Ernesto Trejo

Four Poems translated by Christopher Buckley
March 20, 2023 Trejo Ernesto

The Day


To see the world is to spell it
Octavio Paz


In the early morning the city is something else.
The sleepers at rest acquire
their true lives.
The light, between dying and annunciation,
carries the breath of God on its wings.
The encirclement of wires and mountains has become ethereal.
What encourages sorrow to walk the streets?
If I haven’t buried anyone,
what business can death have with me?
The moon has lain down next to me.
There is the shape of my beloved.
A transparent thread has led me here.
Already I’m just a glass to fill with the day.


The Spirit Withdraws


The spirit seeks its permanence, stranger
to the body, to sweat, to liver pain.
Oblivious to time, its strength intact!


Widows curse the blue sky, and the sun and the sea.
Angels are ready to throw their darts.
The day is breaking, the infinite day.
The cripple laughs, the smoke thins out.
There is no longer a body, everything is time,
everything is power intact, flaying leaves
of pepper trees like ships, setting sail
lifting away this quiet afternoon.



Last Night the Streets


Last night the streets were
a warehouse of souls, but
what flickered were not lights
but people like you with dreams
reduced to night air.


With a look you followed a bird
that dove into a tree,
you followed the footsteps of the woman who paused
in front of a window that pointed to the sky;
signals from one star to another.




To the Dead Child in my Larynx


Rechannel these tissues,
hold these hands . . .
—Charles Wright


Since morning, I find myself at a funeral.
I dressed this child as an angel
and took away his name, I cursed it
and carried off his parents.  I said
they were gone forever, that I am here.


I slipped from his shoulders like oil.
His eyes on me were a zoo.
And what do we share?  I owe him
life and buried him
with fresh earth and spit.


He’s always shooting smoke rings,
promises that float to the sky.
I’m a tundra where he wanders
carrying a piece of meat under his arm.
Would he let me come in like light
between his eyelids?  Would he be
a story to feed my huge bones?
Would he come from time to time to show me
the lint inside his pockets?



from El Dia Entre Las Hojas, LetrasMexicanas, 1984


translated by Christopher Buckley



Ver al mundo es deletrearlo
—Octavio Paz


En la madrugada la ciudad es otra.
Los durmientesadquierenenreposo
sus líneasverdaderas.
La luz, entre mortecina y de Anunciación,
llevaen sus alas elaliento de Dios.
El cerco de alambres y montañas se ha hechoetéreo.
¿Quéánimasenpenaandanpor las calles?
Si no he enterrado a nadie,
¿quéasuntospuede la Muerte tenerconmigo?
La luna se ha acostado junto a mí.
He ahí la forma de miamada.
Un hilotransparente hasta aquí me ha conducido.
Yasólo soy un vasollenarlo con el día.





Buscaelespíritusupermanencia, ajeno
al cuerpo, al sudor, al dolor de hígado.
¡Ajeno al tiempo, fuerza intacta!


Viudasimprecan al Cielo azul y al sol y al mar.
Ángeles se aprestan a lanzar sus dardos.
Se estáquebrandoel día, elinfinito día.
El cojoríe, elhumopalidece.
Y a no hay cuerpo, todo es tiempo,
todo es fuerza intacta:  desolladoras hojas
de pirulescomo naves, de pirules que zarpan





Anoche las callesfueron
bodega de todas las almas, pero
lo que centelleaba no eran luces
sinogentecomotú, con sueños


Con la miradaseguiste a un pájaro
que se fue a pique sobre un árbol,
seguistelos pasos de la mujer que se detuvo
frente a unaventana que apuntaba al cielo:
señales de unaestrellaaotra.





Rechannel these tissues,
hold these hands. . .
—Charles Wright


Desdemuytemprano me encuentroen un entierro.
Aesteniño lo vestí de ángel
y le desprendíelnombre.  Lo maldije
y le quité sus padres. Le dije
que se fuera para siempre, que estoyaqui.


Desde sus hombrosyo me deslizabacomoaceite.
Sus ojossobremíeran un zoológico.
¿Y quécompartimos? Le debo
la vida y lo enterré
con tierra fresca y un escupitajo.


Siempreestádisparandoanillos de humo,
promesas que flotan al cielo.
Yo soy una tundra pordondevaga
llevando un pedazo de carne bajo elbrazo.
¿Me dejaráintroducirmecomo la luz
entre sus pårpados? ¿Será
un cuento que alimente mis grandeshuesos?
¿Vendrá de vezencuandoaenseñarme
la pelusaen sus bolsillos?

Ernesto Trejo was born in 1950 in Fresnillo, a small mining town in central Mexico, his family later moving to Mexico City and then to Mexicali where he grew up.  In 1967, he moved to Fresno, CA to work at his aunt’s restaurant and to attend CSU Fresno State and take an M.A. in economics.  But in 1969 a friendship with Luis Omar Salinas turned his interest to poetry and he took writing classes with Philip Levine, Peter Everwine, Robert Mezey and C.G. Hanzlicek. Among many poets he worked with and befriended were Gary Soto, David St. John, and Jon Veinberg. In 1973 Ernesto’s poems began to appear in literary magazines such as Kayak, Partisan Review, and The Nation. In 1975 a selection of his poems in English appeared in Entrance: Four Chicano Poets.  He was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop and also worked in the International Translation Program there.


In 1976 he published The Rule of Three, a book of eleven poems translated from the Spanish of Tristan Solarte. In 1977 he published a chapbook in English, The Day of Vendors, with a small press in Fresno, Calavera Press, and a chapbook of poems in Spanish, Instrucciones y senales. In 1978. A second chapbook in Spanish, Los nombrespropios, was published.