As soon as I read the title of Ana Claudia Díaz's "The theorem of backs" I knew I was going to translate it. Poetry is such a vague and sprawling thing and I've always been a little insecure about whether I really "get", or even "like," most poems, but pieces that deal with the body always connect with me right away. When you talk about the body you go right to the root of experience. You start out with a solid and universal thing that leads to all the subjectivity of the world.
The same could be said of Diaz's work. She often begins with simple images that soon transform and get lost in intricate layers of symbolism. Her sentences start in one place and change into something else in the middle, only to end in somewhere that paradoxically explains the beginning and makes everything less certain at the same time (just look at the sentence in the first piece that ends with "emancipate the echo", or her use of punctuation in "The Immense Detail"). After I read more of her work, I saw that bodies, people, and emotions all take a back seat to a rich symbolism of the natural world: trees, flowers, rivers, animals, stars. Solidity loses ground over and over again to mystery, like in the work of impressionist painters.
As a translator, I wanted to ask her a million questions about meaning, less to get things perfect and more to satisfy my own curiosity, but in the end the enigmatic nature of these poems is more important than any individual idea. When I was growing up I lived in an old house that was surrounded by miles of woods. I spent all the time I could in these woods. I was young and life was beyond my understanding, but I felt repeatedly compelled to go deeper into that place where I could lose myself in the vast world of experience I would never be able to describe—and these poems give me that same feeling.
The theorem of backs
We are only afraid
of so many pears pouring down
over our heads, nothing more.
even if and only if
we are resting under an elm tree
in the forest in autumn.
Now, the heavy body falls into the same seat
and nobody knows that what it carries
on its shoulders as it climbs the mountain
is to emancipate the echo.
Indian bodies tell us
that there are many places where
you can see that constellation of stars
that separates us within seconds.
Amber rings of deep skies that change and cool.
Arches that shimmer and disappear if someone tries to catch them.
And our eyes squinting, from all the sand flying
up there above the signals that were
signs of reality wound up full of remains
interwoven features, and every part sharing equally in the time
in which we chose to return to guilt, outshining ourselves.
The immense detail
Bittersweet, hostile, the past breaks up.
You said, to wrestle against the current.
I carried oars of bonsai with me.
Between the butterfly scales that sniff about or get lost
in the nuance of the flames, I found you
silent flamingos watched us from afar, from the shore
with strange hair, like decorations of the wind, baffled
reflections that were forming in the water
and I wondered if infinity were nothing more than a line
of silver quails
or uncountable blue birch trees that soak their feet
exactly where the two of us always are.
An emery threshold that the rain later washes.
Or a road far away from cosmic snails
that take off their skin when they arrive at you.
Ana Claudia Díaz (Santa Teresita, 1983), published Limbo (Pájarosló Editora, 2010 - La One Hit Wonder Cartonera, 2012) and Conspiracy of Transmigrating Pearls (Conspiración de perlas que trasmigran, Zindo & Gafuri, 2013); the chapbooks Voodoo Returned (Vuelto Vudú, Pájarosió, 2009), The Ecology of Populations (La ecología de las poblaciones, Pájarosió, 2010), and As The Anemones Please (Al antojo de las anémonas, Color Pastel, 2011). She appears in the anthologies Pájaros en la frente (Pajárosló, 2011), La Juntada (APOA, 2012), Canciones (Ediciones presente, 2013), Re-Invención (Proyecto Madonna, 2013), Estaciones (La Parte Maldita, 2013), Poesía Deliberada (Textos Intrusos, 2013), and Poesía de hoy y de siempre (Eloisa cartonera, 2014).
Evan Leed is a writer and filmmaker currently based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition to being Assistant Editor and Translator for ¡OOMPH!, his writing has appeared in Shabby Doll House, Thought Catalog, Internet Poetry, and SEVENTY-FIVE, a collection of essays based on Marina Abramovic's "The Artist Is Present." His play "Calicut" was presented as part of the 2011 New Paltz New Plays festival.