Literary Excerpts and Translations





Babel Bárbara

----The Baptisp

----The Passion



Short Stories

A Forbidden Passion

"The Falling Angel"



"The Indecisives' Club"

Translated from Spanish by Megan Berkobien
Read it here.


Ne Me Quitte Pas

Translated from Spanish by Megan Berkobien

Published in Words Without Border


Translated by Diana Decker © 2012

Teach me – you say, from your avid twenty-one years
believing still that one can teach something

and I, who passed sixty
look at you with love
that is, with farawayness,
(all love is love of differences
the empty space between two bodies
the empty space between two minds
the horrible presentiment of not dying in twos)

I teach you, gently, some quote from Goethe
(Stay instant! You are so beautiful!)
or from Kafka (once there was, there was once
a mermaid that did not sing)

while the night slowly slides into dawn
through this window
that you love so much
because its nocturnal lights
conceal the true city

and actually we could be in any place
these lights could be those of New York,
Broadway Avenue, those of Berlin, Konstanzerstrasse,
those of Buenos Aires, calle Corrientes
and I withhold from you the only thing that I truly know:
poet is one who feels that life is not natural
that it is astonishment
discovery revelation
that it is not normal to be alive

it is not natural to be twenty-one years of age
nor be more than sixty

it is not normal to have walked at three in the morning
along the old bridge of Córdoba, Spain, under the yellow
light of its streetlamps

-three in the morning-
not in Oliva nor in Seville

natural is the astonishment
natural is the surprise
natural is to live as if just arrived
to the world
the alleys of Córdoba and its arches
to the plazas of Paris
the humidity of Barcelona
the doll museum
in the old wagon standing
on the dead train tracks of Berlin

natural is to die
without having walked hand in hand
through the portals of an unknown city
nor to have felt the perfume of the white jasmines in bloom
at three in the morning
Greenwich meridian

natural is that s/he who has walked hand in hand
through the portals of an unknown city
won’t write about it
would bury it in the casket of forgetfulness

Life blooms everywhere

blood relative
exaggerated Bacchante
on nights of turbid passions
but there was a fountain that clucked
and it was difficult not to feel that life can be beautiful
like a pause
like a truce
that death grants to joy.



Translated by Diana Decker

When she opens her legs
let everyone keep quiet.
Let no one whisper
or come to me
with tales or poems
or stories about catastrophes
or cataclysms
because there is no better swarm
than her hair
no greater opening than the opening of her legs
no vault that I watch with more respect
no jungle as fragrant as her pubis
no towers no cathedrals more secure.
Let us pray: she has opened her legs.
Everyone on your knees.


When I enter
and you are barely illuminated
like a church at dusk
You hand me a candle to light
in the main nave
You beg for alms
I remember the trials of the saints
I give you my hand
wet it in the baptismal font
You speak to me of allegories
the Way of the Cross
I have initiated
-------- legs, the first station –
you sadden me with your arms outstretched as on the Cross
when inside
the pilgrimage begins
down deep I am praying
naming your pains
the pain you felt when you were born
the pain at age six
the pain at age seventeen
the pain of your initiation
down deep I whisper between your legs
the most secret of prayers
You reward me with a warm rain from your entrails
and once I have finished the prayer
you close your legs
you bow your head

------- when I enter into the church
--------------into the temple
--------------into the monstrance
-------and you bathe me.

I entered as if into a cathedral
and her legs vibrated
like the organ pipes
when, inside her,
I began to pronounce her,
to make music between the naves
under the acquiescent gaze
of all the illuminated virgins.



The Baptism
Translated by Diana Decker

I baptize you Babel among all women
Babel among all cities
Babel of diversity
ambiguous like the sexes
nostalgic for the lost paradise
----maternal uterus –
center of the world
umbilical cord.

"Poet – screams Babel-
I am the blind woman of all tongues
Cassandra in the dark night of the signifiers".


