Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

Mate burilado

La figura del mono
está admirablemente inscrita
en toda la redondez del calabazo silvestre.
de serrano
le ha puesto en la boca quena de gente.
Mundo feliz el del mono
que se acomoda allí como en vientre,
como en huevo, y con música.

por todos los rincones de mi casa
como sonaja
y algunas noches me encuentra y susurra:
        hazte redondo.

El mundo a mi alrededor es muy disperso
y la vida no tiene forma.
     A mi edad, digo,
puedo desear menos, debería
como el mono
acomodar mi cuerpo
sólo en algunas de mis monadas.

Engraved Gourd

translated from the Spanish by
Michelle Har Kim

The monkey’s figure
is remarkably inscribed
upon the entire roundness of the wild squash.
of the sierra
has placed a folk flute at its mouth.
Happy world of the monkey
who makes itself comfortable as if inside a belly,
as if in an egg, and with music.

It rolls
around every corner of my house
like a rattle
and some nights it finds me and whispers:
         make yourself round.

The world around me is so sparse
and life has no form.
     At my age, I must say,
I could want for less, I ought
like the monkey
to make my body at home
in just a few of my cute little things.

The late José Watanabe (1946–2007) is one of Peru’s most beloved contemporary poets. Along with his numerous articles, children’s books, and screenplays (that include the screen adaptation for Mario Vargas Llosa’s La ciudad y los perros), Watanabe’s publications feature seven original volumes of poetry. The latter is brought together in the posthumous Poesía completa (2008)—from his alpha Albúm de familia (1971), to the omega Banderas detrás de la niebla (2006). Included in the anthology is Watanabe’s rendition of Sophocles’s Antígona, performed by el Grupo Yuyachkani, the radical theater troupe that won Peru’s National Human Rights Award in 2000. Watanabe is a main contributor to La memoria del ojo: cien años de presencia japonesa en el Perú (1999), a “photographic history” that narrates scenes of everyday life, loss, and northward “relocation” of approximately eighteen hundred Japanese Peruvians to internment camps in Texas during World War II.

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.