I. Luisa 
II. Klara
DENISE LEÓN
translated by ARTURO DESIMONE

Luisa
1914


they inspect you naked,
and then they look in your eyes.
If your eyes are in good health, you are saved.
If not, they make you return to where you came from.
It seems my eyes are in a good state.
—Sholem Aleichem


we watched him leave while keeping our heads bowed and tucked so we did not feel the winds. We kept there, seated, without crying, feeling he had been missing since always. It was in summer and my mother said to me don't take off your shoes. He escaped Izmir, in a little steamer boat that was the very last of them. Without a proper goodbye. He found the last boat and off he went.
Why did he leave without his boots—to fool my mother, or to disappear from the Turkish army?
My mother said that he had been playing cards on the boat as it rode in, that he had held me in his arms when I was born and would not let me loose for all the world. Her long fingers of ash showed me the shriveled wedding picture. You see? That me and that's him. And the shoes? And the sticking-together lips of the bride that look like they are sealed to make sure a promise is kept? The photo also traversed the way over the sea. It has crumpled, like it is leaning inclined at the altar when she is going to take off her bracelets. Her gestures are of ash that don't touch the ground. Her long fingers will let go of my fingers: all I had left were the promises. 


(Lo vimos partir con las kabezas echadas para no sintir el viento. Mos kedimos ahí asentadas, sin yorar, sintiendo ke faltaba desde siempre. Era enverano i mi madre disho no te quites los chapines. Se eskapó de Izmir en un vaporiko ke era l'ultimo. Sin despartirse. Topó l'ultimo i se vino. ¿Iba sin chapines para abajar mi padre, eskapado del ejército turko? Disho mi madre ke se los abía djugado a las kartas en el barko de venida i ke me tuvo en los brazos kuando nací I ke no me soltaba por nada del mundo. Sus dedos largos de cenizas me enseñan la stampa amofecida de la boda. ¿Estás viendo? Este es éli esta soy yo. ¿I los chapines? ¿I los labios apegados de la novia ke paresen kudiar una promesa? La stampa también cruzó la mar i se inklina komo arrodiyada en el estante i el gesto de kuando se kitaba las puseras. Sus gestos de ceniza ke no tokan la tierra. Sus dedos largos soltaron mis dedos: sólo me kedaron las promesas.)  




I'm going to keep quiet so that nothing moves itself. me the little girl. 
Me in my house sitting in the kitchen. Through the smoke that wets the windows we hear the strong bells of the greek eklisias.
I am going backwards so they don't know what I'm touching, so they don't know that my hands end in my fingers, that my fingers are dead.
My mother let go of my hand the way she did when she took off her bracelets.
Three months we slept together in the hospital in a folding chair-bed.
I am eleven years old, and I am going towards the back yonder. I see the hot smoke of the kozina kitchen and am flooded with the yellow bitter smell of oranges. The shell is hard and my mother, all under sweat, cuts the branches they're still on with a sharp-grounded knife. They're not my fingers she cuts. I hold myself still, but the orange shell falls off around it, the skin comes off in the bright hot water of the pot as she runs a spoon round. They will say this a meal fit to feed a fish, she says. Outside, ten men are singing. In here, there are two dead, ourselves. 


(voy a estarme kieta para ke nada se mueva. Yo chikitika. Yo en mi kaza asentada en la kozina. A través del umo ke moja las ventanas se escuchan las kampanas de las eklisias gregas. Voy acia atrás para no saber lo ke estoy tokando, para no saber ke mi mano acaba en mis dedos, ke mis
dedos están muertos. Mi madre se me soltó de la mano komo kuando se kitaba las puseras. Tres meses dormimos yuntas nel ospital en una kamita de siyas. Tengo once anyos i voy acia atrás. Veo l'umo kaliente de la kozina i me inunda el guezmo amaryo de las narandjas. La kashkara es dura y mi madre, sudada, korta los gajos con un kuchiyito esmolado. No son mis dedos. Me kedo kieta pero la kashara se desprende, la piel se desprende i briya en la oya mientras la kuchara la meneya. Esta va a ser komida para los pishkados, dizen. Afuea, kantan diez hombres. Aquí, ai dos muertas.)




