Poems by Alicia Partnoy

Alicia Partnoy is a poet and human rights activist, who became one of Argentina's disappeared and one of very few to survive that fate. In 1977, when she was the mother of an 18-month-old daughter, she was imprisoned and tortured at a secret detention camp called The Little School. Here you can listen to her reading her poems in both English and her native Spanish, and follow along with the text.



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(mp3, 0:41)

Survivor

I carry my rage like a dead fish,
limp and stinking in my arms.
I press it against my breast,
whisper to it,
people on the streets flee from me …
I don't know: is it the smell of death
that makes them flee
or is it the fear
that my body's warmth
might bring rage back to life?



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(mp3, 0:25)

Sobreviviente

Llevo mi rabia como un pez muerto,
fláccido y maloliente entre los brazos.
La aprieto contra el pecho,
le susurro,
la gente me huye en los caminos …
No sé si es el olor a muerte
o es el miedo
de que el calor de mi cuerpo
la reanime.



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(mp3, 0:39)

Epitaph

Of all the freedoms
you, perhaps,
chose death.

And the watercolors of our childhood
are fading
vanishing into thin air …
Through the salt marsh I will search for you
when the sun allows me to look back.

I will arrive at your grave to leave you
a branch broken off an almond tree,
and a poem killed by anguish, which you
have already illustrated with your blood.



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(mp3, 0:25)

Epitafio

De todas las libertades
tal vez
elegiste la muerte.

Y las acuarelas de nuestra infancia
se van
deshaciendo en el humo.

Por los salitrales te buscaré
cuando el sol me deje mirar atras.

Llegaré a tu tumba para dejarte
un gajo de almendro
y un poema muerto
de augustia que vos
ya ilustraste con sangre.



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(mp3, 1:57)

Testimony

This microphone
with its cable coiling around it,
bows to me.
I walk up to it,
open my eyes
open
my book
open
my mouth.
That’s right, I open my mouth wide
and begin my story.
They say
I speak too softly,
that I am practically mumbling,
that they can’t hear
the screams piercing.
I open
my memory
like a rotten cantaloupe.

They say
I have not managed
to forcefully convey the pitiless rage
of the cattle prod.
They say that in matters such as this
nothing must be left
open
to the imagination or to doubt.
I take out
the Amnesty report
and begin speaking through that ink.
I urge: “Read.”
I, in my turn, coil around
my bowing accomplice,
this microphone.
I urge action as a prescription,
information as an infallible antidote
and, one every knot is untied,
I recite my verses.
I resist. I am whole.



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(mp3, 1:12)

Testimonio

El micrófono
me hace un reverencia
de cables enroscados.
Yo a mi vez me le acerco
abro los ojos,
abro
el libro,
abro
la boca.
Eso sí, abro bastante la boca
y ahí les cuento.
Dicen
que hablo muy suave
que casi les murmuro
que no oyen
los gritos perforantes.
Yo abro
el recuerdo
como un melón podrido.

Dicen
que no consigo
describir con rigor las inclemencias
de la picana.
Dicen que en estas cosas
no debe quedar ningún espacio
librado
a la imaginacíon o a la duda.
Saco
El informe de Amnistía
y hablo por esa tinta.
Digo: “Lean.”
Yo a mi vez me enrosco
en la reverencia cómplice
de micrófono.
Enarbolo la acción como receta,
la información como antídoto infalible
y, una vez desatado cada nudo,
digo mis versos.
Resistí. Voy entera.



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(mp3, 1:01)

A Homespun Love

Because this humble and homespun love
— just as you see it, simple, unadorned —
is what keeps our feet on the ground,
is what engenders the fruit of our nonconformity,
and throws us a lifeboard amidst the shipwreck.
Every so often our love blazes like thousands 
     of stars,
gets dressed up to go out and uncorks
bottles of effervescence, cases of laughter.
You see, every so often, when the moment 
     is right,
our love recalls that is it, like we are, a survivor.



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(mp3, 0:40)

Amor de entrecasa

Porque este amor modesto y de entrecasa
— así como lo ven, sencillo, sin adornos —
es el que nos mantiene con los pies en la tierra,
es el que engendra frutos de nuestro 
     inconformismo,
y nos tira un madero en mitad del nuafragio.
De vez en cuando enciende miles de lucecitas
y se pone la ropa de salir y destapa
botellas de burbujas y cajitas de risa.
Es que, de vez en cuando, cuando cuadra 
     el momento,
recuerda, él también, que es un sobreviviente.


(Copyright 1992 by Alicia Partnoy. Reprinted from "Revenge of the Apple - Venganza de la manzana," published by Cleis Press, with permission from Alicia Partnoy. Translated by Richard Schaaf, Regina Kreger and Alicia Partnoy.)

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is co-founder and senior researcher of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF). She received a MacArthur "genius" grant for her work in 2007.

is an associate professor of Spanish at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a poet, memoirist, and human rights activist.

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