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This article is taken from PN Review 263, Volume 48 Number 3, January - February 2022.

Of the Hermit Crab and other poems Rómulo Bustos Aguirre
Translated from the Colombian Spanish by Richard Gwyn

Ballad of the House

You will find a house with a strange name
    that you will attempt in vain to decipher
And walls the colour of good dreams
But you will not see that colour
Nor will you drink the red plum wine
    that stretches memories

On the gate
sits a child with a half-open book
Ask him the way to the big trees
whose fruits are guarded by an animal
that sends passers-by to sleep just by looking at them
And he will answer while conversing
    with a green-winged angel
(as if it were another child playing at being an angel
with wide banana leaves stuck to his back)

barely moving his lips in a gentle spell
    ‘the cockerel’s song isn’t blue but a sleepy pink
    like the first light of day’

And you will not understand. Nevertheless
you will find an immense hallway
where hangs the portrait of a lord,
    shimmering slightly, his heart in his hand
and at the back, right at the back
the soul of the house seated in a rocking chair, singing
but you will not heed her

because in that instant
a distant sound shall crease the horizon
and the child will have finished the last page


Of the Hermit Crab

Strange, the ways ...


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