My mother neither cries nor does she sulk about...No, she labors without stopping. The parting of my father is a faraway place and her dark eyes wet themselves while she washes.
It is late and the shadows, rising, make our blood blush. We breathe like two fishes, we say nothing.
We are lonely, us two. It is almost as though he never even existed. We hardly have a name left, and there is a letter that says only: sell the house and come live with me.
My mother leans her face into mine and the warm dishtowel she is holding brushes my arm, cooling my fevered skin. I smell the harsh smell of the soap and water as I play at hiding in my wet clothes.
My father did not want to be killed. He went escaping, my father, without taking his bootsies with him, he fled the Turkish army that destroyed everything it found. He said sell the house and come to live with me. She said, to where are we supposed to escape? My mother says my name with a soft voice. It is already night-time and the hung up clothes is dripping loudly as if it were drowning, drop by drop on the earth.


(mi madre no yora ni kafurea.. Lavora sin parar. La partensia de mi padre es un punto leshano en sus oyos escuros ke se umedecen mientras lava. Es tadre i la solombras se extiendien i nos rozan la sangre. Respiramos komo los peshes I no mos dizimos nada. Estamos solikas, las dos. Kaje komo si él no hubiera egzistido. Apenas mos keda un nombre i una karta sin aderezo: vende la kaza i venite. 
Mi madre alevanta su kara asta mi frente i el lienzo arefreska mi piel kalenturienta. Siento el guezmo áspero del djabón i el agua mientras djuego a eshkonderme dentre la ropa moshada. Mi padre no kería murir. Se fue eshkapado, mi padre, sin chapines, fuyendo del ejército turko ke arrasaba kon todo. Disho vende la kaza i venite. ¿Adónde mos íbamos a venir mosotras? Mi madre dize mi nombre kon boz keda. Ya es la noche i la ropa tendida gotea komo si se fuera undiendo abagar abagar en la tierra.)




I preserve the secret laws of the dead. I am going to meet him. I am going to meet him. I will meet him. I look at the wall and the solemn shadows they hold themselves together like fingers. It is full summer. I labor without stopping. Summer is here and my mother says don't take off your boots. Even the little sewing-needles look like widows in this shadow-place, in this shadow-armory and they keep the secret laws of the dead.
I'm going to meet him. Every part is equal and the day divides the heart, the heart holds fast while the scissors murmur as if they were in deep prayer. Onwards. Back. The fingers slide along the thread. The thread, in keeping, follows the fingers. The fingers follow the eyes. And the eyes fulfill the secret laws of death. That is my price to pay. Now I am going to meet him. Ever since the rooster has crowed, my flesh and my bones are of stone: the hour of parting hides in my lips—damp and ratty like hounds.


(yo kumplo las leyes sekretas de los muertos. Voi a toparlo. Voi a toparlo. Miro al muro i las solombras se ajigantan como dedos. Era enverano. Lavoro sin parar. Era enverano y mi madre me disho no te kites los chapines. Hasta las alfilercikas son biudas en esta sombrerería i kumplen las leyes sekretas de los muertos. Voy a toparlo. Kada na de las partes iguales en las que se divide el día el korazón me se apreta mientras las tijeras marmullan komo si estuvieran meldando. Adelante. Atrás. Los dedos siguen al filo. El filo sigue los dedos. Los dedos siguen los oyos. Los oyos kumplen las leyes secretas de los muertos. Este es mi precio. Voy a toparlo. Dende ke el gayo a kantado mi karne i mi gueso son piedra: la hora de la partensia se eskuende en mis labios—mansos—como perras.)




shem'a Isreal. I speak with a dead tongue. Outside is Sunday, no one works. Earliest morning and the women dip their hands in the oil they left out in the night, they prepare the leavening. Shem'a Israel. I do not write from left to right. I write from right to left. The language hurts my throat every time I rise in a bed that is not my bed, in a chamber not mine, in a house not mine. Does not God listen to the dead? Shem'a Israel.
 I don't thank God for not having made me a slave, for not having made me a non-Jew, for not having made me a woman. My mother raises her arms to take down the clothes hanging in the sun and I hide behind her skirts. Little girl without father, shout the children of the Greeks. Shem'a Israel. All of it will end with me.
Outside it is a sunday and words are slow.


