5 Poems by Hael Lopez, Translated from Spanish by Ariel Francisco

PARALLEL (05.17)

5 A.M.

I was small.
It would’ve taken my entire life
to traverse the days dividing us.
Imagine me two centimeters tall anxiously screaming from the floor.
Imagine a wet ant trying,
step by step,
to reach the temple.

I was just a face pressed against the window of a taxi
parked on the corner.
And the voices
and the laughter
and your footsteps
and your plans
and the constant motion
everything distant, behind a dense fog just for me,
    covered in spiderwebs
    made of silence
    of late arrivals
    always so late
    always out of time.
Because my two centimeters travel this spiraling world.

Imagine rain seen from afar.
Imagine a young tree falling.
The three hundred ninety-three miles between my breath
and your occupied senses,
between your fingers swaying in the wind
and my shadow condemned by noon.
At time’s center.

Imagine a dried leaf breaking
when you kiss it goodbye.
Imagine my fingers breaking and my pen falling
on a pile of unwritten letters.
I was an ant sitting in the last row
    that no one heard clapping
    that no one saw fall.
A nobody, asleep on the train,
dreaming of your home's secret passages.

Imagine me speaking without saying anything.
Moving my lips while your ears fill with sea.
I was ash, floating
from something no one burned.
And the echo grows weaker and finally exhausts
entombed in my stomach
hidden in my stomach.

The hand that waves from afar
Words erased from the blackboard
Parallel line and longing
    two centimeters
    two millimeters
    two light years.

Imagine an official nothing and I’m nothing.
A special nothing.
An intangible body in front of yours
almost inside, but no.
A sleepless nightmare.
Dirt clinging to a shoe.

Imagine eyes the color of deception staring at the floor
with my spine still shaking


1 (05.17)

If I could choose
I’d choose to be taller
and have no feet
so as not to step on ants

I’d choose to change my name
to one you’ve never pronounced 
and change it again with the weather
or the color of the wind

If I could
I’d choose to be something that flowers
instead of this flesh
always decadent

I’d choose to be anything else
like a fish who commits suicide
just to see the sky
or a cat with no survival instinct

If I could, life,
I’d choose to observe you
when no ones near
when the crickets don’t know they have an audience

I’d choose to have softer hands
that know how to swim without fear
and an elephant heart
to not fear when the path ends
to trust.

2 (08.17)

Everything is the sun’s fault
and the Earth’s spinning
we could’ve been only night
or only sea

We could’ve been a fairytale
and not so human
we could’ve been happy hybrids
and nothing human,

It’s the atmospheric pressure’s fault
we could’ve been born
with a dance in our blood
or destined for the sunset
instead of this collection of bones
that can barely move
in this space
and fears time

An ebbing room
we could’ve been
feathers flying on their own
another history in another time
we could’ve been
instead of being sad and old humans,
instead of being the children
of untimeliness.


Sad tomorrows.

I wake up and walk to my broken mirror.
Dark bags under my eyes: where frustrated dreams pile up.
Wrinkles: paths for my tears.
Smile: falling and rising. Falling and not rising.
Falling and making a home of the floor.

I mark past laughter on the calendar.
There’s a hurricane in my head:
words, moments, dreams, yearning,
all swirling together to create another reality
in which you are here and not here.
In which I am here and not here.
In which we all dance over the pieces
of an old defeated heart.

This ink on the page is more trustworthy
than the trace of your kiss on my skin.

The paths inertia pulls us towards
take us to new ruins of old palaces,
to overwhelming rivers swallowing villages,
to the park bench where I left my doll
(and she's still there, crying because she can't remember who she misses).

This rain of ideas is a storm.
This lonely moment is full of ghosts
with keys to every door
that don’t ask permission to enter.

And I remember how weak I am to your name.
And I stop looking at the mirror
when I notice there’s no reflection.
I pull my hair and fill with grief,
but it’s late
and if I don’t fill in time
I fall into the void.
If I sleep on the way
I awake there with you.