The Passion
Translated by Diana Decker

We emerged from love
as if from an aerial catastrophe
We had lost our clothes
our documents
I was missing a tooth
and you had lost track of time
Was it a year as long as a century
or a century as short as a day?
Among the furniture
around the house
broken rubble:
glasses photos torn books
We were survivors
of a collapse
of a volcano
of raging waters
And we parted with the vague feeling
of having survived
though we didn’t know what for.



Spiritual Experience
Translated by Diana Decker

She told me that she was looking for a spiritual experience
a very serious thing
in the world there were some two thousand religions
without taking into account the sects

but she wanted something else
“I want a spiritual experience”
she told me

I believe that I hadn’t had that
I had had war experiences
and revolutions sensorial experiences
musical experiences work experiences

unless we consider that being in ecstasy in front of a Turner or
Caspar David Friedrich shipwreck

was a spiritual experience

unless reading J.G. Ballard
or Vallejo’s poems
were spiritual experiences

I had also had several experiences with sunsets
splendid in the port of Santa Maria
the Southern light, the brilliant light of the South,

but she told me that it wasn’t about any of that
it wasn’t about the sadness that Chopin’s études caused me
or Satie’s Gymnopédies which now are in the cell phones

she told me it was something else

Then she went to India
and I didn’t follow her
because I have seen much misery in this world

without reaching the necessary degree of spirituality

She spent some two years in India
and when she returned she was slimmer
How are you doing? she asked me
The usual, I answered

I write a bit read some play mahjong in the internet

sometimes a car hits me

but in general, I continue without having spiritual experiences
so I asked her how had it been in India
and she answered that well
very well
she had had a spiritual experience

-she said-

that turned all orgasms
frivolous and ridiculous

I thought that for that it wasn’t necessary to go to India
it was enough having reached menopause.

*For copies of Evohé and Babel Barbara write to Diana Decker at

Short Stories

"The Fallen Angel", from A Forbidden Passion
Barcelona, Seix Barral, 1986.
Winner of Relatos Puerta De Oro Award
Translated by Mary Jane Treacy