(shemá Israel. Yo ablo una lingua muerta. Afuera es domingo y no se lavora. Tempraniko, tempraniko las muyeres meten las manos en el azeyte de toda la noche I toman la masa. Shemá Israel. Yo no eskrivo de izkierda a derecha. Yo eskrivo de derecha a izkierda. La lingua me se paga al garguero kada vez ke me alevanto en un kavesal ke no es mi kavesal, en una kamareta ke no es la mía, en una kaza ke no es mi kaza. ¿No escucha el Dió a los muertos? Shemá Israel. Yo no agradeshko al Dió por no averme echo esclava, por no averme echo no djudía, por no averme echo muyer. Mi madre alevanta los brazos para kitar la ropa tendida en el sol i yo voy detrás de su vistido. Ijika sin padre me gritan los chuyucos de los gregos. Shéma Israel. Todo se acabará conmigo. Afuero es domingo i las palavras son lentas.)




with a little stone I write that, ojala, I wish it was tomorrow. Once they took her away, all became sad long years to burn off. I got onto a bench and I stayed there holding up my whole body in the air. In the air it was sweet like the syrup of the pines. I lifted my arms to drop the clothes that balanced in the hot sun. They grabbed me by my naked heels and they bundled all my little parts into a sheet. By my naked heels they got me, by my feet without sandals, escaped like those of my father. Did the war end? I ask my mother.
Or will my father continue escaping naked the turkish legion?
Every step I take is to flee. Eli, the boy, comes to see me every saturday after they've swum in the sea, but he has not understood: I am a ghost. I show him the wounded ankles of my feet and tell him that mother and I are going to America because she wants us to take revenge on him for how he up and left us like it was nothing.
Eli says Us? Will we go together?
What? What together? Only I am going.
Safe voyage, blessed be your way, he wishes me.
A good mazal, I don't wish for you! I say to him back.


(kon una piedresika escrivo ojalá fuera la manyana. Una vez ke se la yevaron, todo se hizo kimí muraná. Me subí en un bankito, i kedí kon todo el kuerpo al ayre. I el ayre era dulse komo el syrop de pinyonate. Levantí los brazos komo para kitar la ropa ke se balanceaba en la kayentor del sol.
Me agarraron de los talones desnudos de los pieses i juntaron mis partesikas en una sábana. De los talones desnudos me agarraron, de los pieses sin chapines, eshkapados, komo los de mi padre. Ya terminó la guerra, le demandaba a mi madre. ¿Ya terminó? ¿O seguirá mi padre eshkapando descalzo del ejército turco? Kada chapeo que hago es para fuyirme. Elí, el muchacho, ke viene a verme todos los sábaos después de los banios en la mar, no lo entiende: yo soy un fantasma. Le enseño los talones eridos de mis pieses i le kuento ke voy a irme a la Amérika por ke le prometí a mi madre vengarme de él por ke no es djusto todo lo ke mos izo. Dice ¿yuntos? ¿ke? ¿Ke yuntos? Sola me va a ir. Buen viaje, me dize. Buen mazal no te deseo.)




me, crying. I am seated on a damp smell. Sitting upon a lagoon of blood that burns and bites. In the patio hang the humid shadows of the sheets. You rest, my dear daughter, I will dry and fold them.
I hand my mother the wooden clothespins and she is stretching the linens so that they will not stain.
That way, to the inside. I rub my wet hands along , between my legs. This one should have been born a male, had he been born, not a woman. On his way out he got stuck, his little penis showing out of me. He did not come out, they said. Because I was intelligent. Eight days I was traveling with
two whores who came from Paris. They washed themselves in front and went out to meet men. 
I am going to stay quiet so that nothing, not a thing can move. I transport needles to the boss lady who makes hats. In a sack like that, of white linen, they plopped in the candies.
Put this on. Get changed. When you are like this don't get into the sea and don't use everyone else's towels. I am seated on a lagoon of blood that stings and knocks. 
“If the vava had his cuckoo he would be a papu'' sing the boys in the streets cajoling.


