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Sleepless Homeland

. . .

Did we lose you in a game of dice?

Did you escape from us in one snort?

In which junkie's syringe did you become trapped, my Homeland?

Maybe some Nordic addict's?

When did they brand you with the mark of the pill that gives short-lived pleasure?

I'm addicted to you, stamped with your indelible mark.

My Homeland,

once eloquent, now you stutter,

stutter daily,

ever more alive,

voracious, arrogant

like the mouth of an open wound!

In the shadows you behave like a trollop,

you sell each part of yourself for the pleasure of others,

wearing dark glasses,

you sing along to the accordion and tamborines,

until you're hoarse.

In bed you feign pleasure but feel pain.

(And sometimes you make music without poisoning others with your own flesh.)

(And sometimes, my Homeland, you laugh without making yourself hoarse.)

¿Quo vadis?

Where did you fall, sleepless homeland,

like the star in the story,

like the drunk woman who crashed into a lamppost?

Your flesh is denser,

more austere,

more solid,

more real,

can be compressed into a thimble,

or the embroidery on that blouse.

No doubt you exist, no question.

But where are you?

Through the smoke of a war that sullies us all,

in which no one

but mercenaries


—the bullets that fly have no conviction,

they're on the payroll of the fed, the state, some drug lord . . .

rounds of bullets for hire.

You're slipping away from us, Homeland in flight.

(Your honeyed


of rounds of bullets for hire.)

(Your breath of garlic and chocolate and chiles.)

(Your pestle-and-mortar breath

of garlic and honey and chiles and pepper and cinnamon.)

(Your breath of sacrificial stone,

of blood, of a heart still beating.)

I love her anyway

My land, my water, my roots, my tree trunks and flowers,

stony, feminine islet,

mine, mine, as only you can be,

quintessential Mother,

I call to you from another island without stones,

or serpents,

where the eagle and the hedgehog work together,

planning to devour you.

. . .


We have made cactus

stew of my Homeland!

A delicious soup of pleasures

for foreigners.

Cactus: ecstasy, meth, and everything else.)

From Sleepless Homeland (Madrid: Hiperion, 2011). © 2011 by Carmen Boullosa. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Samantha Schnee. All rights reserved.