Where will my tired feet take me
when the door of reality opens
and the evil shining sun melts the world?
Where does the night go when it’s scared
and why does it forget the promises it inspired us to give?

Hazy moments shine,
I hide in your closed eyes.

Letters don’t know how to get comfortable.
They stare at me perplexed from the otherside of the glass
and I lower my gaze
I have no answers.

The day leaves masked.
Between looking at nothing and silence’s failure,
between trained and practiced words.
But some songs never end.
And I don’t see you by my side,
dancing a drunken rhythm
singing other sorrows that confuse the heart.

I can see you in my waist,
I can see you drying my tears,
I can see you turning a flame on and off.
I can see you shaking
and I can see me next to you
thinking of this moment and this place.

Lost in the mess of the past, future, and present.
Lost in sighs.
Lost in entranceless labyrinths.
Something shines in the sky, frightening the floor.
I wake up from the daydream and so does my anxiety.

I go out to look for us.
I find rain.
And the whole world enters me through my skin's thirsty pores. 

GHOST (09.15)

I watch you in silence from the comfort of my memories.
Like the shadow that relieves you
halfway through the workday.
The shadow that hides
the way through night
and sends a shiver up your spine.
I watch you like this, calm,
a tear plunging
down into the depths of me.
A tear searching
for the river of you.
Landscapes withered by time.
I am your ghost.
The ghost of what you felt.
I am the echo of the words spoken through your eyes,
of the words your mouth
marked on my skin.
I am time consuming you.
Following your steps like a faithful dog.
I watch you with fogged eyes
and the cadaver of your smile on my lips,
healing your wounds
that are also my wounds.
With trembling hands caressing
the trail of your scent.
I am the wind that calls to you at dawn
and turns you in the street
to confront nothing.
I am the empty in your stomach
and the intermittent nights of wakefulness.
I am the nostalgia that fills your songs,
I am the rain flooding your corners,
spark that inflames
your past until it’s ashes.
I watch you like a graying dream.
An entire universe unplugged
at the moment you wake up
shaken in your bed.

SIX YEARS (10.16)

My tragedy is a secret
so no one steals your name.

Every now and then I ask myself
if I should thank the night
that you didn’t get the chance to know fear:
that you denied to bleed out ahead of time,
that death took you by surprise.
That this shit life didn’t take your innocence.

Your home continues here.
Not your house with its crumbled door
and disrupted routine,
not that one.
But your home continues here,
in my empty arms,
the pain in my back.
In the silence I guard like a promise.

You’ll always be as young as I remember you
and feign at flying,
dream of growing and sailing.
I hope no one wakes you!
I hope the bombs don’t shorten your night.
I hope there are always stars in your skies
so you won’t fear any darkness.

Here is your home:
your crib,
my secret tragedy.
It belongs to no date and no flag.
It’s mine forever.

I count the tears
so they won't wash your face from my eyes.
I hide them in my cracked lips,
in my forgotten smile.
I hide it in my silence
so the wind won't blow it away,
so no one steals your name from me.

Author and Translator Bios


Hael Lopez is the author of Rutinas/Despedidas (Sion Editorial, 2018). Born in 1994 in Guatemala City, she now lives in El Tejar, Chimaltenango. She’s studying Sociology and has been featured in readings and festivals in Guatemala City, Chimaltenango, Sumpango, and Xela. Her poems have appeared (in translation) in New England Review, Guernica, Poetry Northwest and elsewhere.


Ariel Francisco is the author of Under Capitalism If Your Head Aches They Just Yank Off Your Head (Flowersong Press, 2022), A Sinking Ship is Still a Ship (Burrow Press, 2020) and All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press, 2017). A poet and translator born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents and raised in Miami, his work has been published in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The New York City Ballet, Latino Book Review, and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Louisiana State University.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top