Poetry, translation

Two poems on bullfighting by Jack Little

Two poems on bullfighting by Jack Little
with Spanish versions by Fer de la Cruz
(in the context of bullfighting being banned in a growing number Mexican states)

 

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A Lament for Ponciano Díaz
after Federico García Lorca

In the ganadería de Atenco
Ponciano Díaz´s father fought bulls
with a cloth in one hand and his child in the other.

In the evenings, his brother would sit on the other side of the room
the semi-darkness of the setting sun would leave half shadows:
the day´s sandy footprints, the dry spittle at the side of the old man´s mouth.

Tonight proclaims his fate is preordained
under the breath of a thousand secret voices:
some of us dwell in our passions more than others.

But before the stain of crimsons spines, and viscera between his sequins
the sunrise will be another part-renewal, grown boastful with swollen pride

the fight is in his veins.

 

Lamento por Ponciano Díaz
A la manera de Lorca

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En la ganadería de Atenco sucedió:
el padre de Ponciano lidiaba con los toros,
capota en una mano, el niño en otra.

Por las tardes, su hermano se sentaba al lado opuesto en la misma habitación
en tanto la semi penumbra del sol al ponerse dejaba medias sombras:
las arenosas huellas de ese día, las comisuras tiesas de su padre
con un reseco rastro de saliva.

Esta noche proclama su destino
al aliento de mil voces secretas:
algunos habitamos las pasiones mejor que algunos otros.

Pero antes de que el traje de luces sea opacado por las manchas de víscera escarlata,
el sol, renovador de amaneceres, engreído de su orgullosa pompa

será uno con la lidia fluyendo por sus venas.

 

1st poem

 

Poem 2

 

 

 

 From Jack Little´s Elsewhere (20/20 EYEWEAR PAMPLET SERIES, 2015)

 

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Jack Little is a British poet who has lived in Mexico City since 2010 where he works as a primary school teacher. He won the Titchfield Shakespeare Poetry Competition in 2013 and is the founding editor of The Ofi Press. His work has been widely published in the UK and in Mexico.

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Kreso3

painting by Kreso Cavlovic

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Fiction

Lost

by Aaron Whitaker

 
“How did I get here?”

 
This is the question I seem to be asking myself as I stumble into this alley. Dark, lonesome, and musty; I would avoid this type of place in a heartbeat on a normal day. The walls look moist and slimy; perhaps that is where the aroma of mold is coming from? I manage to trip on some conveniently placed trash, but somehow catch myself just before my nose makes contact with the ground. Good thing too, because at that moment I realize that my hands are touching a surface that’s equally foul. Frantically I rise to my feet and wipe my hands on my pants, and turn to fully examine my surroundings.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
This setting is stark contrast to the one that I was enjoying a few moments ago. Savoring a big juicy burger topped just the way I like it, from this nice diner down the street. Adding in a homemade malt to wash everything down just right. Sitting alone and basking in the silent tranquility. Maybe that’s why I am in this predicament? Seems so far away now.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
My daydreams soon come to an end though. A swift punch in the gut brings me back to reality, and reunites me with my peaceful dinner. “Whoa, Carter you almost got some on me.” The sarcastic laugh was a dead giveaway as to whom it belongs, Francis. He’s your run of the mill sleaze and full of himself to boot.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
The more I ask myself that question, the more I realize that the answer is standing before me. Francis is a middleman, goes around collecting debts for his boss, a loan shark, if you will. “You’re past due.” I take another hit this time with his brass knuckles, which have a bizarre reflection off the slime-covered walls. I think a few of my ribs just cracked. I probably look pathetic hunching over in this dank alley. “Unfortunately we have to forcibly repossess our investment.” A final blow, a kick sure to shatter the rest of my ribcage.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Am I going to die? Beaten, bruising, coughing up blood; and my day was going so well. Now I welcome the slime and make a nice bed out of it. It’s soft and eerily warm. “Thank you for your gracious payment, I believe we will reconsider our investment. See you next month to checkup on your progress,” Francis chuckles as he throws me my recently emptied wallet. He seems confident that I’ll make it through this ordeal. Either way, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open, perhaps a quick nap wouldn’t hurt.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
The darkness surrounds me; it seems like hands are gripping onto my soul as they pull me down into the abyss. As I fall into the nothing, I can’t help but ask myself the same redundant question; I thought I already knew the answer. It feels as though that this void is draining my emotions to balance my body with the landscape.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Even though this place attempts to make me feel isolated, I can still sense the presence of others. Their voices start, quietly at first, no more audible than a slow, paced exhale. But breaths turn to murmurs, murmurs change to whispers, whispers progress into statements, statements become conversations, conversations morph into debates, debates lead to arguments, arguments evolve into yells, yells alter into screams, screams shift into battle cries, battle cries epoch at thunderous roars, “I can’t stand it anymore!” The voice that cries out does not belong to me, although it might as well. My rapid decent makes it hard to envision the owner, but as soon as I take notice my speed begins to slow. Perhaps this space wants me to absorb everything that was going to follow.

