A Pensive Drowned Man Sometimes Drifts Downriver

Óscar Hahn

Translated from Spanish by G.J. Racz

Santiago, Chile, September 1973

A dead man floats upon this river’s waves and yet another drowned one over there

Now is the time when grandiose symbols take off terrified; look in the water here

and watch another body floating by

Someone runs past and shouts a name in flames that feels its pathway skyward flapping as it falls down thrashing lighting up the night

there goes another drowned man floating by

Fast-flowing and corpse-rich the river is with souls clubbed black and blue down to the bone bedraggled so they might as well be trash

and there’s another body floating by So sleep pale floater drift downriver now and find your rest; the hunchbacked moon will fill the air with hare-besilvered gleams

The dead here hold each other by the hand and walk upon the water silently

Óscar Hahn is one of Chile’s most renowned writers, the author of more than twenty volumes of poetry and collected works. His widely anthologized poems have been translated into English, Greek, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Aymara, and Quechua. Hahn has been the recipient of the Casa de las Américas Prize, Spain’s Loewe Foundation Poetry Award, and the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Award. In 2012, Hahn won Chile’s National Prize for Literature.