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Gustavo Gac-Artigas —Chile—

Chilean writer, poet, playwright, who lives in the U.S. after twelve years in exile in Paris, followed by a failed attempt to return to Chile in 1985. A corresponding member of the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española (ANLE), his poetry has appeared in literary magazines: RANLE, Multicultural Echoes (CSU-Chico), Enclave, (CUNY), Fonoteca de poesía, Revista Kametsa, and in several anthologies. Most recent publication: deseos longings j’aimerais tant (2020), a trilingual poetry collection. In progress: poetry collection: man of america.

Awards: Poetry Park (1989), Rotterdam, for “Dr. Zamenhofstraat”, lyrical prose; first runner up: International Latino Book Award 2018, best fiction book in translation Spanish/English, for And All of Us Were Actors, a Century of Light and Shadow, translation: A. Labinger.

nací viejo

en vez de jugar me gustaba observar el mundo aprendí a caminar para escapar a mi destino las caricias despertaron mi cuerpo los golpes blindaron mis sentimientos en vez de poseer intenté amar mi espalda se curvó para escribir mi espalda se curvó para leer mi espalda se curvó bajo el peso del dolor ajeno

nací viejo intenté cambiar el llanto por la risa al caer pensaba dos veces antes de levantarme sabía que volvería a caer pisaba terrenos peligrosos

quisieron enseñarme la seguridad y preferí el peligro quisieron uniformarme y preferí la diferencia

quisieron enseñarme que la vida es dulce dulce como la miel dulce como la voz de la persona amada dulce como el viento silbando en mis oídos dulce como el agua corriendo vertiente abajo que la dulzura era nuestro destino

y sin embargo preferí la sal

la sal que curte el rostro la sal que poblaba el rostro de mi amada la sal que ardía en mis heridas la sal del sudor que caía de mi cuerpo la sal que recorría el desierto mezclándose con el polvo de los muertos

nací viejo preferí ver la realidad a que me contaran cuentos de hadas

hoy viejo espero la muerte intentando ser el niño que no fui

i was born old

instead of playing i loved to observe the world i learned to walk to escape my destiny/fate the caresses awakened my body the blows shielded my feelings instead of possessing i tried to love my back bent to write my back bent to read my back bent under the weight of other people’s pain

i was born old i tried to transform cry into laughter when falling i thought twice before getting up knowing i would fall again stepping on dangerous grounds

they tried to teach me safety and i chose danger they wanted to uniform me and i preferred difference

they wanted to teach me that life is sweet sweet as honey sweet as the voice of the beloved sweet as the wind whistling in my ears sweet as water running downhill they wanted to teach me that sweetness was our destiny

and yet i preferred salt

the salt that weathers the face the salt that sprinkled the face of my beloved the salt that burned in my wounds the salt of sweat falling from my body the salt that roamed the desert mixing up with the dust of the dead

i was born old i preferred to know reality than to be told fairy tales

today an old man i am waiting for my death attempting to be the child that i never was

Translated by Priscilla Gac-Artigas

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