the fresh and iridescent enchantment of Yiddish and people forming into a procession to greet the new rabbi who came riding on a donkey 39

con su botánica caballería de muchachones ni el humo de las chimeneas, ni el sabor del arenque, la vara del jéider ese judaísmo natural y permanente que empapaba los sentidos como anilinas silvestres. III Y no estuvimos en la fundación de las comunas en la fiebre de los ojos que compartían la clandestinidad y la insurgente góndola del sol (siempre demasiado tarde o demasiado pronto) ni en el golpeteo de los corazones cuando el primer pabellón hebreo vibrante comuna antena de tules ascendió al tope, entre gritos de entusiasmo después de una espera de cien generaciones. No, no estuvimos allí apenas habíamos nacido. IV Llegamos tarde para morir, es cierto en el volcán de la locura europea pero demasiado temprano para vivir esa profesión de guitarras, egoísmos y ternuras que despeñan el camino hacia el dos mil. Estamos en el medio generación del desierto. No nacimos en la cuadrícula de una patria nueva porque estábamos aquí cuando fue creada y qué dulce y lamentable nuestra torpeza más alta que un caballo encabritado cuando tratamos de recuperar bruscamente el tiempo y pagamos un precio desmedido enhebrando una metralla de preguntas culposas por nuestro temor de haber perdido algo un brillo enjaulado en los ojos que deslumbran. 40

with his floral cavalry of overgrown boys the chimney smoke, the taste of herring, the rattan of cheder that earthy and enduring Judaism like a sylvan aniline imbruing the senses. III And we weren’t in at the founding of communes in the fever of eyes sharing secrecy and the uprising gondola of the sun (always too late or too soon) nor at the pounding of hearts as the first Hebrew flag thrilling like a gossamer antenna climbed the pole to enthusiastic shouts after a hundred generations of expectation. No, we missed that we were no more than born. IV Of course, we arrived too late to die in the volcano of European insanity but too early to live through the profession of guitars, ego and tenderness hurtling down the road to the year two thousand. We are in the middle the generation in the wilderness. We weren’t born within the perimeter of a new homeland we were here when it was made and how sweet and how pitiful our dawdling higher than a horse rearing when we tried suddenly to make up for lost time at too great a price beading a fusillade of impudent questions in our fear of having lost something a confined glimmer in shining eyes. 41

V Nosotros, esta generación de nómades somos los hijos de los pioneros los que quisimos retomar las banderas del esfuerzo personal, la revolución interior el mundo ideal al alcance de la mano las casas sin frontera, el destino que nos hermanaba la poesía como flecha de plomo hacia el futuro sin darnos cuenta que, mientras tanto el mucílago de la realidad se erguía como una culebra escapando bajo la blanda arena desatornillando nuestras espaldas dejándonos de a pie, torpes y transparentes con un doloroso gesto de asombro en medio del desierto. VI Entonces quemamos etapas y peldaños queremos reiniciar todo a los treinta ser labradores pese a lo que digan cuando el tiempo de cosecha ha pasado reencontrar la boya milimetrada de la fe sabiendo que el escepticismo es un topo oscuro, gris y malpensado que socava con sus dientes de doble filo los jirones escarolados de nuestras dudas y esperanzas y cada vez cuesta más encontrar las palabras para lo que queremos decir un “te amo” nos resuena ya tan cursi la bandera y el vermut nos amontonan y el lenguaje se nos pone de rodillas temeroso, color de parietales cascabeles de turquesa avinagrada. Pero lo que queremos decir es muy complejo una prosa corsaria y anillada para la que no alcanzan adjetivos ni vocales. 42

V We, this generation of nomads are the children of pioneers who wanted to recover the banners of personal strength, the inner revolution utopia in our grasp undefined houses, destiny binding us in brotherhood poetry like a leaden arrow into the future while we didn’t notice the ooze of reality rising like a viper slipping away under the smooth sand unhinging our shoulders leaving us on foot, clumsy and transparent with a painful gesture of surprise in the middle of the wilderness. VI Well, we burned our bridges and ladders we want to start over at thirty be hirelings whatever they say after the harvest is done with find again the calibrated buoy of faith knowing that skepticism is a mole dark, gray and malign undermining with its double-edged teeth the lacy rags of our uncertainties and hopes and each time it grows harder to find the words for what we mean to say an “I love you” too superficial for us now the flag and vermouth overwhelm us and the language drives us to our knees fearful, colored parietal small bells of sour turquoise but what we mean to say is complicated a piratical and annular prose where adjectives and vowels don’t work.