 
“I can not let this go on any longer,” the same voice screaming, whose body is emanating a light in stark contrast to the darkness around it; it’s almost painful to look at directly. A man in form, he tries to assert power over another figure that is his exact opposite.

 
“I’m afraid that neither of us have a choice in the matter,” is the calm feminine rebuttal. Her body is wrapped in a material that matches her background, just as dark if not darker. The only way I’m able to see her clothes is because of the thin strip of red that runs along her outline. If that wasn’t there, it would seem like her head and slender limbs were emerging from the ether.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
This scene confuses me; my drop is now a hover over the two conflicting entities. I can see them clear as day, but why haven’t they noticed me?

 
“He is only a child!”

 
“Quit acting like he’s innocent. That is something that he has lost long ago,” chuckles the mysterious muse, as chills run down my spine. I’m not sure if they are from fear or excitement.

 
“There are other methods to resolve this.”

 
“He desires punishment… retribution, and right now his focus is on that Francis fellow.” Right at this moment my heart skips a beat, realizing that they are talking about me. And whatever spell that was keeping me immune to their sight breaks with my spike in terror.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Not sure if that question would be appropriate to ask here, considering I don’t know if I would like an answer from these two, so I say nothing. This doesn’t stop them from turning their heads towards me. A look of horror takes over the gilded man’s face, as if my very presence has increased the stakes of whatever dangerous game they were playing. He stutters for a moment but tries to retake control of this perplexing situation, “I do not believe… that this child of God is lost.” To no avail the woman steps forward, with each pace closer to me her smile widens; a sight that frightens to the core, but at the same time it could enchant even the strongest of wills. “You’re wasting your time. He has made his decision; I can feel it in his heart.” Before I know it she places her hand on my chest, with her free arm wrapping around my back to pull me in closer. Something doesn’t feel right, my skin feels cold from her palm; what is it? Fear… anxiety… acceptance? I’m not sure. As my thoughts begin to broaden, large wings spring from the woman’s back; wings with the same jet black hue and eerie illumination. With one powerful thrust, we are sent skyward leaving the man behind.

 
“Stop!” This is the only thing he can utter before he begins to fade. Some force drags him in the opposite direction to prevent any chance of him catching us. Even his light can’t protect him from what is coming; slowly but surely and resisting with all his might, the emptiness is devouring him. With her head crocked to enjoy the view, she gives only a single somber word response, “Goodbye.”

