Adalber Salas Hernández
From Salvoconducto (Safe Passage). Valencia, Pre-textos, 2015.
(Letter from Jamaica)
tr. Guillermo Parra
I, Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad
Bolívar y Ponte Palacios y Blanco. I
king of Thebes.
………………..My dear sir:
I address your majesty from the cursed circumstance of
water everywhere, from the tenuous heart of life they
call exile. I do so, for I wish to speak with you
regarding that pile of ashes and sand that gave birth
to me, that land intoxicated by so much sun, dazzled
by its hunger for history. I know it well: I have travelled
…..widely in my time,
but never have I, truly, crossed the borders of Venezuela.
Each word I pronounce ties my feet to it,
cuts through my mouth with an amniotic taste. That’s why
I know, observing it from these strange shores, I’ve
failed in trying to liberate it. I must confess to your majesty.
I have sowed the sea, planted wind. I have failed, I
swear by the god of my parents. It has cost me so much to
that my country is a geographical error. A banal promise, a
paradise invented by the deaf. A mess of cords and
a jumble of flesh and wood. The cradle of debris,
a strip of dust fascinated by the movements of the sea,
animal that can’t stand still because it will die of thirst.
can glance at the map: an arbitrary cumulus of restless
…..lines and veins,
of badly-sewn patches. Truly I say to you: an eye will pass
through a camel’s needle, before my land goes through the
…..doors of heaven.
Païs, pays, pàis, paîs — no spelling can sustain my country.
It’s not a homeland; it’s a wager we’ve lost.
………………………………As you can see, I don’t lie;
I’m an honest man, from where the palm tree grows.
I come from a region
whose nature opposes everything, whose god is a
gravedigger. I don’t want to see my face carved in its
those flaccid metals that buy nothing, that weigh down
pockets like a clumsy organ. I don’t want my name in
of its soldiers, on its shield, in the puerile cadence of its
I don’t want my memory stained by all the nervous gestures
it will make to convince itself it is a nation.
I will climb into the sepulcher far from there. A tree will grow
…..from my chest,
filling my lungs with gunpowder and roots. I refuse to keep
…..fighting for the
land whose only merit has been to leave my hands dirty