VII Algunos nos reuníamos de noche para discutir el mundo del futuro y cómo organizarlo, después de todo y otros apedreábamos colectivos e incendiábamos garitas oh, nuestra generación valiente y arrojada haciendo deslizar entre sus dedos un rosario de primicias mortecinas y otros soñábamos revistas literarias frente a tazas de café la educación y el poder de la palabra para cambiar el pellejo agusanado del mundo y leíamos a Pléjanov y descubríamos los ciclos de Bergman o Rosellini en algún cineclub y llegábamos, como una revelación o un caramelo al orientalismo, el yoga, la música de jazz el psicoanálisis, los tabúes sexuales las ciencias sociales, las fantasías las fantasías, eso el realizarse en la profesión el no conformarse con ser menos que premio nobel de literatura o campeón de box o inefable Casanova o convertir nuestra vida en una obra de arte. Todo eso soñamos, todo eso hicimos. VIII Y maduramos con la idea del hombre nuevo que nos fue atrapando como un sonámbulo allí en la noche con miedo a despertarlo y miramos hacia el este, esperanzados nos dijimos, “ya pasará, es cuestión de tiempo” nos dimos ánimo en las manos y miradas despreciamos los plumosos suburbios de la duda nos dijeron que esa masacre sí era la última que ahora con la atómica y todo eso y nosotros, faraónicos y pétreos crecimos con la guerra fría entre los huesos 44

VII Some of us used to meet at night to talk over the world of the future and how to organize it in spite of everything and we stoned buses, torched police cars oh, our brave and foolhardy generation letting a rosary of late early fruit slide through its fingers. And others over cups of coffee dreamed up literary magazines education and the power of the word to transform the world’s wormy skin and we read Plekhanov and discussed the reels of Bergman and Rosselini in a film club and we arrived, as if at an epiphany or a caramel, of Orientalist studies, yoga, jazz psychoanalysis, forbidden sex the social sciences, fantasies fantasies that was it fulfillment through our professions dissatisfied with anything less than the Nobel Prize in Literature heavyweight champion of mystic Casanova or making our life into a work of art. All this, we dreamed. All this, we did. VIII And we grew up with the idea of the New Man taking hold of us like a sleepwalker out there in the night, afraid to wake him and we peered into the east, hoping we said, “it will pass, in time” we encouraged one another with our hands and eyes we despised the downy suburbs of doubt we were told that this slaughter, yes, was the last one and now with the atomic and all that and we, pharaonic and stony grew up with the cold war in our bones 45

con el chantaje del terror y el miedo a amanecer con visión de apocalipsis con el deseo de vivir hoy y no mañana porque si un loco aprieta el botón y entonces un siseo de petardos y vorágines y la fe se nos metía entre los dientes apretados y un sarro de palabras nos embetunaba los tímpanos. IX Y de pronto, el mundo nos cayó encima como una cascada y nosotros, la generación del desierto los que no fuimos libres ni esclavos envejecimos de golpe, más que otros un fonógrafo nos cribó la fantasía y dejamos de entender este cerco que nos rodeaba donde nacía una violencia de metrónomos sin límites espumarajos de sangre y profecías el reino de la irracionalidad que aparecía allí emboscado. Y percibimos, con un escalofrío que ya estaban muertos dentro de nosotros con indolora lobotomía todos aquellos bifrontes que no pudimos ser y como una columna de fichas de dominó con el cimbrar de un tiro de mosquete comienzan a derramarse los seres cercanos porque la muerte, baqueana, ya nos ronda golpea a uno y otro costado con su tulipa alcanforada no sin terror, comprendimos que ella existe que no se trata sólo de una licencia poética o un tumor de íconos y nos envía sus signos en manchas de la piel o dolores imprevistos y entonces buscamos la fe, pero nos cuesta encontrarla hemos perdido la seguridad del adolescente y el camisón matemático con que bordaba la vida los comodines de este póker giboso y enredado. 46

