Poetry by Paco Urondo

Encoded Message

All I ask is that we leave this park,
its munitions, its reproaches for our going there
as if we wore too-amusing masks
at a paled carnival: the ice and the material of forgetting.
Because between strain and suffering, the matter has become
so easy, so easy, that now no one
can solve its enthusiasms, arrange its festivities.

The Grandson of God


My grandfather had a good heart
and some men, competent.
He had a pair of bodyguards
and a smoking jacket, two cadillacs,
a game room–monte or bacarat–in a casino
on the weary eastern slope of the Andean range,
at the very feet of the snows. Also
a variety theater where the striptease girls
showed their garters, showed their corsets.
And my grandfather withstood it
and with his reckless “personnel,” he was protected.

My grandfather’s age would be around
one hundred and twenty, a considerable bit
of history wide with flavor and pain.
More than a century of life,
if he had lived surrounded by his skilled men,
by his Lola Mora, the Bella Otero
of this side of the Pyrenees, covered
by the blank cold of drugs, of the resigned
ermines, of cash redeemers, of parishioners; pilots
of zeppelins and wheels and vapors and unforeseen things
and ladinos with their strange conversation
and rough disdain for open guarantees
like wings of butterflies set into fedoras.

As such, surrounded by the sickly cabaret singers,
though they were fortunate, he lived
and died like the smoke unfurled
in his casino, above a carpet of cards, through
a series of strikes that were skilled and suspicious,
or just serious. He lived
and died like the smoke undone
and the snow; like the unfolding dancers,
my good grandfather: hallowed
be his name, his kingdom come, monarch
of the low skies, of the bright clouds edging in.


Pepe Menese sings and the oysters
fly through his mouth. The taste
of the sea comes all the way to Chiclana de la Frontera and
twists itself in the sacred ankles of Antonio Farina.

The flamenco’s footwork booms, the world
cracks like a prison break. Memory
trembles, the flames
of suffering agitate.

The world shrieks from pain
in its cell, in the backs
of disposed throats.
Its smell is the flavor
of sea, the rising of a voice during war.

What was your inner skin like, that terse
world, your life of mine that was cast
in mirrors, that kept watch over
its muzzle loaders.

The dark scream must be heard
and the sun, unborn like your friends; the signs
of the ancient flame
must be seen.

I am about to open the doors, to close
my eyes and not look
past the tip of my nose, not smell,
not touch the name of God in vain.

Milonga of the Marginalized Paranoid

It seems a lie
that I’m to blame for everything
that has happened in the world
but it’s true. They’ve tried to convince me otherwise–
the psychologists, the sociologists of my time,
they’ve given reasons of a technical weight
formulated at length and
partially true. But
I know I’m at fault for the pain
I feel here, rampant in the world; for the emptiness
that empties it further. I would’ve liked to leap
like Juan L. Ortiz or speak out
like Oliverio Girondo.
But, two things: first, they got
the upper hand, and second, neither action really suits me–
and everything begins again. More suffering
ringing in my head like tuning forks and options
I’m well aware of that aren’t worth
repeating: first, so I won’t be tempted, and second,
because then I’d have to acknowledge
that I never learned
how to make myself understood. And that, that’s as sharp
as an attack that makes us swallow our tongues.
I ask then for you to excuse the bad impression,
the exaggerations.

Nocturnal Fire

Dreams make the freed gulls visible. With the bone of your eyes–it’s your heart that burns, behind, along with the scrublands.

And then a brief calm, the charged air, and a desire to live again.


For Jorge Enrique Adoum


Careful with the heat
and the taste; with
hopes ill-
born Careful
with dreaming
because the moment has come.


Clarity, owner
of life and premonition.

Clarity, rapid
and moving.

Brilliant tomb.


They say gone
are the times
for love
and disdain.

They say gone
is color, is fluency;
gone, after
certainty and lies. Leaping.


Scarcely arriving. Not even returning
a little: I always
will be going. Going
I watch, going I fall.


I will take
this shared destiny.

I will know to touch it
and discover;

to bite
and break forgetting.


A pair of gunshots in the dust clouds,
the sun parts: broken
streets, no orifice
for leaving; agnostics
and wanderers like crystal, strewn
in the dawn, bleeding
in the prayer, shaken
by the cockeyed Angelus. Settle in:
this is my best moment;
overseas, trusting
above every suspicion.


Who hasn’t passed
through that belt of hope
and prevention.

Through that equator
closer than sacrifice.

Body of Crime

The balconies of the Aranjuez, the silks
that come to rest on the green river: I stretch myself
like a column and enter your underskirts, fan

your palatial sadness, your pendant’s
chain bewitched by the tremors of your body. I
go from mother

to father to the bed again, feeling how
your shoulders rise to my chest
transfiguring you into one whole great back I go on

to lick, on my knees. Let’s not speak
of those breaths, we can wipe
one palate clean with the palate

of the other, with the green waters
that spill from your eyes burning
now from so much flight, such

distance traveled; a bit of heat. A hand
is raised high waving your handkerchiefs, your breath
drunken with the Aranjuez, of this scent that I blow to you

from afar and with force
so you can receive it at your port
and load the salty flesh,

the potable water, the winds of departure, the
ropes to stay disillusions, to
tie luck to the body of the dock.