 
Attention returning to me, the enchantress looks deeply into my eyes. No further words are spoken, just her peering and prying into my soul. Then a sudden kiss, originating out of surprise … or expectation; sealing me to my fate, whatever that might be.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Damp, must, slime; I’m back in the alley, and I’m standing! This can’t be, Francis nearly broke me in half. But the very thought of his name makes me realize that I am not alone in the alley. Francis is lying face down in a puddle of muck at my feet, with the ground around him flowing into a small river of crimson. “Francis?” I’m not sure why I say this; I guess I am hoping that by muttering his name it will create some miracle response of him getting up, or at the very least a groan of disturbance. Although a quick examination of his body proves that he won’t be moving anytime soon. A large hole has been punched through his chest, as if he had been hit with a cannon ball from point blank range with chunks of flesh frayed to and fro. What could have happened? A quick look at myself gives me the traumatizing answer. I’ve felt damp since I woke up but I only took it as water from the alley; wishful thinking. In reality, my arms are coated in the same dark crimson pulling from Francis. Did I do this? How? These questions echo in my head as if to taunt me for the act I just unconsciously committed. I look over the scene relentlessly, desperate to prove to myself that this wasn’t my doing. These hopes promptly faded away as I turned back to the slime. There are two menacingly bright red eyes staring back at me, but the eyes are my own.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
My feet soon take control of themselves, forcing me in the opposite direction. They don’t seem to care where they take me, as long as it is away from the gruesome attack. Sirens begin to blare in the distance, and they are only getting closer; are they after me? I should be running out of breath, but each stride feels longer and stronger than the last almost as if I am flying. Somehow I manage to find myself in front of my apartment building. Eager to receive sanctuary, I burst through the doors, not paying attention to anyone who may or may not be in the lobby. All I want is to get into my room, and pray for all of this to go away.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
I know deep down that I will never be that lucky. Even in my own house, I can only feel despair and foreboding. Everything is dark; it makes me sick how eerily similar it is to the void. The only glimpse of light in the entire space comes from a dim lamp on my desk. Resting peacefully inside the illumination is a photo… Oh Emma. The photo reveals a joyous depiction of my wife, Emma, and I. It was our first anniversary and we wanted to go somewhere special; she always was a little bit of a thrill seeker, so we went to the amusement park. Not the most romantic of places but I did try to redeem myself with a cliché candlelit dinner; at least we both got to enjoy ourselves. We thought nothing could hurt us. If I only knew what I know now. I would have never gotten myself involved with Francis and his boss; then Emma and I could have continued to live our fantasy. That’s why Emma’s not here; I wasn’t sure how far Francis was willing to go but I didn’t want her to get hurt because of my own idiocy. So I sent her away. Her mother has been sick recently, so it was a good excuse to get her out of the house. But would I want her to come back? Look at me now; as I glance at the mirror hanging on the closet door I can see a literal shadow of my former self. Patches of grey skin form around the stains of blood with eyes red as fire; what would she think of me?

 
“How did I get here?”

 
I think I know the answer to that question now. I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I have to correct the wrongs that I have done. I can’t let Emma see me like this. Easing myself to the window facing the street, I open it. “It should be quick,” those seem to be the words that escape my lips as I step out onto the ledge. But as soon as I’m about to take my leap, I hear two of the most gut wrenching sounds I’ve heard all night. Our apartment door unlocking, followed by an angelic voice, “Carter, are you here?” Turning on the light, a look of terror overcomes her as the sight unfolds before her. Why now; oh why Emma did you have to come back? Silence ensues. Eventually her body begins to relax but the look of terror remains; at this point, tears start to swell in my eyes. I can’t let this go on any further. I have to end it quickly. I don’t want to hurt her.

 
So… I lean forward. “No!” Emma’s screams reverberate in the air around me, spilling out into the street. To prevent any more damage, I look towards my fate. As I do, something else disturbs me entirely. Fire and brimstone breaks though the ground, lurching for me. From the flames emerges the woman in black, embracing me once more. Scared more than I ever have been, I look back. Emma, my angel, is at the window holding out her arm crying for my return. Her face was of fear, but now turns to surprise as another odd yet bone-chilling photo develops in front of her.
Instinctively, the demoness pulls me in closer and whispers into my ear, all the while smirking evilly at Emma, “Welcome home.”

 

 

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Aaron Whitaker is a senior at Heidelberg College, majoring in Anthropology and History. He’s from Woodstock, Ohio. This is his first published story.

 

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Samuel42

art by Samuel Barrera

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Fiction

Killing time till midnight

I didn’t want to shock Ellen, but, man, this guy was gorgeous! and he was giving me the look, so I borrowed a pen from her and wrote my phone number on a scrap from a placemat I tore off the corner. Ellen is pretty traditional, naïve. I love her but she just totally doesn’t understand how life is, if it’s any different than her sheltered little corner of it. So I was sitting there listening to her describe the current guy she has a crush on but will never get up the nerve to act upon, rolling this little slip of paper around in my hand, waiting for the right time to give it to him.

Which was when we were leaving. Ellen was fumbling around for the tip, her math is atrocious, so she always ends up way overtipping because she’s afraid of not leaving enough. He came over to clear the table and asked how we liked our pizza and I said it was great and his deep brown eyes slid over me and I gave him a good look, too, and discreetly handed him my number. He glanced down at it and nodded his head, just a touch.

