By Kirmen Uribe

Translated by Elizabeth Macklin

from Issue 16: Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed


She asked us for a pocket radio to listen to the news in the hospital.
Politics was sacrosanct for her generation,
we kids had to be quiet as mice
when the news was on, no matter what.

Just a few months before the end of the ceasefire
she got sick. She was worried,
she suspected things would go wrong,
the illness would proceed, in her body and the body politic.
She was born the year the war began,
in ’36,
and hadn’t known a season of peace since then.

One day she turned the pocket radio off.
She didn’t want to be attending to bad news.
Though she tried to be heartening,
"everything will get set to rights,"
I knew—and she did too—
the moment of peace would come to an end.

She didn’t see the end of the peace process.
At first I would turn on her pocket radio,
"everything will get set to rights,"
but the words there kept striking me
as foreign, incomprehensible,
cold as a clinical case history.

Nowadays I don’t turn on the radio.
I’d rather be quiet as mice,
and try to remember her voice.

Kirmen Uribe was born in Ondarroa, a fishing village in Spain’s Basque country. He received an undergraduate degree in Basque philology from the University of the Basque Country. His first collection of poetry, Bitartean heldu eskutik (2001), won Spain’s Premio de la Critica. In addition to his poetry, Uribe has published essays, fiction, comics, and children’s literature. He has worked as a translator, scriptwriter, instructor, and columnist for the Basque-language daily newspaper Berria. His piece for theater, Ekidazu, has been produced by the groups Kukubiltxo and Oskorri. Uribe collaborated with poet-translator Elizabeth Macklin, singer-songwriter Mikel Urdangarin, and musicians Bingen Mendizabal and Rafa Rueda on a multimedia project integrating poetry, prose, video, music, and oral history, which was documented in the CD-books Bar Puerto (2001) and Zaharregia, txikiegia agian (2003).

Elizabeth Macklin was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1952. After studying at the SUNY College at Potsdam and in Spain, she moved to New York City. Her poems, essays and translations have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, Lyra, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. Her translation of Uribe, Meanwhile Take My Hand (2007), was a finalist for the 2008 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. From 1989 to 1991 she was the poetry editor of the monthly magazine Wigwag. She has received an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award (1990) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1994). She currently lives in New York, where she makes her living as a copy editor and proofreader. Her first collection of poems, A Woman Kneeling in the Big City, was published by W. W. Norton in 1992.

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