Catapult | Poetry


when his niece asks / tell me about Chía, the answer is always just: it’s a long story / but I think what you’re telling me, is that language is an inadequate grieving

Catapult magazine · Listen to Dora Prieto read this poem


uncle, today I spoke with your neurologist
and I translated what he said for you

folded paper instructions with dosages

when he says that the medication will likely have no effect

translation is empathy, but I am uneasy about these choices

  but this is a third death, after a war-torn childhood

why not war-shattered, mirror multiplied
  war-sunk to the bottom of an ocean 
  war-broken and planted in the earth
  war-drenched in our red velvet-lined insides

a man with no childhood kills his memories and when his niece asks

but I think what you’re telling me, is that language is an inadequate grieving

here, you are using language against itself—choosing to kill it back, with a heavy tongue

  but this is a third death, after immigration / to an implication nation

there is a system where the Ontario government pays directly for the taxi and neurologist

translation is empathy, but it is also complicity / uncle, can we refuse this ‘kindness’?

I read the wikipedia page for Las Violencias:

my name, an iterative process: gracias d-d-d-d-do-do-do-dor-dor-dori-dorit-dorita

  45 years in Toronto and still no Inglish.


Editor’s noteLanguage is an inadequate grieving and yet it’s all we have. This is the paradox at the core of Dora PrietoPepe. Grief is a problem for translation, Prieto implies, especially so when one straddles the threshold of multiple worlds and languages (when one inhabits the threshold rather than simply moving across it). We do not place an embargo on emotion, though. The acts of translating between Spanish and English, between the poetic and the domestic, between the past and the presentthese are ways, however minor or fleeting, of making claim to the world. The speaker of Prietos poem carves open space for an ailing family member without Inglish.In so doing, he is afforded a lyric subjectivity. It is a gesture whose love is so enormous I feel changed having borne witness to it.

— Billy-Ray Belcourt, poetry editor