with the blackmail of terror and awoke at dawn to visions of Apocalypse with the desire to love today and not tomorrow because what if a madman pushes the button and then a hissing of bombs and maelstroms and that belief held us in its clenched teeth and a scab of words blackens our eardrums. IX And soon the world fell on our heads like a waterfall and we, the generation of the wilderness who were neither free nor slaves grew old in one blow, older than others a phonograph sorted out our fantasy and we stopped comprehending the wall around us where was born a violence of infinite metronomes afroth with blood and prophecy the kingdom of unreason appearing in ambush. And we understood with a shiver how by a painless lobotomy all those split personalities we couldn’t heal were already dead inside us and like a pile of dominos at the shock-wave of a musket shot knocking over beings close by because death, pathfinder, already surrounds us strikes one and another with her mothballed gillyflower not without terror, we understood she exists and deals not only in poetic license or a tumor of icons but sends us her signals in blotches on the skin or unexpected pain but then we seek faith, but find it hard to come by having lost the assurance of an adolescent and the mathematical robe that life embroidered with the wildcards of this expanding, tangled poker game. 47

A nosotros, piadosos oficiantes del desarraigo nos cuesta entusiasmarnos y, recurrente, nos atrapa un cono de melancolía por todo lo que ya no seremos los sueños convertidos en pastillas o vellones lilas las utopías que sólo son ectoplasmas del miedo, una tisana cósmica que no nos animamos a beber. Nuestras nostalgias están pobladas de tumbas. X Y entonces, en una mezcla de dulce y pegajoso tropezamos con nuestras cosas de chicos luminosidades objetos, volatineros de circo volvemos a las barras de la esquina, los partidos de fútbol la primera novia y el “si yo hubiera...” la placenta de los poemas bajo el banco de la escuela (madera color de nicotina) con sus rimas burdas e inocentes la fiesta de bachilleres desfilando por la avenida del colegio, con un trompetista al frente y escudos con pingüinos y colores en la solapa y la gente aplaudiendo desde las veredas y después, los encuentros casuales con esos compañeros canas y abdómenes y la promesa de vernos que no se cumplirá nunca porque ya no hay cabriolas en común es todo tan ausente. Y más atrás aún, en ese mundo chocolatado los almanaques con artistas sonriendo desde el vamos las cajas enteras de revistas de historietas y las colecciones de libros y pelotas de trapo y figuritas incansables de forma y color y brillantinas y los Pequeños Grandes Libros y Disney y Salgari y Verne en ediciones baratas que se vendían en quioscos y las fotos de actores yanquis pegadas en un álbum 48

For us, pious officiates of deracination it is hard to get excited again and again, caught under a cone of melancholy because of all we can no longer become dreams in stead of pills or lavender sheepskins utopias only the ectoplasm of fear, a cosmic tea we don’t dare drink. Our homesickness is peopled with graves. X And then, sweet and sticky mixed, At every turn we trip over toys of our childhood luminosities objects, high wire walkers from the circus we turn back to the corner gangs, football games first girl friends and “if I’d only…” the placenta of the poems under school desks (nicotine-colored wood) with their crude and innocent verses the parade of graduates down the high-school avenue, a trumpeter out front and badges with penguins and bright colors on lapels and people applauding from the sidewalk and afterwards, casual encounters with those classmates gray hair and bellies and the promises to keep in touch never kept because there are no longer any stunts in common everything is so absent. And yet further back, in that chocolate-covered world almanacs replete from the start with smiling artistes whole cartons of illustrated magazines and collections of books and balls fabricated from rags and football cards inexhaustible in form and color and hair-oils and the Little Golden Books and Disney and Salgari and Jules Verne in cheap editions sold in drugstores and photos of Hollywood actors pasted into an album 49

