Flowering Fires / Fuegos Florales

ISBN 978-0-9859468-4-5  

by Alicia Partnoy (translated by Gail Wronsky)

Recipient of first annual Settlement House American Poetry Prize

Read Grace Cavalieri’s review in the Washington Independent Review of Books. 
Read Seth Michelson’s review in The Innisfree Poetry Journal.

ALICIA PARTNOY is a survivor from the secret detention camps where about 30,000 Argentineans "disappeared." Following her released from the detention camp, Partnoy immigrated to the United States as a refugee in 1979. She is the author of The Little School: Tales of Disappearance and Survival and of the poetry collections Little Low Flying/Volando bajito and Revenge of the Apple/Venganza de la manzana. She is the editor of You Can't Drown the Fire: Latin American Women Writing in Exile. From 2003 to 2006, she was co-editor of Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social. Partnoy's work has been published in more than twenty anthologies and in journals in the U.S. and abroad. A former Vice-Chair of Amnesty International, she is an associate professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Loyola Marymount University. After twenty years of circulation in English, the original manuscript of her tales about being "disappeared" in Argentina was published in her native country as La Escuelita-Relatos testimoniales in 2006. Partnoy presides over Proyecto VOS-Voices of Survivors, an organization that brings survivors of state sponsored violence to lecture at U.S. colleges and universities.

GAIL WRONSKY is the author or coauthor of ten books of poetry and prose, includingDying for Beauty (Copper Canyon Press), Poems for Infidels (Red Hen Press), So Quick Bright Things (What Books), and a translation of Alicia Partnoy's book Volando bajito/Little Low Flying (Red Hen Press). She has a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Utah and an MFA from the Uni- versity of Virginia. She currently teaches at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

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Excerpts from  Flowering Fires / Fuegos Florales

Excerpts from Flowering Fires / Fuegos Florales

Song of the Muleteer Woman in the U.S.A.

It isn't easy
to go herding the dead
like cattle
through land where
there seems never to have been
dead like these.
blue eyes exude
something like terror:
the thought of giving life
for a great idea
(greater than oneself)
is something that confounds
even the most cautious.

My dead are not mine:
I call them by their names,
they number in the thousands
and they overwhelm me
and they pull their tricks.

One of these days
they might drop out of my sight
perhaps under the guise
of a vocation to join
with others of their own
making and circumstance,
with others who have not reached
high status or hierarchy
before all those
stunned and blue eyes
until some poet decides
to say he speaks for them.


Coplas de arriera en los U.S.

No es nada fácil
andar arreando muertos
como ganado
por tierras donde
parece que ha habido
nunca muertos como éstos.
ojos claros destilan
algo como un gran miedo:
eso de dar la vida
por una idea grande
(más grande que uno mismo)
es cosa que confunde
hasta al más precavido.

Mis muertos no son míos: 
los nombro por sus nombres,
los numero de a miles
y ellos se me desbordan
y me hacen de las suyas.

Un día de éstos puede
que me larguen en banda
alegándome acaso
vocación solidaria
con otros de su misma
hechura y circunstancia,
con otros que no adquieren
jerarquía ni estatus
frente a todos los ojos
asombrados y azules
hasta que algún poeta
dice que habla por ellos. 


To Summarize

(Reflection in the light and warmth of Gonzalez Tuñón and of the mother of a Sandinista martyr)

All of us practice
a more or less generous way
of turning ourselves into the center of the world.

In the air we draw
arrows that say:
me, me, look at me,
love me, me,
look for me.

I live. I give. I remember.

Sometimes, not too often,
maybe a mother fallen, away from her children
or a compañero knocked out of
an unfinished revolution, 
will rip apart the watermelon of his chest
right in front of us
and reveal to us
that explosion of tiny black seeds:
Watch them, those people, love them,
look for them.

They live, they give, they remember.
They are the numberless center
at the center of myself that is not me.

If, in spite of that,
we continue to practice
a more or less generous way
of turning ourselves into the center of the world,
so much for us.


Sen resumidas cuentas

(Reflexión a la lumbre de González Tuñón y de la madre de un mártir sandinista)

Todos ensayamos
una forma más o menos generosa
de convertirnos en el centro del mundo.

Dibujamos en el aire
flechas que dicen:
a mí, mírenme a mí,
quiéranme a mí, 
búsquenme a mí.

Yo vivo. Yo entrego. Yo recuerdo.

Algunas veces, no muchas,
tal vez una madre caída de sus hijos
o un compañero desmontado
de una revolución a medias,
se desgaja la sandía del pecho
ante nosotros
y señala
esa explosión de semillitas negras:
a ellos, mírenlos, quiéranlos,

Ellos viven, entregan, ellos recuerdan.
Ellos son el centro innumerable
del centro mismo que no soy yo.

Y si, a pesar de eso,
seguimos ensayando
una forma más o menos generosa
de convertirnos en el centro del mundo,
allá nosotros.