Skip to content
Give readers a window on the world. Click to donate.
from the January 2011 issue

El Terrible

This bullet
that you all see me carrying
in a never-sold pistol,
is fifty years old.
It comes from a whirlwind
when the people in the streets fired their guns
during four senseless days,
like a flame of grains
from forces beneath the earth:
the possibility of life
the possibility of death.
I never thought this could be
but it was always with me,
maybe anticipating
this event I confront in delirium.

Life is postponed defeat,
victory is death by an authentic hand.
death is a victory we project,
defeat is living by anothers hand.

veins ring
the opposite of bells
the city,
Doesnt play by chance;
hiding when I lower
the crook of my arm;
leaving to go in circles
it's grocers carts
golden buttons in its piggybanks;
sewed with invisible threads
to the pocketless.
the chulla,
the man alone,
he without anything
writing painting singing
with the very least
he lives on credit
to avoid a counted death.
the inconstant storyteller
stimulates the liar,
gives passage to the naked,
teaches the ignorant to drink,
is always ready
to destroy
the face of the conformists,
the terrible chulla
that doesnt want them
to bury him in stupidity.

on the corner of San Blas
there is always a candle
burning for a virgin
neither of stick nor of stone,
but of worthy flesh.
in this infernal chapel
the terribles enter
to lose themselves in beer
and smile the smile of confronters
of the remarkable, the intransigents, the fossils
and the silly enigmatics.
when they invade the chapel
the bejeweled
the loanshark notaries
young soldiers and nouveau riche,
the chulla goes up to the roof
and only dances dancing alone
while his shadow vacillates,
vacillates and falls.

This bullet
that I carry in the unpurchased gun
leaves the hall
with all the city's government above it
it will enter my brain,
only one death,
a gesture
to drive away the contented.

All the liars                               men
from the Plaza Grande         dodgers,
lift up their hypothesis        without expression.
the victim is
not the chulla
its one and all of them
in their empty fears,
guardians in the groin
of mature secrets.
loners salivating without sense
or unity,
afraid of the terrible
their final judge
that takes the chulla
to the five levels of hell.

Translation of “El Terrible.” Copyright Ulises Estrella. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by David Backer. All rights reserved.

Read more from the January 2011 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.