(yo, enguayando. Estoy asentada sobre un guezmo y koza moshada. Asentada sobre una laguna de sangre ke salpika i golpea. En el patio kuelgan las solombas umedas de las sabanas. Tú no te estreches, iyika, yo va a lavartelos. Le alkanzo a mi madre las pinzas de madera i ella tira la tela para ke no kede marka. Ansina, del lado de dentro. Me paso las manos moshadas por las piernas. Esta debió aber sido varón, no mujer. En la mitad del kamino se le kedó el pito, No salió, dizen. Por ke yo era enteligente. Ocho días estuve viajando con dos uruz puz que venían de Paris. Se lavaban endelante y se iban a buscar ombres. Voy a kedarme kieta para ke nada se mueva. La alcanzo alfirlercikas a la jefa para acer los chapeos. En una bolsa así, de linón blanko pusieron los karamelos. Poneté. Cambiaté. Kuando estés así no te metas a la mar i no uses la tualla de todos. Estoy asentada sobre una laguna de sangre ke salpika i golpea. Si la vavá tuviera cucú sería papú, kantan los chuyucos en las kayes).




If my father is dead or in bedlam, scatter on him a pinch of garden earth from our house over his earth. It was the summer and we kept there seated with our heads bowed so as not to feel the cutting wind. Alone we stayed. Us two. Looking at the way he did not return. Sitting in between wet clothes and bitter smell of water and soap. His leaving left with almost all of what we had.
Will there be talc of death upon his naked ankles, his shoeless feet, runaways like mine?
With a little rock I write: I wish it was tomorrow. If only. I am going to find him because when I die 
the Rabbi will ask me the name of my father, and someone then, crying will say: Luisa Ben Leon.


(si mi padre está en bedajem, echaré un puñadiko de tierra del jardín de muestra kasa sobre su tumba. Era enverano I nos kedimos ahí asentadas kon las cabezas echadas para no sintir el viento. Solas mos kedimos. Las dos. Mirando la menera en ke no volvería. Asentadas entre la ropa moshada i el guezmo aspero del agua i el djabón. La partensia se a llevado kaje too ¿Ará polvo la muerte sus talones deshnudos, sus pieses sin chapines, eshkapados, komo los míos? Kon una piedrecika eskrivo: ojalá fuera la manyana. Voy a toparlo para ke kuenda me muera el haham demande el nombre de mi padre y alguna, enguayando, diga: Luisa Ben León.) 








Klara 1939

one thing alone was specifically forbidden to me: to be born in the country of my ancestors.
—Georges Perec



Mother writes: it is by our Disgrace that we still live

entonces mi madre escribe: por desgracia vivimos todavía.




the measure of God's immensity is in details: the wake smells of soup shoveled down a throat.
That night I slept with a thin and lean hunger river underneath the sheets, the bedding, under the pajama and underneath my skin it wove its ebb. A river, sparse and impotent that still galloped strongly in the memories, as a giant doorless door. 
I longed to tell my mother I had dreamed I earned a ticket to travel to a city that stood just inland, overarching the river, but  it isn't ever easy trying to talk to my mother about dreams.


la inmensidad de Dios está en los detalles: la vigilia huele a sopa en la garganta. Anoche soñé con un río espeso debajo de las sábanas, debajo de la camisa, debajo de la piel. Un río espeso e inútil que se agitaba en la memoria como una inmensa puerta sin puertas. Quise decirle a mi madre que había soñado que sacaba un pasaje a la ciudad que atraviesa ese río pero no es fácil hablarle de sueños a mi madre.




a throng of people rushes together on the dwindling platform. Roll up the window. Lock the cabin.
Make sure the chest is closed with lock and key. Packages. Dogs: these are the only visible, spotted animals. The birds are hidden and no one wants to hear them. That river from a dream, patient and impotent, is grafted in memory like a live bird beating against the windows and glass cupboards of a room


gente en el andén. Subir la ventanilla. Poner el seguro. Verificar que la valija esté cerrada con llave. Gente sin prisa. Gente apurada. Paquetes. Perros: son los únicos animales visibles. No se ven pájaros ni tampoco se los escucha. Aquel río del sueño, paciente e inútil, está en la memoria como un pájaro vivo golpeándose contra los vidrios de una habitación




