MIGUEL MALDONADO / from THE BOOK OF SAD PROFESSIONS

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Miguel Maldonado (Puebla, Mexico, 1976) studied at McGill University in Montreal and the Sorbonne in Paris, and was the cultural attaché of the Mexican Embassy in Kenya. The former editor in chief of Revuelta, he is currently sub-director of the awardwinning magazine Unidiversidad, and has published numerous collections of poetry, including Ciudadela, La carne propia, Los buenos oficios, 420 golpes, Bestiario, and Lobo de corazones, among others.
These poems come from his collection El libro de los oficios tristes (Ediciones Monte Carmelo/Destrazas Ediciones, 2015) which has just been chosen by jurors Juan Villoro and Adolfo Castañón as winner of the 2016 Joaquín Xirau Poetry Prize. According to the judges, “This poetry collection’s lessons in austerity confirm a powerful stylistic volition which is enriched by the wisdom of the fable and the narrative poem.”

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The Uncomfortable Professions

Those who unclog plumbing,

lead dogs to the bonfire,

clean excrement from statues,

those who run nocturnal businesses

do something useful without being seen.

Know

that when the pipes flow properly

or I hold in my hand a can

I think of you.

And I don’t know

what use this gesture is.

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The Glass Artisan

The flame of the blowtorch

is leaving him blind,

he promises to give up

when his vision fails.

He doesn’t.

If he protects himself with tinted lenses

he grows blind at a slow burn.

A dark yellow room

awaits him, Borges said.

What strength sustains him in tragedy?

He didn’t aspire to masterpieces,

his miniatures aren’t auctioned off,

they’re for shop fronts and cabinets.

Was he hypnotized

by the fatuous fire,

cause of all industry?

The graduation of his lenses

constantly increases.

Every time he gets new glasses

he melts the glass of the old

and uses it in his landscapes.

He continues until the glass

embodies within his entrails:

his eyes as well

are now made of glass,

a glass that is no longer of use

for any landscape.

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The Dishwasher

He is the last

of the food chain.

He sometimes eats

the halves of cakes

left behind by young women

regretting so much sugar.

From the repentant is the dishwasher’s bread.

He doesn’t worry

if they’ve left leftovers

because they’re stale,

nor that he catch

some disease

for eating second hand.

His sadness is different:

to caress his wife

with the tips of his fingers

wrinkled by the water,

to feel things

with the touch of an old man.

Only once a week does he feel

the things he touches

as his real age.

The dishwasher’s youth is only one day a week.

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The Invisibles

To whom it may concern:

for maintaining the monuments,

fumigating the cities at night,

revising the red on labels,

supervising chlorate levels,

calibrating the resistances of tanks,

ensuring that what has expired isn’t used,

tightening the screws of the whole thing

thank you.

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The Blacksmith

Those who have sad jobs

don’t want their children

to inherit their occupations.

The blacksmith

dreams of children

with fair complexions,

too thin for the mallet,

allergic to the flame.

It rarely happens.

He gets used

to tending their burns.

He doesn’t cease to dream

of one day changing direction.

He prays for his children

to have only daughters

that open a florist shop.

The blacksmith

                       dreams

                                   of flower shops.

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