ante la mirada atónita de padres que no comprendían ese nuevo paganismo de la imagen. En fin, los fantasmas del pasado encaramados en las cosas traicioneros. XI Y nosotros fuimos los que usamos barba y cortaplumas nos casamos jóvenes y a veces nos divorciamos como una moda y ahora, nosotros, los mismos tenemos anteojos y un gusto salino y tormentoso y el trabajo no nos deja hacer gimnasia y la madurez nos fue extraviando la inocencia achaparrando el cuerpo en su inevitable deterioro y como púas nos marcan el envejecimiento las señales emboscadas de la muerte (ya no el inocente sarampión o la rubia varicela). Y nos fueron llegando los nudos de trabajosa sabiduría esa sencillez que se resume en una frase y dice que construir una flor es trabajo de siglos (Blake dixit) y destruirla cuestión de segundos por eso es necesario cuidarlas y también como en un trompeteo, adivinamos la blanda tozudez de los ancianos o el amarillo naipe de los sueños. Esas cosas tontas aprendimos un espejo alunado para develar el contrafilo de lo real. XII Por todo esto es que nosotros tan distintos sólo compartimos la pregunta y los horrores esa identidad que orillea los coloquios y los tests 50

under the astonished eyes of parents who didn’t comprehend that new paganism of the image. At last, the ghosts of the past exalted in treacherous things. XI And we were those with beards and pocketknives we married young and at times were divorced à la mode and now we, just the same wear eyeglasses and a salty wretched taste and work doesn’t allow us exercise and maturity decoyed our innocence stunting the body in its inevitable decadence and growing old scars us like barbs the ambushed signs of death (no longer the innocent measles or chicken pox.) And coming our way were knots of laborious wisdom simplicity expressed in a phrase saying that to create a flower is the labor of ages (Blake dixit) and to destroy it a matter of seconds therefore we must protect them and again, as in a flourish of trumpets we conjecture the soft obstinacy of the ancients or the yellow card of dreams. We learned these stupid things a crazy mirror to unveil the trailing edge of the Genuine. XII Given all this, it’s that we so different alone share in the question and the horrors the identity that shuttles aside colloquies and tests 51

que reconoce raíces ambidextras y fecundas quizá la prefiguración de una nacionalidad cósmica que anhelamos desde las duras tapas de los libros. Pero tenemos desgarrado el pensamiento a qué dudarlo confluyen en nosotros como licor espeso la herencia de la sangre y el gusto de la tierra la Cabalá y los magos, el Talmud y los mitos indígenas las barbas encendidas del profeta y el semblante feroz del araucano y aquí estamos, como alambre y tijera atesorados y de allá nos dicen galúticos, dispersos, vergonzantes y de acá usureros, vendepatrias, desiguales y el diálogo existe, pese a todo, con nosotros mismos generación del desierto destinada a vislumbrar la Tierra Prometida con una elíptica lupa de inmigrantes sólo futuro para hijos descercados y a recordar la esclavitud en Egipto a la que nunca volveremos, malditos sean. Y aquí estamos, en el medio, tierra de nadie arenoso y oblicuo y triste desierto. XIII Y lo mismo nos pasó con la poesía y el color y la música, como teñidos de esmeraldas somos la generación de la cultura la que accedió, por fin, al goce de la imprenta al surco de los discos a tecnicolores pinacotecas y pensamos que allí estaba todo, que sólo era cuestión de difundirlo de educar y convencer a los extraños que suelten por un momento el arado y el fusil y vuelvan la cabeza para escuchar y ver la buena nueva era todo tan simple, una magia encaracolada un entramado de ladrillos recoletos 52

that recognizes ambidextrous and fertile roots perhaps the harbinger of a cosmic nationalism found between stiff covers of books fed our desire. But we have our thoughts torn apart no doubt about it coming together in us like a heavy liquor are the blood’s legacy and taste of the land the Cabala and shamans, Talmud and native myths the flaming beard of the prophet and the fierce countenance of the Indian and here we are, like hoarded wire and half a scissors and from over there they call us the Diaspora, scattered, shameful and from this side moneylenders, traitors, second rate while our real dialogue, in spite of everything, is with ourselves generation of the wilderness fated to glimpse the Promised Land through an elliptical lens of immigrants only in the future for unwalled children and to recall the bondage in Egypt we’ll never return to, may they rot in Hell. And here we are, in the middle, no man’s land sandy, angular, unhappy wilderness. XIII And the same thing happened to our poetry painting and music, as if dyed with emeralds we are the generation of culture that gave in at last to the enjoyment of print to the high-fi groove to the Technicolor picture galleries and we thought we’d find everything there, it was only a question of spreading it around teaching and moving the excluded for them to let go for a moment their ploughs and rifles and turn their heads to hear and see the good news it was all so simple, a seashell magic an archway of timid bricks 53