A room, if it merits being called that, is a floor upon which there is poised, as if languishing, a bed; a dining room is a floor upon which we stumble upon chairs and a table, and, almost without exception, there must be a glass case for the plates and silverware—a kitchen is a floor with parts from where there spits fire and water; a children's room is a floor on which there are children and so on and so forth: a house is many rooms inhabited by a family. But when the luck finishes, there is none.
My mother was only twenty-five years old when she wrote ''it is by Disgrace alone that we still live.”


una habitación es una pieza en la que hay una cama; un comedor es una pieza en la que hay una mesa y sillas y, casi seguro, un aparador; una cocina es una pieza en la que hay fuego y agua; una habitación de niños es una pieza donde vive una familia. Pero cuando no hay suerte, no hay. Mi madre tenía solo veinticinco años cuando escribió por desgracia vivimos todavía.




shutting my eyes as the station comes awakening to mechanical life, it populates itself, it fills. A long train carrying goods is dragged along by a steam locomotive engine. A train that trickles, a scarce stream trickling between the field and the river of my dream. A train transporting a sponge-forest of raw cork, the carriages are full of bony sad men who say goodbye to bony sad women and children. A train of sun-dried mud, that breaks on a string of smoke curlicue: the life that halts or that can halt at any moment 


cierro los ojos mientras la estación se anima, se puebla, se llena. Es agosto y todos esperan el tren. Un tren largo de mercancías arrastrado por una locomotora a vapor. Un tren que fluye espeso entre el paisaje como el río de mi sueño. Un tren de corcho donde hombres huesudos y tristes se despiden de mujeres y niños huesudos y tristes. Un tren de barro que se rompe en un hilo de humo: la vida que se detiene o puede detenerse en cualquier momento.




there were cows languishing in the meadows and loggers in the forests. There was an errand boy who arduously skirted with his bicycle along a pathway full of twists and scimitar-like curves. There were women who gave feed to the chickens and a Ukrainian holy man who had three daughters of my age and taught me to swim. There were lace curtains in windows and a line outside the baker's. And the smell of bread, invisible and anonymous, agitates laboriously in my memory like a live bird, under the skin, under the clothes, under the bedlinens.


había vacas en los prados y leñadores en los bosques. Había un cartero que subía penosamente con su bicicleta por un camino lleno de curvas. Había mujeres que le daban de comer a las gallinas y una cura ucraniano que tenía tres hijas de mi edad y que me enseñó a nadar. Había visillos en las ventanas y cola en la panadería. Y el olor del pan, invisible y anónimo, se agita en la memoria como un pájaro vivo, debajo de la piel, debajo de la ropa, debajo de las sábanas.




The house again. My memories stretch out and around the expanse of the room, circulating the shared bed, the tea-wares. The tea: always too strong and cold. There was also the wiring. Four yards, four rolls of prickly woe-wire, and the boys won't come near the border. Her face. Her black eyes, tireless and wakeful as a knife, held themselves open: unwaning alight despite the mud and rust that got in. Her eyes: poor dark flowers. Winged shadows on her fingers and on her falling down and on the keys. Again her face, her hands, they who write it is by the will of Disgrace alone that we still live.


otra vez la casa. Mis recuerdos se aferran a la estrechez de la habitación, de la cama compartida, del té demasiado fuerte y demasiado frío. Y el alambre. Cuatro vueltas de alambre y los chicos que no se acercaban a la frontera. Su rostro. Sus ojos negros que tenían una inquietud de cuchillo y que se abrían llenos de lodo y herrumbre como flores pobres y negras. La sombra alada de sus dedos y sus cayos. Otra vez su rostro y sus manos que escriben por desgracia vivimos todavía.




a city is cast aside of a river, off the banks of a river dried up and useless as a ruined dog. Time, and nothing more, passes rotting along through. The weeds grow from under the tangled netting of streets and embroiled cloacas. Underneath, it must be just underneath here. 
The sun shines a little, and is like a patient sterile machine whose pastime is to crystallize and rot the sugars in the fruits. The riverside town is narrow and coarse, with teeth and horrid advertisements for laundromats on every sidewalk. A city of vendors and marksmen and haggler shopkeepers, it curls your bones. It is underneath here, it is just underneath all this. A hidden sword.  


