Saturday, 14 August 2010

Claribel Alegria (born 12/5/24) -Small Country.

Behind you
a riot of pallid orphans,
children with protruding bellies,
mendicant mothers
exhibiting their kids
full of flies
tricky beggars
who pour their life
onto a clotted, scabby leg
and filthy bandages.
I stop and yell:
'The sky is falling!'
'Dear friends,'
the fat lady comments,
shuffling her cards,
'have you heard the latest?
They say the sky is falling.'
At three in the afternoon
the board meeting starts.
I rise and say:
there's omly one item
on the agenda today.
The sky is falling.'
The manager is upset.
'I propose,' he exclaims,
'the construction of a vault
under the earth.
We must protect our archives,
our valuables.'
The sentry reports the order
to the barracks.
'Have the troops fall out
in combat fatiques,'
screeches the general.
'Raise your rifles and bayonets,
hold up the sky.'
The day is overcast.
A normal quota of events
takes place.
Butchers sell 3/4s
to the housewives
and charge them for a kilo,
fat old maids vent their hatred
in classrooms,Don Juans
peacocks with their pals
while maids
ruin the meal,
and contemplate abortion.
Soon the small tree by the cafe
will issue red cherries;
sugar cane, honey,
marching cotton
and meaty clouds
will turn into Cadillacs
on a casino night
upon renting a suite in Cannes.
I sit down at the table of intellectuals.
'What can we do? I ask.
'The sky is falling.'
An old radical smiles.
He saw it coming twenty years ago.
'And if it's true,'
an angry student asks,
'what will we do?'
With a gesture appropriate
to the historical significance,
he pulls out a pen
and on the tablecloth
begins to compose a manifesto
by intellectuals and artists.
I don't go out for days.
The sky is not falling.
The politicians have said so,
the directors,
the generals,
even the beggars confirm it.
For every young lord
there's a knocked-up maid,
holding her own.
For every fat matron,
someone tubercular picking cotton,
for every politician
a blindman with a white cane.
Everything is licit, right.
My terror, infantile.
The public show
of anxiety
is bad for people,
is rotten for business,
scares children.
Tomorrow I'll go to the market.
The psychiatrist prescribed it.
I'll be in a position
to offer ten centavos to a beggar
and to feel compassion.

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