Colombia (I)

Andrea Cote
Revista Altazor, 2020

En la guerra del Clorox

Creo que hay dos mundos.
En uno de ellos yo lo limpio todo,
todo el tiempo.
En ese mundo tengo laboriosas rutinas
para purgar el día y sus objetos.
Hablo del polvo -en parte-
la capa que todo lo desborda.
Pero voy más allá del polvo.
Me arrodillo ante las cosas, sea carne, madera,
metal o plástico, todo lo recorro,
lo exprimo, lo enjabono, lo desaguo.
Descubro porosidades hasta en lo más llano y las extraigo.
En esto, siento como los músculos de mi cuerpo se tensionan
cuando bajo hasta una superficie y raspo.
Mis extremidades se llenan
de un líquido negro imaginario
que lleva el nombre de un cierto placer que desconozco.
Yo tengo el control.
Esa sensación entre dedos y muslos
es mi gran posesión inesperada
cada vez que, con mi esponja milenaria,
como un gigante enfurecido raspo,
hasta el resquicio de todo
y lo aliviano, lo desgajo y lo azoto
hasta arrancarle el borde puro,
hurgo una a una entre las cosas
y les saco la muerte que cargan.

Pero en las noches, viajo al otro mundo,
con las manos exhaustas,
descamando por debajo de las uñas
mi piel desprovista de toda superficie,
las manos sin animal
sin el brillo de lo vivo
sin la costra de lo muerto.
En mi sueño intoxicado
por vapores desinfectantes
en la ruta corrosiva de lo limpio,
sueño con las tardes inmundas en que yo era libre.
El tedio, la caída ociosa de una gota sucia,
cuando nadábamos la poceta antihigiénica del otro
y nosotros, los inmundos, comiéndonos las uñas en público,
-tan solo por creerlo- fuimos invencibles.

Cote, Andrea. “En la guerra del Clorox.” Revista Altazor. July 2020.
http://www.revistaaltazor.cl/andrea-cote-3/. Accessed 31 August 2020.


In the Clorox War

I believe there are two worlds.
In one of them I clean everything,
all the time.
In that world I have arduous routines
for clearing out the day and its objects.
I’m talking about dust, in part,
the layer that is brimming over everything.
But I go way beyond dust.
I kneel before all things, be it flesh, wood,
metal or plastic, I go over everything,
I wring out, I lather up, I drain,
I discover little holes even in the smoothest surfaces and I clear them out.
With this, I feel like the muscles in my body grow tense
when I get down to the surface and scrape it.
My extremities fill up
with an imaginary black liquid
that carries the name of a certain pleasure that I do not know.
I have control.
That sensation between my fingers and thighs
is my great unexpected possession
every time that, with my millennial sponge,
I scrape like an enraged giant,
to the remnants of everything
and I smooth it over, I break it off, I pound it
until the pure edge is pulled up,
I rummage through things one by one
and I take out the death they carry.

But at night, I travel to another world,
with worn-out hands,
peeling off from under my fingernails
my skin devoid of everything,
hands without animal
without the sparkle of the living
with the scabs of the dead.
In my dream intoxicated
by disinfectant vapors
in the corrosive route of cleanliness,
I dream of the filthy afternoons in which I was free.
The boredom, the leisurely fall of a dirty droplet,
when we swam the unhygienic tide-pool of the other world
and we, the filthy, biting our fingernails in public,
-so alone for believing so- were invincible.


Andrea Cote (1981-) is a Colombian author from Barrancabermeja who has published several collections of poetry including Puerto calcinado (2003), Cosas frágiles (2010), La ruina que nombro (2015) and En las praderas del fin del mundo (2019). Additionally, she has published two works of prose, Una fotógrafa al desnudo: biografía de Tina Modotti (2005) and Blanca Varela o la escritura de la soledad (2004). She currently teaches creative writing in the Bilingual Master’s Program at University of Texas, El Paso and has translated poets Jericho Brown and Tracey K. Smith into Spanish. She has received accolades including the National Prize of Poetry from the Universidad Externado of Colombia in 2003, the Puentes de Struga International Poetry Prize in 2005 and the Cittá de Castrovillari Prize in 2010. Her works have been translated into several languages including English, French, German, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Macedonian, Arabic, Polish and Greek. 

Cote’s unedited poem was published this summer in Revista Altazor, a Spanish language electronic journal of literature. The poem, which comes during a time of lockdowns, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders, highlights the all too common human tendency toward obsession in moments of heightened stress, boredom or confinement. As the poetic voice underscores, routine acts of cleaning are a paradoxical endeavor. While they channel our attention, and even our most neurotic tendencies, acts of cleaning can be laborious, painstaking and physically draining. In captivating our attention to detail, cleaning can lead us down a spiral that is both productive and destructive. Cote’s poem, thus, speaks to a collective desire for catharsis, no doubt heightened in our current circumstances as we strive to stay safe and healthy, but also busy.

Translated and prepared by Mai Hunt

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