Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

American Way of Life / Bolivia

Te quieren hacer de nylon,
te quieren fabricar un corazón de plástico,
te filmarán la sonrisa, te medirán el cráneo,
te vestirán de marines y bases militares,
codificarán tu amor para sus jaranas,
te harán bailar cuando les dé la gana,
strip-tease / American Dream Corp.,
cantarás huayños para La Voz de América
y contarán tu vida en el Reader’s Digest.


Fabricarán tus sueños en colores,
te darán sortilegios en conserva,
pop in out camp very good Batman yes!
reducción india week-end Made in USA
Visión publicará un reportaje con afiches de turismo,
te instalarán escaleras mecánicas de bajada
                        (nunca de subida)
enviciarán tu aire, tu cielo azul será un túmulo oscuro
y dirán BOLIVIA TYPICAL COUNTRY IT’S
        WONDERFUL
crecerán rascacielos, te encerrán en jaulas,
te enseñarán cómo se caza el dólar,
        programarán tu alma
y tomarás píldoras para dormir, dormir, dormir…

American Way of Life / Bolivia

translated from the Spanish by
Michelle Har Kim

They want to make you out of nylon,
they want to build you a plastic heart,
they’ll film your smile, measure your cranium,
they’ll dress you up in Marines and army bases,
encrypt your love for those shenanigans,
and make you dance to their tune,
strip-tease / American Dream Corp.,
you’ll sing huayños for Voice of America
as Reader’s Digest tells your life story.


They’ll construct your dreams in color,
give you tricks and spells from a can
pop in out camp very good Batman yes!
native reduction week-end Made in USA
The Voice will publish a glossy tourist-ad spread
they’ll install escalators that take you down
                        (and that don’t go back up)
they’ll corrupt your air, your blue sky a dark tomb
and they’ll say BOLIVIA TYPICAL COUNTRY IT’S
        WONDERFUL
skyscrapers will rise, and they’ll lock you in cages,
and show you how to stalk the dollar,
        they’ll program your soul
as you take pills to sleep, sleep, sleep…


Described by critics as one of Bolivia’s greatest poets, the repertoire of author, journalist, and scholar Pedro Shimose Kawamura (1940–) includes an array of genres, from his acclaimed verses, to his short stories, textbooks, and musical work. Born in Riberalta, Bolivia, he has lived as an expatriate in Madrid since 1971. The 1972 recipient of the Casa de las Américas Prize for the book of poems Quiero escribir, pero me sale espuma, and the Premio Nacional de Novela in 1999, Shimose been rendered into over ten languages. His original volumes of poetry also include, among others, Caducidad del fuego (1975), Reflexiones maquiavélicas (1980), Bolero de caballería (1985), Riberalta y otros poemas (1996), and No te lo vas a creer (2000).

Michelle Har Kim lives in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles. She is a 2016 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship, and has translated poems by José Watanabe for Guernica, Epiphany, and the Asian American Literary Review.