For those who are buried alive is my translation of the second book of poetry written by Esdras Parra; she titled the book Antigüedad del frío, but since nothing in English really expresses that I chose to borrow from one of her lines for the English-language title.
I translated two of Parra's poetry books - her first, much longer work titled Este suelo secreto, and her final book, Aún no, published in 2004, the same year she passed away - before getting to this one simply because I connected with the other two more closely in my early readings. I wasn't sure what to think about this book. Her first poetry book was a monumental effort, nearly two hundred pages of poetry, which made sense considering that it was her first major publication in many years. In fact, it was her first book after returning to Venezuela amid great controversy surrounding her gender transition and in some way it must have been a response or a refusal to respond in a certain way to those events. And, along those same lines, I was also able to approach her final book from the ways it seemed marked by the context in which it was written: it seemed a more brief, more fragmentary, more rough, and less cohesive work than her previous poetry, which made sense considering that she was ill for much of her last year of life and, with respect to that final book, had perhaps not had enough time to finish.
For those who are buried alive exists midway between those two books, a complete expression of the height of Parra's poetic work. I won't pretend to understand this book yet, the journey it undertakes between the interlocking landscapes of the body, the land, memory, and time, but I'll share some of what I have sensed in it so far. There is anguish, anxiety, and anger, first of all. But for all the suffering given voice here there is an equal amount of reflection and rebellion. For Parra, no matter how much she curses and rejects hope, she never fully abandons it; and, in these poems, we find salvation in the knowledge that there is always another morning, always another move to make. As Parra writes in this prose poem (found on p30): But the game goes on, I make words from it other lives, some nostalgia, a breeze, I take the pulse of the mountainsides, there I plant the holes, clear the dust, carry the earth toward another morning, tear the silence from my ribcage, I introduce a fist in its place.