Ellen missed it all, of course, and I thought about telling her, but didn’t. He called before we got two blocks, and we set up a meeting for later, after he got off work. I would be standing in front of the restaurant, waiting. His name is Chris. I like a man that doesn’t let his opportunities go wasted. Yes, I do. Especially when he’s built like Chris is. Oh, yes. I couldn’t wait to get down and explore every inch of that body. Does he work out? I wondered, Or is it just how young he is?

Ellen didn’t want to go home, so we went to a bar and she bought a couple drinks. I was broke, no surprise, it’s been ages since I’ve sold a painting, so I was a charity case, as usual. Living at my mom’s house, free rent, free food. My mom’s great, but life there is a little restrictive, I guess you could say.

I was just drinking beer, cause it’s cheap. Being broke is so awkward! I wait around for the go ahead that someone will spring for me. Ellen always pays, but I know she’s not loaded so I drink beer when I’m with her and I drink it slow. I don’t want to take advantage of her. Ellen is a sweetheart, but she can get so annoying, you know? She is so damned painfully shy and she talks about how hard it is to talk to people (except me, we have a bond) and all the things she dreams of doing but is too afraid to try, and I am acting sympathetic, but what I really want to do is slap her and tell her to just do it. Don’t think about it, don’t obsess about it, just fucking get out there and try.

Sometimes it’s hard to hold that down.

She likes to go to expensive places, but she doesn’t know anyone, so we sit alone, her pouring her troubles at me and me telling her things I think she can handle. She is fine with me being gay, but I don’t think she wants to hear any details, if you know what I mean.

We compare notes on guys, but her taste is so totally different than mine. She wants them dreamy and romantic and long haired, like a Heathcliff sort. I want mine athletic and manly. At least we are not fighting over the same guys, ever.

Of course, she also wants them straight, and where I can certainly confess to an attraction to various straight guys of my acquaintance, I don’t want to waste my time lusting after one. That gets you nowhere. I’ve been there, done that, had enough.

Ellen, however, is doomed to moon over some dream guy who has no clue she’s interested, cause she’s not brave enough to let him know.

We walked over to the park at 50th so she could catch her bus, and I ran into one of my students, who was out wandering around with his friends in that way teenagers do. They don’t need a reason to go out, they make their excitement. Rather like me, tonight.

Sean’s parents are getting divorced and he is having a rough time with it, so we’ve had lots of heart to heart talks about various aspects of the situation while we’re working, so we have a bit of a connection going right now because of that. He thinks I give great advice, but all I do is listen.

He is, to be honest, not much of an artist, which is a shame, because he puts his heart into it. I do the best I can with him, you never know, after all, and at least I can instill an appreciation of art in him and ground him in some of the basics. He’s a good kid.

I like being around kids and I will confess I’ve had some impure thoughts because there is something about the innocent, careless beauty of young people that is irresistible, but I toe the line. I can’t go taking advantage of my students. My rule. My personal code of ethics. I try to tamp down the inappropriate thoughts as soon as they pop into my head. Don’t want to go there, I just don’t. I can admit an empathy for those who do. I can see how it happens. I can imagine it every step of the way. Oh yeah. I’m surrounded by temptation every day with these kids, but I don’t let myself act on it. It wouldn’t be right.

Surprised to hear me say that, huh? I do have a few lines I don’t cross. Just a few.

Once Ellen told me I was her best friend in the world. I didn’t expect that. I felt sorry for her. It made her sound all pathetic, I mean, if I’m the best thing she’s got, the others must not be much at all. I’ve tried to be nicer to her since then. You know.

We met at an art show a couple years ago. She does reviews for a little giveaway paper, music, books, art, theater. She’s not trained for any of it, of course, but it’s just a little paper that doesn’t pay anything, and no one takes it seriously. We were sitting there at the gallery having a conversation, she didn’t realize I was one of the artists. She was embarrassed when she found out and tried to remember if she’d said anything harsh about my work. She didn’t, really, but when she worried so much, I figured she obviously must have some reservations and she was worried she’d blurted them out. I just let that go by, didn’t want to deal with it. So everybody doesn’t like everything I do. So what.

At first I thought she was more glamorous and connected than she is. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with her if I’d known what she was really like, to tell the truth, but it took awhile to figure out and by then I really liked her, so I guess it pays to take chances every now and then.

