Juana Roggero: Dive

If you walk toward the northwest corner of Plaza Miserere, in the center of Once, one of Buenos Aires' more neglected neighborhoods, you come across a smaller plaza, filled with photos, flowers, statues of the virgin mary, shoes hung from clotheslines, sad and angry letters, and a large plaque with the word "JUSTICE" etched across the top. This is the memorial to the 194 victims of the fire at the República Cromañón nightclub on December 30, 2004. It was one of the deadliest fires in world history and caused a backlash which exposed widespread government corruption and eventually led to the resignation of the city's mayor. Anybody who was young at the time seems to be directly connected to, or only a few steps removed from, at least one of the victims. The event, which could have been easily prevented, is still fresh in the minds of the city's inhabitants and if you go to the memorial the anger and sadness can be felt as if it happened yesterday.

Juana Roggero is a survivor of the fire, and the experience has become the central theme of two of her books of poetry: Cromañón and Antro. The title of the latter is also the original Spanish title of the first poem below. Literally meaning 'cave' or 'cavern,' the word also refers to the usually seedy, almost always unregulated, bars and clubs that are constantly appearing and disappearing all over Buenos Aires. This is an occasion where translation comes up against the limitation of being able to convey a word's meaning, but not the social context that comes along with it. Still, repetitive images and short, direct sentences allow the sense of desperation and terror to be felt, even in English.

I don't think it's fair, however, to reduce a writer to the effects of the adversity they have faced, especially one as talented as Roggero. The second, untitled, piece moves from the shared experience of public tragedy to the intimacy of familial relationships. One thing that stood out to me as I read the author's work from the last several years is her skill for honing in on the subtle gestures and hidden implications that define our interactions with other people. So much can be inferred from so few details: milk, a cigarette, a brief mention of a coming trip. This small moment reveals the interior lives of the narrator and her father in wide relief. I don't believe in applying universal concepts of "good" and "bad" to art, but if I had to take a stand on what makes work successful, then these pieces represent that ideal perfectly.

(versión en castellano acá / spanish version here)


where would i want to go if i could leave
the dive from inside
we're inside the dive
dying there inside
the shut dive
without a door
breathing something black

who dies who doesn't
russian roulette

this roof is falling
it's falling on people and we're
like stupid clowns little rats
we're running i'm running to save myself and inhaling


but the roof is no longer roof
and the people outside, i don't know if they hear




today dad asked me
how things were going
in my relationship
he came to visit me at noon
he brought all those folders he carries around during the week
he had his coffee and obligatory cigarette
and laughed again because i don't buy milk
he always asks me
who put this into my head
he always thinks that others
put things into my head
i would buy milk just for dad
even if it spoiled every week
i think
but not pleasing him in this little thing
frees me a little
then he looks at my things he opens my fridge strictly out of curiosity
and we talk about my vertigo
about my extreme sensitivity
i hear myself telling him about the unconscious
about how it controls our entire body
and i feel a little dumb
but he listens to everything with complete attention
and i look at him
and i don't want to talk to him about my relationship
it's as if that
would make us a thousand kilometers apart
i want to talk about things he can admire
i show him my book
i talk to him about my coming trip
i want to know what places he visited
i want to have traveled with him
i think i never know how much
my stories interest him
or how much i interest him
and so out of nowhere
while he gets up to go
he asks me the question about my relationship
we don't look at each other
i tell him pretty good while i tidy something up
and i don't know if i want him to be happy
to talk about my relationship
is to put an intruder in between us
because he came to visit me and it's just me and him
he tells me that we shouldn't fight on the trip
no no we already talked about it i tell him
and he's already going
and i become filled unreasonable fear
our time was so short and pleasant
that i don't want to let him go
and i stay home
thinking why does he leave me alone
with all of this


Juana Roggero (Buenos Aires, 1980). Holds a degree in Communication Sciences and Editing. She published Bipolaridad (pájarosió editora, 2008), Cromañon (La Propia Cartonera, 2012), and Antro (La Parte Maldita, 2014). Her poems have been included in various independent anthologies. Together with Grupo Enjambre she produced acántaros, a CD of poems set to music (subsidized by the Metrolitan Arts Fund), and organized the poetry series, “¡…Oh aquellos banquetes avestrúsicos…!”.

Today, with Osvaldo Bossi, she is preparing her next book of poems. In 2015 she will organize a series of poetry and visual arts events together with Angélica Zervino. This year she also became a staff member of Viajerao Insomne Editora.


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.


(versión en castellano acá / spanish version here)