THE STOCKS OF LIMA – a poem by Carlos Germán Belli. Translated by Rose Shapiro


Like a rooster’s cockscomb chopped off,
a long, grainy flap of skin
dangles obscenely from my throat;

and beneath my two chicken-feet I find
debris, not of plaster but of flesh,
like the melancholy ruins of a fallen house.

Why do these mounds of rubble heaped
and this sagging skin plague me so
when I am not a scrawny, hunchbacked old man?

Your stocks do this, oh Lima, I know it well;
as much a cradle as a perpetual tomb
for whoever here is born, lives, and dies.


Como cresta de gallo acuchillado,
un largo granulado pellejudo,
de la garganta pende con exceso;

y por debajo de las ambas patas,
cascotes no de yeso, mas de carne,
como mustios escombros de una casa.

¿Por qué estos de cascote fieros montes
y tal feo pellejo mal mi grado,
si flaco hoy ni corvado viejo soy?

Por tu cepo es, ¡ay Lima!, bien lo sé,
que tanto cuna cuanto tumba es siempre
para quien acá nace, vive y muere.

From ASYMMETRIES, Anthology of Peruvian Poetry (Cardboard House Press, 2014).

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