When we met, she had a mad crush on a guitarist in a band she was following around. The band all liked her because she gave them good reviews but the guitarist didn’t realize there was anything more going on than that. He thought she was hanging around cause she liked their music. Meanwhile, everything he said to her that could be interpreted as the least bit encouraging, she and I hashed over during countless lunches and dinners and sessions on park benches.

When he started going out with some airheaded blonde Barbie doll type, Ellen was all crushed and betrayed and despondent. We spent some months minutely examining each step along the way as she tried to get over him. It was a long, slow process.

Me, I would’ve hopped into bed with the next guy – there are plenty of rock guitarists out there, if that’s what she wants, and most are more than willing to get a good bang out of it. I told her all that and we actually went cruising around looking for replacement guitarists several times, but none of them could measure up. What that girl needs is to get good and drunk and get fucked, but will she do it? Oh hell, no. Her heart just isn’t in it. She thinks Prince Charming is going to come find her.

Sean and I talked a little bit and then I went strolling around all the usual places but I didn’t see anyone I know. I sat in the park awhile, but it was a little cold for that. I live so far out it wasn’t worth going home and coming back, and I still had a couple hours to kill. Sometimes it’s a real bitch being broke.

I decided to go see if Louis was home, because he lived conveniently close to downtown. He is another sort of odd duck, I seem to collect them. Louis wa sitting there on his couch watching tv. He offered me some Cheetos and some sticky orange pop. I didn’t tell him where I was going, because he’d want to come along and that would have been awkward. I just told him I came by to see how he was doing cause it’s been awhile. He said he was fine and we sat and watched Pawn Stars, which is a dumb show, I think, but hey, I was out of the cold so who was I to complain?

Louis doesn’t talk much, during the commercials he showed me some of the comic books he’d bought lately and the rest of the time I sat and thought about Ellen and Sean and my current situation and how broke I am and if I should be chucking the artist thing and finding a real job, although I’m not good for much and would maybe end up supervising a fast food place or something and that would be the pinnacle of my life. Not much to write on my tombstone, assuming, of course, that one of my relatives shells out for one, cause I won’t be able to afford it. This is the trouble with devoting yourself to one passion, you don’t have a backup plan to adopt when you figure out you’re not Picasso, after all.

Although I’m not trying to be Picasso, I’m just trying to be me. It would be nice if someone appreciated that, though. You would think after all this time I would have gotten somewhere by now, wouldn’t you? Is there some point where you realize you’re licked? I’m not sure how to tell when you’re there. I imagine it’s when the alternative starts looking attractive, and there’s no way in hell that slapping burgers in paper wrappers will ever look attractive, let me tell you.

This kind of life can sure wear you down sometimes.

Louis carefully handles his comics by the corners and slides them into protective bags and backs to keep them looking new. This is a ritual he’s been taught by other comic collectors and I think he is proud to carry it on. It gives purpose to his life. He buys special acid free bags and backs by the hundreds. He’s got boxes and boxes of neatly cataloged comics stacked along the wall.

I have known him since we were kids. We used to draw superheroes together. He wasn’t bad at it, but he didn’t stick with it. This never fails to baffle me, how someone with talent can just give up on it. Over the years I’ve seen it time and again. He still thinks he can draw better than me, but I have years of honing my skill, developing techniques, living the art. I don’t say anything to him, though. What do I care? If it makes him feel good to think that, let him have it.

I left earlier than I’d planned, I used my mom as an excuse, like I have a curfew or something, like she sits up waiting for me. It was too depressing there.

I walked around downtown a bit, things were quieting down, there weren’t so many people out. The streets had sort of a greasy shine, it hadn’t rained in a while. The air was thick enough to make halos around streetlights.

It ain’t much, but it’s my town and I love it.

I settled myself against a doorway across the street from the pizza place to wait for Chris. Cars went by impatiently, their drivers maybe a little drunk, maybe more than a little. A woman in a turquoise dress and turquoise high heels walked alone down the street. Not a hooker, though, you can tell. Anyways they keep them out of the downtown area. They hang more over by 36th. This was just a woman walking by herself. I kept checking my phone for the time and because I kept checking, time went along slowly, but finally the pizza place shut down and finally waiters started coming out by twos and threes.

I straightened up from my slouch and stepped forward, watching faces.

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Philip J Grant works in graphic design and lives in Kentucky. This is his first published story.

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Angie2

photo by Angela M Campbell

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