THE ANGEL PLUMMETED TO THE EARTH exactly like the Russian satellite that while spying on the movements of the American Tenth Fleet lost height when it should have been thrust into a strong nine hundred and fifty kilometer orbit. It fell exactly like the American satellite that while spying on the movements of the Russian fleet in the North Sea also fell to earth after a wrong move. But while both of these incidents brought about innumerable catastrophes – part of Canada turned into desert, several types of fish became extinct, local people’s teeth crumbled, and neighboring lands became polluted – the angel’s fall didn’t cause any ecological disturbance. Because it was weightless (a theological mystery that cannot be doubted upon pain of heresy), it didn’t destroy anything in its wake, not the trees on the road nor the electric wires; it didn’t cause interference in TV programs nor in radio stations; it didn’t open up a crater in the face of the earth, nor did it poison the waters. No, it just settled down on the sidewalk and stayed there without moving, confused and with a terrible case of motion sickness.
At first no one noticed it. That was because the inhabitants of the place, sick and tired of nuclear catastrophes, had lost the ability to be surprised and were busy putting the city back together, cleaning out debris, analyzing food and water, putting houses back up and finding furniture, just like ants when the ant hill is destroyed, but with much more sadness.
“I think it’s an angel,” said the first observer, contemplating the little figure fallen at the base of a statue beheaded in the last conflagration. Actually, it was a rather small angel with mutilated wings (it’s not known if this was due to the fall) and an unhappy expression.
-----A woman walked right by, so busy pushing a baby carriage that she didn’t notice it. But a hungry stray walked right up and then stopped short: that thing, whatever it was, didn’t smell, and anything that doesn’t smell can’t really exist, so the dog wasn’t going to waste its time. Slowly (it was lame) it did an about face.
Another man stopped, curious, and looked the angel over cautiously but didn’t reach out to touch it, afraid that it might be radioactive.
“I think it’s an angel,” repeated the first observer, who by now felt as he had the first dibs on the visitor.
"It’s pretty beaten up,” noted the latest observer. “I don’t think it has any use at all.”
-----At the end of an hour a small group had assembled. No one touched it; instead they chatted among themselves and put forth a variety of opinions though nobody doubted that it was an angel. As a matter of fact, most thought that it was a fallen angel, although they couldn’t come to any agreement on the reasons for its descent. Several hypotheses were bandied about.
-----“It may have sinned,” said a young man made bald by the pollution.
It was possible. Now then, what kind of sin could an angel commit? It was too skinny for the sin of gluttony; it was too ugly for the sin of pride; according to one of those present, angels didn’t have parents so it was impossible for it to have dishonored them; it clearly lacked sexual organs so lust, too, was rejected. Insofar as curiosity was concerned, it didn’t have the smallest sign of having any.
-----“Let’s ask it in writing,” suggested an elderly man with a cane under his arm.
-----The proposal was accepted and a clerk was named, but when he was ready, with great formality, to begin his task, a discouraging question arose: what language do angels speak? Nobody knew the answer, although it seemed to them that as a matter of courtesy the visiting angel should be familiar with the language they spoke in that region of the country (which was, by the way, an uncommon dialect of which they were inexplicably proud).
-----Meanwhile the angel gave a few signs of life, although nobody could say for sure what would be signs of life in an angel. It stayed in its original position, perhaps because it was comfortable or perhaps because it couldn’t move, and the blue tone of its skin neither lightened nor darkened.
-----“What’s its race?” asked a young man who had arrived late and who leaned over the others’ shoulders to get a better view.
No one knew how to answer him. The angel was not pure Aryan, which caused some disappointment; it wasn’t black, which made some hearts warmer; it wasn’t Indian (can anyone imagine an Indian angel?) or yellow: it was really blue, and there weren’t any prejudices yet about this color, even though some showed signs of forming with incredible speed.
-----The age of angels was another problem. Although one group asserted that angels were always children, the appearance of the angel neither confirmed nor refuted this theory.
-----But the most surprising thing was the color of angel’s eyes. No one noticed until someone said, “The prettiest part is its blue eyes.”
Then a woman who was near the angel said, “What are you saying? Can’t you see that they are pink?”
----- A science professor, happening by, leaned down to observe the eyes better and exclaimed: “You are all wrong. They are green.”
-----Everyone saw a different color. For that reason, they deduced that the eyes weren’t one special color, but rather made up of all colors.
----- “This will bring it problems when it has to give proof of identification,” thought a retired bureaucrat who had false teeth and a big gold ring on his right hand.
----- There was no doubt about its sex; the angel was sexless, neither female nor male, unless (a hypothesis that was readily rejected) its genitals were hidden in some other place. This bothered some of those present quite a bit. After a period of real confusion about the sexes and unfettered promiscuity, the pendulous movement of history (simple as a compass) had returned us to the happy era of differentiated, perfectly recognizable sexes. But the angel seemed uninformed about this evolution.
-----“Poor thing,” commented a pleasant lady who had been leaving her house to go shopping when she ran into the angel. “I’d bring it to my house to recuperate, but I have two adolescent daughters, and if no one can tell me if it’s a man or a woman, I won’t do it. It just wouldn’t be right for it to live with my daughters.”
----- “I have a dog and a cat,” murmured a well-dressed gentleman with an agreeable baritone voice. “They’d get very jealous if I took it home with me.”
----- “Moreover one would have to know something about its background,” proclaimed a man with rabbit teeth, a narrow forehead and tortoise-shell glasses, dressed all in brown.
----- “Maybe a permit is needed.” He had the appearance of a police informant, and this displeased those present so they didn’t answer him.
----- “And nobody knows what it eats,” whispered a nice man with a very clean appearance who smiled, showing a line of bright white teeth.
----- “They eat herring,” asserted a beggar who was always drunk and whom everybody normally scorned on the account of his body odor. No one paid any attention to him now.