una ciudad echada al lado de un río espeso e inútil como un perro. El tiempo pasa, nada más. La hierba crece bajo la red de calles y el embrollo de las cloacas. Por debajo, justo por debajo. Brilla un poco el sol y es como una máquina paciente que hace madurar y pudrir el azúcar de las frutas. Una ciudad espesa y real, con dientes y anuncios horribles de tintorerías en las esquinas. Una ciudad de tenderos y comerciantes que te va curvando los huesos. Por debajo, justo por debajo debajo. Como una espada.




three boys running along a white path. No. Three boys running across a stony path. That which lives discomforts the languor, the dream, the body in a resting shape. The city employs her battalions of secret and intimate ants.  
She can always visit the same butcher, open an account at the pharmacist's, call the apothecary by her first name, she can become a satisfied cat-owner, she gan give a firm press to the hand of the kiosk vendor like a perfume-pump to send back a bit of warmth, but as much as she can do all this, none of it can constitute a life.


tres chicos corriendo por un camino blanco. No. Tres chicos corriendo por un camino empedrado. Lo que vive incomoda al silencio, al sueño, al cuerpo en reposo. La ciudad despliega sus batallones de secretas e íntimas hormigas. Se puede ir siempre al mismo carnicero, abrir una cuenta en la farmacia y llamar a la dueña por su nombre, se puede tener un gato y apretar la mano del quiosquero, pero por mucho que se haga, nada de esto constituye una vida. 




it is summer and there is a cumulative light. Stagnated, lean and glossy, she slithers across the floors making the new life filthy and unbreathable.
Her inertia has ornaments of the flies who poise, at ease and quiet as pinheads
on a pincushion.
Within the cathedral a saint languors on a ladder that has three remaining rungs.
The saint foe is barefoot and wears a white habit. His fingers slip through the pages of a book but his eyes are far and looking at the ceiling. In the tall and broad windows of the cathedral there appears a small flock of birds.  
Under the pulpit that carries the saint there is an inscription, blurred and darkened.
I hunch over to read: It is by Disgrace that we still live.


es verano y se acumula la luz. Estancada y lisa, se arrastra y hace la vida sucia y irrespirable. En su inercia redonda se posan las moscas. Dentro de la catedral un santo reposa un estrado que tiene tres escalones. El santo está descalzo y tiene puesto un hábito blanco. Sus dedos se deslizan entre las hojas de un libro aunque sus altas y estrechas de la catedral aparecen algunos pájaros. Debajo del estrado que sostiene al santo hay una inscripción borroneada y oscura. Me inclino y leo: por desgracia vivimos todavía.




You go and build yourself an ark, and I will up and send you a Deluge.

Tú construye un arca y yo te mandaré un diluvio.




when a door is opened, there is a bed always to the left. It is a wide bed, and the room is also wide. In the prolongation of the bed there hangs a placard. At the end, a window from which the stagnant river is to be seen, carrying her poor fecundity like a hole-filled sack. 
No corridors, no gardens, no meadows.
Only the river is reality. Dug from black earth for a foot or the hand to plunge, to duck under, hiding and breathing under the passing shallowness and murk; it falls apart unbreathable and miserly, creaking like the tiny cupboard upon the table where they kept the jug and the washbowl for the pouring of oblation.


cuando se abre la puerta, la cama está a la izquierda. Es una cama estrecha y la habitación es estrecha. En la prolongación de la cama hay un placard. Al fondo, una ventana por la que se ve el río estancado, cargando su pobre fecundidad. Ni pasillos, ni jardines, ni campos. Sólo el río es real. Grávido de tierra negra para el pie o la mano que se zambullen; se derrama irrespirable y mezquino como un vertedero sobre la mesa donde aguardan la jarra y la palangana.



The same way a wound casts its own light, there is a low current
of images, drop by drop, working still its thaw, its seamstress-work
after the shred-work of cutlasses. No one knows or has heard of the rain,  
long and careless, shaded and hidden by the lemon orchard;
of the angel feet that sense and look first where they will step and do not need
to touch stone, the leaven respiratory condition of happiness. They know of blood
unthawing inside the finger-tops that the very strain can turn into violet stone, the errant path against a whiteness of heaven that smells of the burnt bottom of the pot and of thick hot soup. 


del mismo modo que una herida arroja su propia luz fluyen las imágenes, gota a gota, trabajando aún su hiel después de cortadas. Nada saben de lluvia, larga y descuidada, debajo del limonero; de los pies de los ángeles que sólo miran dónde pisar y no necesitan tocar la piedra, de la respiración leve de la felicidad. Saben de la sangre congelándose en los dedos que se agitan como una violeta de piedra, del camino errado contra un cielo blanco que huele a escarcha y a sopa caliente.




