Carlos Llaza: My uncle Max has been an important part of my life ever since I can remember. Many of my fondest childhood memories involve Max’s wit and loud laughter. I’ve always admired the freedom with which he lived. Knowledgeable and charismatic, he was loved and cared for wherever he went. Unsurprisingly, cats and dogs were always around him. He passed away in early 2020. To be fair, lockdowns were not his thing.
Dorothy Lawrenson: What a great character! I’d love to have the chance to go flying kites with Uncle Max. I’ve rendered him as a lad-o-pairts, though I understand that in Peruvian slang the word todista means not just a jack-of-all-trades but also someone who enjoys a dram or three.
Scroll down to see a video of poet and translator reading this poem, with English subtitles.
Cometa en Ilo
por Carlos Llaza
Aquella vez mi tío Max nos hizo
una cometa con papel de diario.
El viento, aunque grisáceo, era propicio,
el mar se hacía humo en los guijarros.
Primero fuimos a comprar carrizo,
después a ver a Chalo el boticario,
e hicimos un desvío subrepticio
en pos de fósforos, ron y cigarros.
Ya de regreso, el cielo aún cenizo,
mi tío Max, todista legendario,
guardó el altar de su nocturno oficio
y armó con gran pericia el artificio
de la palabra en vuelo solitario:
noticias de quien clama al paraíso.
Fleein Draigon in Ilo
owerset intae Scots bi Dorothy Lawrenson
Yince ma uncle Max made us
a fleein draigon o newspaper.
The wund wis dreich bit seilfu,
the sea made spindrift on the chuckies.
First we gaed tae buy straes,
then tae see Chalo the chemist,
an we tuik a canny roond-aboot wye
seekin matches, rum an cigars.
Hame betimes, the lift still essy,
ma uncle Max, fawmous lad-o-pairts,
gairdit the altar o his nicht’s ministry
an wi muckle skeel airmit the wirk
o the wurd in lanely flicht:
news o thaim wha sclammer efter paradise.
Kite in Ilo
translated into English by Carlos Llaza and Dorothy Lawrenson
One time my uncle Max made us
a kite out of newspaper.
The wind, though greyish, was propitious,
the sea vanished as mist on the pebbles.
First we went to buy dry reeds,
then to see Chalo the pharmacist,
and we made a surreptitious detour
in search of matches, rum and cigarettes.
Back already, the sky still ashen,
my uncle Max, legendary ‘jack-of-all-trades’,
guarded the altar of his nocturnal office
and with great skill made the artifice
of the word in solitary flight:
news of those who clamour for paradise.