All this serenity and I see the watered
face, the man-virgin face, fed up
with all the ruses, of my friend Julio Lareu.

His face flanked by two daughters,
my friend Julio Lareu.
Humble, the height of goodness,

a man of values, loving
his children, my heart lifted
in the traces of my friend Julio Lareu.

I come to desire nothing more
than your good fortune
friend, carpenter.


Poets were always, effectively, men
of transition, Roberto
Fernández Retamar; because really, my friend, if a poet
doesn’t see the transitions leaping
at his sides like eruptions of smoking lava, better
that he ceases to be one,
cedes that perfumed guise to other senses
more perceptive. Baudelaire was a poet
of transition, as was Talero; and Abz-ul-Agrib and Rosario,
who closed the doors to the houses
of tolerance; brothels with cheeses and wines and devil-hams and
the jarana agitating skirts and other flags. The cries and crimes
in atrocious places and untimely moments were poets
of transition; my God, how much
poetry of transition was engraved in the knife used to cut
virginities; how much baptistery has licked
the salt of transition, has fluttered
at the sound of altar boys: Jacopo della Quercia was a man
of transition, even the countess
de Noailles must have written
poetry of transition. And I’m forgetting people,
leaks covered by transitory
patches, by the transiting of the unprepared masses
that go slowly in search of water and transitive
skies. Those yawns, those masses,
are poems of transition, my dear Roberto; those furies,
essentially, these violent methods of walking towards the void–this
time was always plagued–and if there are no
transitions, it will be necessary to signal the end of these hostile
and restless worlds, sound
the trumpets and leave running from the playing field beneath
the thrown rocks–surely–and blown raspberries: it will be, despite
all the years of waiting and warning, a fairly unpopular fact;
a piece of bad news, a little alarmist, like the Apocalypse itself.

On the surface that leaps
over the snow, on the Andean
crease. Starry against the firmness
of the low sky, diluted
like a nameless god, an indirect
air, an empty breeze: emblems
to be heard and explained; responding
to questions and joys.

Find the corners in which it dwelled,
resigned to death all this time
without anyone blowing the ash off the water,
the arcs of the rivers that don’t respond,
don’t articulate the acts of the end of times.

In the harms done and the deaths, in cast-off witnesses
of injustice, blood spread, point-blank
treason–I’m thinking of José, for example, of his
luminous goodness, of the right he had to hope–, I come
to fall across the backs
of these last
words united so they can be resolved.

One single gust of time past,
pronounced syllable by syllable, act by act. In
the commotion, beneath the first clods,
I come to offer the uselessness
of my defeat, to open revenge
over death (that pre-speech, the scream),
a victory wide like the past that will come forth,
like my life which doesn’t belong to me
as long as it’s foreign–others have appropriated it, to
others I owe it–and common to the bulk of destiny.

That memory, arranger of people, that
signer of the future that waits with arms
open; this life that leaps over my shoulders
to continue its game and its rank. It leaves
behind fatality, also buried like the viceroys,
like disinterred egoism–conjured
in loneliness. Because life–I have seen it–depends
on a thread instructive and generous, closes
the short circuits, makes ovals from imperfect eggs.

In the children of the sun that rises, the marvel
that hides all claws, I caress
the animals preferred by the intact universe, the
splendor of the skin of the metal
that releases the roar of the imagination, the fuel
devoured by good fortune.

And the history of happiness will not
be exclusive, but will belong to all of the quarreling
earth and its air, its back and its profile, its cough and its laugh. I am no longer
from here; I hardly feel I am a memory
in passing. My confidence balances on a profound disdain
for this disgraceful world. I will give
my life so that nothing continues as it is.


Paco Urondo

Francisco “Paco” Urondo (1930-1976) was a prolific Argentine writer, intellectual, and revolutionary who died at the hands of the dictatorship at the beginning of the Dirty War. Urondo participated actively in militating against the increasingly repressive Argentine government; he was imprisoned in 1973 and conducted his famous interview with the survivors of the Trelew massacre there. Along with his contemporaries, including the late Juan Gelman, Urondo pushed literary conventions to give way to a conversational, frank style of writing that witnessed and accused, that demanded acknowledgment and memory, and that turned optimistically to a future beyond the reality of the socio-political turmoil his country was in. He was compromised and killed in a police chase; his assassins were finally sentenced in 2011.

Julia Leverone

Julia Leverone is a poet, translator, and university writing instructor living in Denton, Texas with her partner. She is producing a comparative dissertation for Washington University in St. Louis on daring contemporary poetry of the United States and Argentina. Her translations from the Spanish of Paco Urondo have been published in The Massachusetts Review, Poetry International, Tupelo Quarterly, and Witness. Her translation work also appears in the 2015 anthology of younger Uruguayan poetry, América invertida. Leverone has an MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland, and her poems appear in Sugar House Review, Crab Orchard Review, B O D Y, and Cimarron Review. She is the editor of Sakura Review.

Copyright (c) Adriana Hidalgo Editora, 1957, 1969, 1973, 2010. English translation copyright (c) Julia Leverone, 2015.