Dreaming that we slept again in the house.
A staircase led to a room. In the room a table. On the table there was a birdcage. The lights were whispered out and we did everything we could not to trip over the loose tiles and brick mortar.


soñé que dormíamos otra vez en la casa. Había una escalera que llevaba a la habitación. En la habitación había una mesa. Sobre la mesa había un jaula. Las luces estaban apagadas y hacíamos lo posible para no tropezar con los barrotes.




In the street called Entre Ríos I see a blind couple. They walk, arms interlocked, each carrying a white cane. An older blind woman, locking arms with a much younger blind man.
The older woman goes foraging, her cane rasps all obstacles that rear on the sidewalk, and guides the baton of the young man, teaching him the movements, so that his cane will consistently tap specific obstacles with the same motion, never failing to recognize them and responding swiftly by stick: a hydrant, a mail booth, the stop by the trolley rails. They resemble two swans with broken feathers that tremor, and speak a language of pages and leaves held fastened under the weight of their wings.


en la calle Entre Ríos veo a dos ciegos. Van agarrados del brazo y llevan bastones blancos. Uno de los dos es una mujer mayor, el otro es un hombre muy joven. La mujer va rozando con el bastón todos los obstáculos que aparecen en la vereda, y guiando el bastón del joven, se los hace tocar de la misma manera, sin equivocarse nunca: una farola, un buzón, la parada del tranvía. Parecen dos cisnes con las plumas rotas que tiemblan y hablan un lenguaje de hojas debajo de las alas.




It is only the poison of this drying, shallow and useless river that rises to our hearts. The river, jammed in its smooth low waves, tender and tame like a dog wagging its tail and licking our hands with whipping wet tongue at our knee's height.
We were three jewish families. The poison is a shallow river, palpitating our wings into movement. My mother writes that it is by disgrace that any of us still live. We do not save ourselves because we deserve salvation. We save ourselves because we are loved. Sometimes we do not get saved. The poison salve is a river of powder upon tongues. A river alive under the silken sheets, under the chemises, under the witless fearing skin. A river like a lonely bone, ground down for a wealth of marrow it never possessed. 


sube el veneno desde el río espeso e inútil al corazón. Allí se estanca en ondas suaves, manso, como un perro. Éramos tres familias judías. El veneno es un río espeso y palpitante que bate las alas. Mi madre escribe por desgracia vivimos todavía. No nos salvamos porque lo merecemos. Nos salvamos porque somos amados. A veces no nos salvamos. El veneno es un río de polvo en la lengua. Un río vivo debajo de las sábanas, debajo de la camisa, debajo de la piel. Un río como un hueso solo, roído hasta lo que no tiene.









DENISE LEÓN, born in Tucumán, Argentina 1974, to a family of Sephardi immigrants to the Andean country. She is the author seven books of poetry, including Poemas de Estambul (Poems for Istanbul), El trayecto de la herida (Trajectory of the wound) and Templo de pescadores (Temple of Fishermen). She teaches at the faculty of philosophy and letters at the University of Tucumán. She has read her poetry at festivals throughout Latin America. The poem series Karla and Luisa are from the book El Saco de Douglas, The Douglas Bag. She wrote Luisa twice: in Spanish and in the Ladino language spoken of her grandmother from Smyrna.


ARTURO DESIMONE was born and raised on the island Aruba, to parents of origins foreign to the Dutch Caribbean archipelago (an Argentinean father and a Russian-Polish mother.) His poetry and short fiction have appeared in the New Orleans Review, Hamilton Stone Review, Acentos Review, Knot and The Missing SlateAbout a Lover from Tunisia, a book of his poems, will be published in Spanish edition (La Amada de Túnez*) imminently forthcoming from the Argentinian poetry press Audisea. He is currently based between Argentina and the Netherlands, while working a longer fiction project and exhibiting drawings in galleries. 

The Adirondack Review
SPRING 2015