construido con amor y otras maneras y así nos fuimos olvidando de la tierra de la vida natural, el sol y los tomates de revolcarnos con un gesto húmedo de lluvias de llenar nuestros ojos con el ronquido del mar con ciervo y nube y lunares apretados y aquí estamos enfermos y amarillos y llenos de nostalgia gruesos anteojos y lisura entre las manos incapaces para descubrir un monte o trepar a un árbol intoxicados de ciudad y cigarrillos mientras la historia, burlona flamea orgullosa a nuestro lado su copete de cromos destejidos. XIV Pero, con todo eso, los de nuestra generación y escúchese bien, somos también los del gesto heroico y la protesta los del amor en ciernes y la paloma ardiente. Y después de este lavaje y purificación queremos elegir el árbol de la vida y plantarlo para los que vienen dentro de cien años sacudirnos los mundos chiquitos repletos de algodón y mermelada y asumir con orgullo y dolor nuestra piel entre la generosidad y el olvido yo, tú, él la generación del desierto.


made out of love and other things and so slowly we neglected the land of natural things, the sun and tomatoes beating us down with a rain-dampened gesture filling our eyes with the roar of the sea with buck and cloud and pinched blemishes and here we are ill and jaundiced and altogether homesick thick eyeglasses and smooth palms incapable of discovering a mountain or climbing a tree drunk with city and cigarettes while that joker history proudly lights up at our side its topknots of uneven chrome. XIV But, with all this, our generation now listen carefully we are also those of the heroic deed and protest of love in blossom and the flaming dove. And after this cleaning and purification we long to choose the tree of life and plant it for those who follow in a hundred years to shake down in our name the tiny worlds replete with cotton and marmalade and to wear in pride and pain our skin between generosity and oblivion I, you, he the generation in the wilderness.


Ricardo Feierstein—poet, novelist, and architect—was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. Hailed as “one of the most important authors of the new generation of Jewish Argentinian writers,” he has published three books of poetry, La balada del sol (1969), Inventadiario (1972), and Letras en equilibrio (1975). He was awarded a Municipal Prize in Literature for his trilogy of novels, Sinfonía inocente (1984). He has long been a major force in Argentina’s literary scene. His thirty published works include Mestizo (1994), Homicidios tímidos (1996), La logia del umbral (2001), Consorcio Utopía (2007), Cuaderno de un psicoanalista (2010), Las novias perdidas (2011), and El caso del concurso literario (2013). His works have been translated into English, French, Italian, German, and Hebrew. Feierstein is the editor-in-chief of Acervo Cultural Editores.

Stephen A. Sadow, born in 1946, is professor of Latin American Literature and Jewish Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. He specializes in Jewish Latin American literature and art. Among his many books are King David’s Harp: Autobiographical Essays by Jewish Latin American Writers, winner of a National Jewish Book Award, and his translation of Mestizo, a novel by Ricardo Feierstein. Sadow and his cotranslator Jim Kates have translated into English poems by fourteen Latin American Jewish poets, among them Ricardo Feierstein (Argentina), Angelina Muñiz-Huberman (Mexico), Isaac Goldemberg (Peru), Rosita Kalina (Costa Rica), and Juana García Abás (Cuba). Sadow has published several open-access digital publications: a bilingual poetry anthology, a catalogue of a collection of handmade artist’s books, and a trilingual anthology of contemporary Latin American Jewish literature. J. Kates, born in 1945 and now living in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, is a poet, translator, and freelance writer, whose literary work has appeared in more than fifty magazines, including The Massachusetts Review, The New York Quarterly, Poetry East, Ars Interpres, Cyphers, and Stand. His published translations include poems by René Daumal, Robert Desnos, Paul Eluard, Jacques Prévert, Jean-Pierre Rosnay, Tatyana Shcherbina, Marie Uguay, and Tomas Venclova, as well as Ricardo Feierstein. Kates is past president of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). He is co-editor of Zephyr Press.

We, the Generation in the Wilderness  

25th Anniversary edition of bilingual book of poetry with Argentine Jewish themes. Written by Ricardo Feierstein. Translated from the Spanis...

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