Martin Camps. Sought rhetoric commensurate with the Beats and Charles Bukowski.
  • Martin Camps. Sought rhetoric commensurate with the Beats and Charles Bukowski.
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Giraffe in Juarez

  • There’s a giraffe in the central park
  • of Ciudad Juárez.
  • Simple as that: a towering, Upper-Case
  • and lonely giraffe.
  • I studied her as she gazed at the sun
  • sinking behind the hill that says in Spanish: Read the Bible.
  • She remembered her savannah, the acacia
  • leaves on which she nibbled
  • after escaping from the jaws of hungry lions.
  • Here, in the north of Mexico, things are easier;
  • they treat her well, as if she were a tourist.
  • The squealing brakes of buses
  • still make her ears perk,
  • as do the generous children who pretend
  • she’s an overgrown cat.
  • Juárez is her circus, savannah and zoo.
  • No one knows how she got here,
  • if some bureaucrat bought her while on safari
  • in order to adorn his new park,
  • or if she arrived on her own, by bus,
  • in search of a job, like everyone else here.

It’s Raining in Juárez

  • When it rained in Ciudad Juárez
  • my mother would open the front door.
  • Together, we would watch the rainfall, so foreign,
  • like a girl just arrived from Ireland, undoing
  • her drenched braids in the shower stall.
  • Thunderstorms would strike, and my mother would click
  • off the lights while repeating: ¡Virgen santísima!
  • We’d sit in the darkness, hearing the sky
  • crackle as if it were a sheet of paper crumpled up
  • by agitated hands. The rain there didn’t call
  • for umbrellas, but rather boats.
  • Like a sudden Venice, the streets denied us
  • safe passage; of course, if the Venetians
  • had possessed a single ex-mayor from our city,
  • St. Mark’s Basilica would’ve turned into a coral reef long ago.
  • But Ciudad Juárez is no Venice.
  • Cars would tumble into potholes of Precambrian dimensions,
  • and the stagnant water would turn murky.
  • One would need to sail over the puddles,
  • yet no one has a boat in Juárez.
  • Poem on Summer Ending
  • It’s not the blank page, but the blank mind
  • that I fear. Even worse, a blank life.
  • Nothing to do, just whetting the blade of time,
  • the heat outside drying out the hours,
  • as if they were strips of salted beef hanging from the awning.
  • The wind goes nowhere, goes in circles
  • like children on the playground, or sugar in coffee.
  • The mountains only know about hours lasting as long as an ocean.
  • I have walked on days like this, warming
  • myself with the cloth which the sun unravels.
  • There’s a long highway on this page,
  • a highway that vanishes by the distant hill
  • where the heat rings in one’s ears.
  • A mind as blank as the desert,
  • and this poem in the middle of it, like a cactus.

Poems translated by Anthony Seidman.

Martín Camps was born in Tijuana, Mexico, yet spent his adolescence at a seminary in the nation’s capital. A spiritual crisis triggered his departure from religious studies and a future as a Catholic priest. Upon returning to the Mexican border region of Ciudad Juárez — where his family had relocated — he dedicated himself seriously to poetry. Like many Mexican poets from that desert with a militarized border, where English and Spanish mix, Camps discovered contemporary North American poetry. Conversational and street-wise in comparison to the exquisite formality of many canonical Mexican poets, Camps discovered an idiom that reflected his city of scalding heat, violence caused by the drug war, maquilas benefitting foreign corporations, junkyards, and migration. Because of this, one can place him within the generation of poets from the border region, born in the 1970s — especially Tijuana, Mexicali, and Ciudad Juárez — and who sought to address those issues through rhetoric commensurate with the Beats and Charles Bukowski. After completing a master’s degree in El Paso, Texas, Camps pursued a PhD in Latin American literature at the University of California in Riverside. He has opted to remain a professor in the United States, although he writes in Spanish and publishes widely in the Spanish-speaking world. His most recent collections of poetry include Los días baldíos, La invención del mundo, as well as articles, poems, and translations in such publications as Tierra Adentro, Modern Poetry in Translation, Reverso, Revista de literatura mexicana contemporánea, Huizache, and the cultural supplements to Mexico’s major newspapers.

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