----- “I’d like to know what it thinks,” said a man who had the bright look of those with a curious spirit.
-----But the majority of those present were of the opinion that angels didn’t think.
----- Someone noted that the angel seemed to move its leg slightly, which caused great expectations.
----- “Surely it wants to walk,” commented an old woman.
----- “I never heard of angels walking,” said a woman dressed in fuchsia, with wide shoulders and hips and narrow, somewhat skeptical mouth. “It should fly.”
----- “This one is broken,” responded the man who had been the first to approach.
----- The angel again moved almost imperceptibly.“
----- Maybe it needs help,” murmured a young student with a melancholy air.
----- “I advise you not to touch it. It’s gone through space and can be full of radiation,” observed a quick-witted man who was proud of his common sense.
----- Suddenly an alarm sounded. It was time for the air raid drill, and everyone was supposed to run to shelters in the basements of buildings. The procedure was intended to take place as quickly as possible. Not an instant was to be lost. The group dissolved rapidly, leaving the angel behind.
----- The city emptied in a few seconds, but the alarm kept sounding. Cars were left on sidewalks, stores closed, plazas emptied, movie houses darkened, and televisions became mute. The angel made another small movement.
----- A middle-aged woman, with slouched shoulders and an old red coat that at one time had been the height of fashion, walked calmly down the stairs as if deliberately ignoring the sound of the sirens. Her pulse was somewhat erratic, she had blue circles around her eyes and her skin was very white, still rather youthful. She had gone out initially for cigarettes, but once in the street, she decided not to pay any attention to the air raid. The idea of taking a walk through the abandoned, empty city was very seductive.
When she got to the beheaded statue, she saw a bundle on the ground next to the pedestal.
----- “Gosh! An angel,” she cried.
----- An airplane flew over her head and dumped out a sort of chalk dust. Instinctively, she looked up and then turned her gaze below to the silent bundle that could barely move.
----- “Don’t be frightened,” the woman told the angel. “They’re disinfecting the city.” The dust covered the shoulders of her red coat, her brown, rather disheveled hair, the dull leather of her worn shoes.
----- “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep you company for a little while,” said the woman and sat down by its side. In truth, she was rather intelligent woman with a great sense of independence who tired not to bother anyone. Still she knew how to value a good friendship as well as a nice solitary walk, good tobacco, a good book and a good opportunity.
----- “This is the first time I’ve met an angel,” commented the woman, lighting a cigarette. “I suppose it doesn’t happen very often.”
----- As she expected, the angel didn’t say anything.
----- “I suppose, too,” she continued, “that you didn’t have any intention of paying us this visit. You simply fell due to some mechanical defect. What doesn’t happen in millions of years happens in one day, my mother used to say. And it happened precisely to you. Surely you realize that any angel who fell out of the sky would feel just as you do. Certainly you weren’t able to pick your landing spot.”
-----The alarm had stopped and an imposing silence filled the city. She hated this silence and tired not to hear it. She took another drag on her cigarette.
----- “You live as you can. I’m not happy in this place either, but I could say the same about many others I know. It’s not a question of choice, but of endurance. And I don’t have too much patience, believe me. I’d like to know if someone is going to miss you. Surely someone will have noticed your fall. An unforeseen accident in the smooth running of the universe, a change in fixed plans, just like a bomb bursting into flames or a faucet dripping. One chance in billions, but nevertheless, it does happen, isn’t that so?”
----- She didn’t expect an answer and she wasn’t concerned about the angel’s silence. Sometimes she thought that it was wrong to construct the universe on the invention of language. However, she felt the silence that was now overwhelming the city was like an invasion by an enemy army that takes over a territory like a multifaceted star slowly falling apart.
----- “You’ll see right away,” she informed the angel, “that here we go by the rules of time and space, which nevertheless don’t reduce our insecurity. I think this will be an even more difficult blow to you than your fall to earth. If you can distinguish bodies, you’ll see that we divide ourselves into men and women, a distinction that has no importance because we all die without exception and death is the most significant event in our lives.”
----- She put out her cigarette. It had been unwise to keep it lit during the air raid but her philosophy included some snubbing of the rules as a way of rebelling. The angel suggested another little movement, but seemed to cut it off before finishing. She looked at it with pity.
----- “Poor little thing!” she exclaimed. “I understand you don’t feel very much like moving. But the drill lasts almost an hour. It will be better if you have learned to move by then; if not, you could be run over by car, asphyxiated by a gas leak, arrested for causing a public disturbance and interrogated by the secret police. And I advise you not to go up on that pedestal —” (it seemed to her that the angel was looking at the top of the column as if it might be a comfortable resting spot) “because politics in our city are very volatile, and today’s hero is tomorrow’s traitor. Moreover, this city doesn’t raise monuments to foreigners.”
----- All of a sudden out of a side street, a group of soldiers, dense as beetles, began to move, taking over the sidewalks and highways and crawling through the trees. They moved in an order that surely had been prearranged and they wore helmets that emitted strong beams of light.
----- “They’re here,” sighted the woman with resignation. “It’s certain they are going to arrest me again. I don’t know what kind of heaven you fell from,” she told the angel, “but these guys really seem to have climbed out of the hellish depths of the earth.”
Just so, the beetles advanced slowly and surely.
----- She got up because she didn’t like to be taken by surprise or to be touched too much. She took out of her purse a driver’s license, an identification card, a housing registration, some food coupons, and then took a few resigned steps forward.
----- The angel got up on its feet. It slowly shook off the chalk dust that covered its legs and arms and tried to flex its muscles. Afterwards it wondered if anyone would miss the woman who had fallen before being violently forced into the armored car.

