El Salvador Tragic: 10 Roque Dalton Poems from 3 Books

1 February 2013
The Warrior's Resting Place

The dead are getting more restless each day.

They used to be easy
we’d put on stiff collars flowers
praised their names on long lists 
shrines of the homeland
remarkable shadows
monstrous marble.

The corpses signed away for posterity
returned to formation
and marched to the beat of our old music.

But not anymore
the dead
have changed.

They get all ironic
they ask questions.

It seems to me they’ve started to realise
they’re becoming the majority!


Spite Homeland you don’t exist you’re just a bad outline of myself words of the enemy I believed Before I used to believe you were so small you reached neither north nor south but now I know you don’t exist and it doesn’t seem as though anybody needs you I haven’t heard any mothers speak of you That makes me happy because it proves I made up a country although I might end up in an institution for it Then I am a little god at your coast (I mean: if I am an expatriate you are an ex-country)
OAS The president of my country these days is called Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez but General Somoza, the president of Nicaragua is also president of my country. And General Stroessner, the president of Paraguay, is somewhat president of my country too, though not as       much as the president of Honduras, General Lopez Arellano, but a bit more than the president of       Haiti, Monsieur Duvalier. And the president of the United States is more president of       my country than the president of my country, the one who, as I said, these days is called Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez.
Looking for Trouble The night of my first political cell meeting it rained my way of dripping was celebrated by four or five characters straight out of a Goya painting everyone in the room looked slightly bored maybe of the persecution and even of the torture they       dreamed of daily. Founders of confederations and strikers had a certain huskiness and said that I had to choose a pseudonym that I had to pay five bucks a month that we agreed to meet every Wednesday and how was I going with my studies and that today we were going to ready a Lenin pamphlet and that we didn’t need to say comrade all the time. It had stopped raining when we finished mum told me off for getting home late.
I Stink I smell like the colour of mourning on those days when flowers wilt due to their price like a poor man dying in a drought with the certainty that it will soon rain. I smell like the history of a small catastrophe that has kept all the corpses I smell like an old mess turned into faith its great flame anointed with respect. I smell like too far from the sea I don’t make excuses I’ll die a little bit from this smell I smell like meagre condolences like pale shadow like dead house. I smell like the sweat of iron like dust land-sliding in the moonlight like a bone left at the entrance to the labyrinth in the dawn vapours. I smell like an animal only known to me faint over velvet I smell like a child’s bad drawing like eternity no-one would look for. I smell like when it’s too late for anything.
On Headaches It’s great being a communist although it gives you many headaches. Because communists’ headaches are historical, that is they won’t go away with painkillers only with the realisation of Paradise on Earth. That’s how it is. Under capitalism our heads hurt and our heads are ripped off. In the struggle for Revolution the head is a delayed-action bomb. In the construction of socialism we plan for the headache which doesn’t alleviate it – quite the contrary. Communism will be, among other things, an aspirin the size of the sun.
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