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'Public body'

"Public Body” by Mariela Cordero

I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body


meekly unfurling

over voracious ruins

and breathing the smoke of burnt days.

I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body

without bloom

that suffers

stripped of respite

the indelible tremors

of the recently raped.

I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body

flush with bones


like knives

that turn cruelly

against whoever dares


a tentative caress

across its devastated surface.

This body

does not recognize all that is not

a bruise,

an unclosable wound,

or an abrupt act of depredation.

I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a body


that dances with massacre

and, impregnated by the most wretched

of the rabid pack,

only knows to birth death.

I don’t inhabit a country; I inhabit a public body

so diminished

that it’s hurt by my faint footsteps

and tormented by the murmur of my hope.

I curl into myself,

into a tiny docile place


from the irregular pulse

of its fabled, bygone beauty

as I devour

each detail of its meager heat.

I curl into myself

and hope that morning

astonishes us with proof

that both

this body I inhabit and I


the long night

of the pack.

Translation by Aaron Devine

Translator’s note: “Public Body” strikes me with its visceral language and vivid metaphor. What does it mean to inhabit a public body? How does the devastation of a national body affect and find expression through the personal? Mariela Cordero’s poem has its articulate finger on the pulse and pain of contemporary Venezuelans uncertain of tomorrow’s body. Cordero’s details and precise language are morsels of hope; they are the poet crafting a space in which to survive.

Mariela Cordero is a lawyer, poet, and visual artist from Valencia, Venezuela. She is the author of The Body of Doubt (Ediciones Publicarte; Caracas, 2013) .Her poems have been published and won prizes internationally in Italy, China, England, Spain, Argentina and more. This poem, "Public Body" (Cuerpo Público), won first prize in the 2016 Colectivo Poetas Hispanos International Poetry Competition.

Aaron Devine is a writer, translator, and educator based in Boston,Massachusetts. He is the author of Wonder/Wander: 522 Days in LatinAmerica and translator of Qhapaq Ñan: The Inka Path of Wisdom (AmaroRuna Editions, 2007). He earned an MFA in Fiction (2013) and Certificate in Spanish-English Translation (2011) from the University of Massachusetts Boston where he currently teaches English as a Second Language.

Published in Origins Journal. (United States, 2017)

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