"Rumors" From Cosmoagonías
(Barcelona: Laila, 1988)

TOWARD THE END OF THE TWENTIETH century, rumors about the cities spread. Some people spoke of their demise, others of a strange rebirth from out of the rubble. Clandestine groups would whisper secrets about cities that were still inhabitable, where it was possible to walk, see a bird, explore a museum, or take in the color of the sky. But places like that were few and far between. Gradually, people started talking about Berlin. Not in public, in newspapers, or in social gatherings. The city's name came to be something like a code word, a mystical sign, a cipher for those in the know but meaningless for anyone else. Berlin was discussed in hushed tones, among close friends, in secluded rooms, in a moment of intimacy after lovemaking. In the muted light of a bedroom, for example, a naked lover might tell the woman at her side, "I've heard that linden trees still grow in the streets of Berlin and that there are swans in the lakes."
----- Or else, "In Berlin, the blackbirds sing as the snow falls and you can drink tea from porcelain cups, over linen tablecloths."
----- The fact that Berlin was surrounded by walls didn't discourage anyone: it gave the city the symbolic quality of dreams that so many other places lack.
----- Friends exchanged recipes for strudel as if they were extraordinary poems, and after dark they would scrawl the words der traum in leben on desolate station platforms or metal shutters, almost understanding the language through their intensity of desire.
----- Other people spoke of San Francisco, but a terrible plague destroyed its reputation. Some of the elect were among the victims, and the city sank into a lethargy of shrouds and chloroform, a cancerous cell of the terrestrial roundabout.
----- In some cities, such as Madrid, there was a brief burst of euphoria, like the happiness that precedes death. Other cities, self-absorbed ones like Paris that looked back toward a former glory, were full of indolence.
----- Soon there was nowhere to run and those who fled in the direction of Cairo, Prague, Buenos Aires, or Warsaw did so only with the hope of postponing death slightly. The fall of the cities spread like a patch of oil on the sea.
----- The author of these words, writing in the waning days of the twentieth century, doesn't know if there is a future, if there are cities, if there are readers.