Jun 162015
 

Lady Rojas Benevente

 

Lady Rojas Benavente’s poetry fuses her countless — and sometimes clashing — identities as a Peruvian-Québecoise woman, who immigrated to Canada in the seventies and has lived in the interstices of various nations ever since. While some of her poems evoke a certain nostalgia for an idyllic childhood in Peru or describe the country’s history and its Incan culture, others are starkly candid about the realities of the immigrant experience and existence as the proverbial “Other.” In the poems chosen for Numéro Cinq, Lady Rojas Benavente playfully depicts her upbringing, schooling and first teaching jobs. Her meticulous manipulation of the sounds of the Spanish language is difficult to render into English so the translations are instead instilled with a teasing tone. These poems come from Rojas Benavente’s collection L’Étoile d’eau/Estrella de Agua published in 2006 by France’s prestigious L’Harmattan in a bilingual (Spanish and French) edition translated by Nicole Barré.

—Sophie M. Lavoie

.

Monterrico

Encierro interior
biblioteca redonda
leo a Rilke,
y me imagino
a Beauvoir
encima de Sartre.

Pasadizos circulares
donde recorren
mozas detrás de los monjes
y se les agria la leche
entre las piernas.

Confesionario barroco
he pecado padre,
peco con mi hermano,
y pecaré hijo mío.

Comedor gigante
saciamos
los vientres
cuartos que engordan
mañana,
tarde
y noche.

Auditorio inmenso
lucimos
la fe
en la música
la esperanza
en la religión
y la caridad
no me acuerdo para quién.

Patio al aire libre
se anuncia
que tomaron
a los guerrilleros
que cayó Heraud en su río
y todos los comunistas.

A santiguarse,
a comulgar,
a rogar por todos los maleados
y en especial por mí
pecadora entre los hombres.

.

Monterrico

Interior seclusion
round library
I read Rilke,
and imagine
Beauvoir
on top of Sartre.

Circular alleys
where lasses
run behind the monks
and the milk turns sour
between their legs.

Baroque confessional
father I have sinned,
I sin with my brother,
and I will sin, my son.

Gigantic dining hall
we sated
our tummies
rooms that get fatter
morning,
afternoon
and night.

Immense auditorium
we show off
our faith
in the music
the hope
in religion
and charity
I don’t remember who for.

Open air courtyard
it is announced
that they caught
the guerrilla fighters
that Heraud fell in his river
with all the communists.

Off to cross yourself,
to take communion,
to pray
for all the degenerate
and especially for me
sinner amongst men.

(Note: Javier Heraud Pérez was a guerrilla fighter and poet who died at the age of 21 (1963), fighting with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) in Perú.)

.

Chorrillos

Atrás el malecón de Chorrillos
y las jóvenes
se hechizan en sus mareas.
Sus bustos se mecen
y en el vaivén del agua
giran sus cometas.

Leemos Trilce
Vallejo les guiña abiertamente
“Y hembra es el alma de la ausente.
Y hembra es el alma mía”
les hace cosquillas
“Lavandera del alma…
que sí puede…
azular y planchar todos los caos.”

Cerca el bramido alocado
de todos los suspiros
una se ahogó de pena
y se lanzó en el corazón de la ballena
con un grito hembra
de tres agonías.

Las monjas rezan,
callan,
anotan,
sepultan,
ríen,
Cristo continúa
en su cruz.

La primera espina ajena
se grava
en el pizarrón inmenso
de mis veintiún años.

.

Chorrillos

Beyond Chorrillo’s pier
young girls
become bewitched by the tides.
Their busts rock
and with the water’s swaying
their comets swirl about.

We read Trilce
Vallejo winks at them openly
“And female is the soul of the absent-she.
And female is my own soul.”
he tickles them
“laundress of the soul…
yes she can…
blue and iron all the chaoses.”[1]

Not far the wild roar
of all the sighs
one girl suffocated from sorrow
and threw herself into the belly of the whale
with a feminine shriek
of three agonies.

The nuns pray,
hush,
take notes,
bury,
laugh,
Christ remains
on his cross.

The first foreign thorn
damages
the immense blackboard
of my twenty-one years.

.

Río Rímac

Tu agua golpea los pedrones
y corre veloz
por tu cintura limeña.
Coqueteas
silbando entre la maleza.

Colegio del Rímac
tu vaho de letrinas
me revuelve
la papa a la huancaína.
Los muchachos duermen
sobre las carpetas.
No hay psicología
ni lógica
que los despierte
después de ocho jornadas.

Visto minifalda
y me pifean,
les crece el macho.
Señorita
qué quiere decir
polución
y sueño latente
y sexo?

En un instante eterno,
la sierra calla
te seca la matriz
ya no hay cauce
sino un basural inmenso
que como gangrena
va borrando tu “fina estampa”.

Los chicos giran alrededor
de la loca,
la acorralan,
la pellizcan, la manosean.
Un día se desaparece.
Se cuelga
del cable del televisor
que le regaló su mecenas.

Lloro al joven-niña
mirándote Rímac
con tu pus a cuestas.

.

Rímac River

Your water hits the pebbles
and runs quickly
skirting Lima.
You dillydally
swishing through the brush.

Rímac middle school
a whiff of your latrines
shakes up
my Huancayo-style potatoes.
The children sleep
on their binders.
There is no psychology
nor logic
that will wake them
after eight workdays.

I wear a miniskirt
and they jeer at me,
their manliness grows.
Miss
what do wet dream
and suppressed desire
and sex
mean?

In an eternal instant,
the mountains are speechless
your spring dries up
there is no longer any riverbed
but a huge heap of garbage
like gangrene
gradually expunges your “elegant fascia.”

The boys encircle
the crazy lady,
corral her,
pinch her, grope her.
One day she disappears.
She hangs herself
with the television cable,
a gift from her benefactor.

I weep for the young girl
watching you, Rímac,
burdened by your purulence.

—Lady Rojas translated by Sophie M. Lavoie

.

Lady Rojas Benavente is a Professor at Concordia University. Her PhD (1991) is in Hispanic Literature from Laval University and her current research on Peruvian Women’s Narratives: Violence, Racism and Gender in National Post-Independence was funded by SSHRC (2011 – 2014). She has published 8 books (2 of which are poetry) and over 50 articles in Latin American women’s literary work, especially on Peruvian and Mexican authors. She is president of the Society for Literary Criticism of Spanish American Women Writers’ work (CCLEH) and has served as a Board member of several publications such as Alba de América, a literary journal from the US, and Voces, a Peruvian cultural magazine. She lives in Laval, QC.

sophie lavoie

Sophie M. Lavoie conducts research in the areas of women’s writing and social change in Central America and the Caribbean. Her studies focus on women in contemporary Nicaragua during the first Sandinista era (1970-1990), but she is also interested in other revolutionary movements in the area, such as Cuba and El Salvador and in women’s writing in Latin America. Her current research project focuses on the link between women’s writing, empowerment, and revolutionary action during the Sandinista era in Nicaragua. She has published articles in Canadian Women’s Studies/les cahiers de la femme, Pandora, Centroamericana, Cahiers d’Etudes Romanes and Descant. She is Associate Professor at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, NB where she teaches Spanish and Latin American Cinema.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Vallejo, César. The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition. Clayton Eshleman, Ed. & Trans. Berkely/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007.

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