“!Es mi mercado!”

Mercado Modelo de San Sebastian – Cusco

Because of the title of this week’s poem, I decided to hand it out in front of a market, instead of a library. The poem, ‘Mercado’, comes from July Solís’s debut collection, Leche Derramada (Paracaídas, 2015). July is a poet from Lima who you can watch reading another poem from the collection here

When I got to my local indoor market in San Sebastian I found a huge tent selling books right outside! So I sort of had my library too.



I was met by lots of people happy to receive a poem, often struggling to take one because they were holding so many bags of groceries. One teenage girl with a big smile asked: “¿cuestan?” (“do they cost anything?”) and reached for her purse, but I reassured her they were free.

Then I met Marcosa, who came over to ask what I was giving out. When I gave her the poem she immediately folded it open and began to read aloud. She told me she liked poetry, and when I asked what she thought of this one, her answer was to read out some of her favourite lines out again, as if in reverence.

Though she said she couldn’t understand my English version of the poem, she seemed fascinated by the fact of translation. With her finger she followed from one Spanish line across the middle to the same line in English: “aquí el poema está en español, y aquí está otra vez, exactamente lo mismo…” (“here the poem is in Spanish, and here it is again, exactly the same…”).

It turned out Marcosa has her own stall in the market – that even sells fish! It was closed for the day, but she showed me where it was quickly before being told off by her son for not helping him to tidy up! When I asked if I could take a photo of her in front of the market, she replied: “si, es mi mercado!” (“yes, it’s my market!”). 




Y dar el pescado sin las branquias
cortar la cabeza
o quitar el espinazo donde sujetarnos
sería una pena más

El dolor descargándose en las alas muertas
y en la balanza tramposa
las patitas estiradas
alcanzando su última madrugada

Pagar un precio justo es el gran dilema:
todos los animales gritando en tu monedero
y ese sol cinquenta que regresa a casa
se avergüenza en sus dos caras de tu huida

Alguna vez alguien pagará esta voz que sobrevive?
este nervio mordido que tragaste
esta sangre estancada en tu mal aliento
o estos huesos que entierran los perros.



And give the fish without the gills
cut the head
or remove the spine which we deem
one more nuisance

Pain unloading itself in the dead wings
and crooked scales
little legs stretched
reaching towards its final dawn

Paying a fair price is the big dilemma:
all the animals screaming in your purse
and this loose change that returns home
ashamed with both its faces of your escape

Will anyone ever pay for this voice that survives?
this bitten nerve that you swallowed
this stagnant blood in your bad breath
or these bones that the dogs bury.

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