Naturaleza Muerta / Still Life

Photo by Lenka Dzurendova on Unsplash

Carlos Llaza: For many years, the garden has been the main feature of my parents’ house. There are fruit trees, flowers, herbs, a greenhouse full of vegetables, beehives; you name it. All this life, of course, is closely connected to rot and decay. The poem is concerned with the way in which rotting matter nourishes the soil, but also with the effects of decay in the speaker’s internal world.

Dorothy Lawrenson: This poem has such a redolent sense of place! There are no Scots words for olives or avocados, but I was pleased to be able to enlist that marvellous word for rubber, cahootchie. It’s a corruption of the French caoutchouc, which derives from a South American indigenous language. In the Tupi language spoken in the far North of Peru, the word is caú-uchú.

Scroll down to see a video of poet and translator reading this poem, with English subtitles.

Naturaleza Muerta
por Carlos Llaza

Mi madre separa los desechos vegetales
para tirarlos en los panteones
que ocupan el jardín.

Son dos rectángulos que albergan huesos
de aceituna, corazones de palta,
ojos de papa, esqueletos de púrpura.

Los ocupantes están cubiertos
de moho blanco y verde.
Las tumbas huelen a trago dulce. 

Sé que en la calle las ratas hurgan 
cuerpos de jebe, mientras en casa la nube de moscas 
viene al asalto de mi cabeza.

Still Life
owerset intae Scots bi Dorothy Lawrenson

Ma mither redds the kitchen smatters
tae fling them in thae howffs
that bide in the gairden.

Thon ur twa kists that haud herts
o avocados, olive stanes, the een
o tatties, shells o snails.

The bodies are happit
wi white an green foost.
The lairs reek o sweet leecure.

In the close, Aa ken the rats are reeshlin
shanks o cahootchie-wood, whiles ben the hoose
a feck o flees yokes wi ma heid.

Still Life
translated into English by Carlos Llaza and Dorothy Lawrenson

My mother separates the vegetable waste
to throw it in the sepulchres
that occupy the garden.

They are two rectangles that harbour
olive stones, avocado hearts,
potato eyes, skeletons of purple vermin.

The occupants are covered
with white and green mould.
The tombs smell of sweet liquor.

I know that in the street the rats rummage through
corpses of rubber, while at home the cloud of flies
keeps on haunting my head.


  1. Enjoying the richness of the three different versions side by side! While I have but small Spanish, I have enough Latin to appreciate aspects of the language – and the parallel texts supply what I need here.

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