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domestic defeats


it must have been very hard
beheading eels
without cutting your fingers
twisting to avoid the scales
of sea bream
escaping through the slip knot of the bed sheets


such wars you fought
in the dim nights
against the chick-peas
growing monstrous in the water
and picking lentils from grains of rice
what a ridiculous task!
such helplessness
when the boiled milk overflows


and if the din of the frying pans
stopped you hearing music
if your French and German
were in vain against the grease on the stove
and the pipes sounded like babies
or seagulls and the potatoes stuck
to the bottom of the pot


why are you smiling in the photographs


(In To the wind our sails, 2010; From Catalogue of poisons, translated by Mary O’Malley)



sharpened only
against onion or potato
for about other enemies
we do not know


knives       blades
flashing around the house
edges over which some days
acrobats inebriated on weariness
we walk barefooted


the blood in the knife
is only yours    only mine
a mistake while
slicing bread
it is not
the last dragon’s blood
nor does it grant magic powers


be careful not to lick the blood
on the knife
instead of hearing thoughts
you may hurt your tongue


I know of what I speak
I payed the price of tasting the blood
with a split tongue


(Catalogue of poisons, 1999; author’s translation)

the bamboo labyrinth


of the bamboo labyrinth
today slender reed       tomorrow cage bar
of its multitude of stakes


(Catalogue of poisons, 1999; author’s translation)

Time ago they were used
to drink the father's blood,
the crooked handle certifies the meanness,
hook on the stump, incomplete hand.
Forgotten the awful rite,
on these days they hardly burn throats.


(Olería de Buño, Catálogo 1998)

the apples chide from the grass


corpses' sweet rotting
of ruined apples
red flesh from wounded
in a war outside the orchard
burst open by absence's fuse
an apple breaks from within
so tear up brains
it doesn't matter whether they hold
wisdom or sin
in the orchard there are no snakes left
and even bees
were not warned
when required


the apples fell because their time
had arrived
from the grass they scream their reproaches


(Belying Spring, 1999; author’s translation)

sweeping up the ashes




the fire lit in the hearth
four centuries ago will die out
and I will not pick up the half burned log
that has fallen from your hand


I will sweep away the ashes at night
even if it drives away the ancestors
their sould bleeding clots of memories
as they flee


if the chimney swallows its words of smoke
screaming in the silence
of the the lonely house do not reproach me
why me out of five brothers?


the firewood in the shed
will grow new roots
they will clutch the earth again
without a soul to burn them


in the kitchen the fire fails to warm
the echoes of your voice still beat
reading book after book             sowing
us with the seeds of the wind


(In To the wind our sails, 2010; From Belying Spring, translated by Mary O’Malley)

(Note: in Galician folklore it is believed that the hearth ashes should never be swept at night, because wandering souls gather there)

Mensaxe ao mar



under the hazel trees
that in the silver age
were taller
or maybe we were small as mushrooms
we danced in the waning moon


before tearing off the three hoods
the three fruits the three sisters
we counted on living forever together
we believed that the tartness
of green almonds
would never turn to wood
that the mirror in the mandorla
would always be propitious


it took us a long time to learn about
the stick lash in our backs
the fruit thrown out to divide us
the gossip of wind in the leaves
the prussic acid


(From An Alphabet of trees, 2006; author’s translation)

the head eaters


To the winds I unfurled all my sails

Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV, 176-177



when we eat fish heads
we know
we are children of the naiads
who carry saltpetre in our veins
–sometimes we use it to make gunpowder–
the less said the better
about those swellings above our ears
on stormy days
they are gills


when receiving our communion of fish heads
we claim our heritage of fish-bones
we reclaim them in the throat
in the veins
as they send the words of poems
circling along their cunning trajectories


there was a time when we ate raw fish
we breathed underwater
we shared five-armed symmetry
with sea urchins and starfish
we swam faster than squid


in order to cross the seas these days
we have to trust ourselves
to the North eastern wind in our sails


(In To the wind our sails, 2010; From Shiftings, translated by Mary O’Malley)

the kitchen’s territory


Some jump in deep cauldrons
Some crackle in the spikes, the room is dripping in blood

Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, 645-646


the kitchen was decreed
your territory
so there you could rule
over the geometry of potatoes
the alignment of frying-pans
the strict calibre of flour


nobody contends with Progne
about dressing her son’s bits
before skew them for roasting
some view it as a vengeance against Tereo
others as a signal of hospitality


then: Whom to call to account
if your hands are tied up with the napkins?
the cuts in your fingers bear evidence of love
the onion, nothing else, is the cause of tears
you yourself raised picket fences with forks


when lovingly you chop up fingers, ears
browning them with parsley and marjoram
when you mix the blood in the pancakes’ batter
do not forget to place in the middle of the dish
the delicate breasts
to season the sex with spices
your own way, the kitchen
is your territory, your kingdom


(From Shiftings, 2007; author’s translation)

(Note: At some places in Galicia the pancakes’ batter is mixed with the pigs' blood)

Circe to Odysseus

Bristles sprang up all over me and
devoid of speech, I uttered instead
a hoarse murmur
as my mouth stiffened, becoming a cursed snout

Ovid, Metamorphoses, XI, 280-283


it is I, the wise woman,
who listens to the blackthorn's voice
who tames the nettle and serves the stramony’s juice
who unleashes water from the clouds
and slashes the nor'easter’s belly
with my tin-plate sickle


it is I, the woman
with the nerve
to proposition men before they ask,
the one with a bed for all comers
who runs a tickling hand down your back
as she steers among sails of sheet


I've put nothing in your sailors
that wasn't there before
I made them seers
watching the swine within them
grunting in their true voices
snuffling about in the dirt
as is their wont


when you desert my bed
to bruit abroad your conquests
and boast about your wiles
you'll fight in vain to rid your skin
of  the invisible mark of my tongue


(in the journal Metamorphoses, 2014; from Shiftings, translated by Carys Evans-Corrales)



Nothing will be withheld from them which they purpose to do.
Come, let us go down and confound their speech.

Book of Genesis, 11, 7



our tongue was stuck to the palate
it writhed in cramps
tore by the relentless edge
of heavenly mechanics


the synapses between neurones
unhooked their tendrils
blocking the way between thought
and word
new alloy hooks
fastened onto the raw nerves


we spat incomprehensible words
a foreign syntax ravaged our throat
in our ears howled insipid gusts
hurting like barbs
the tongue pounded against the teeth
groping in search
of alveolar and nasal sounds


a vengeful god
wrenched our language
he was afraid that from us
nothing would be withheld


since that day he wanders, confounded
without anyone to whom give orders
not knowing if we invoke him
with prayers or with curses


(From Unwriting, 2016; author’s translation)

the violin strings


they pull out the strings on your violin
from my guts
for the E string
they used three vocal cords
handed over in exchange
for two legs


as everything else in the whales’ body
catgut is versatile
it may vibrate creating
complex harmonies
or threaded
suture the cut
of the surgeon


(From Unwriting, 2016; author’s translation)