The Task of the Translator — Juana Adcock


Hold the concept 
as a dear hand
learn its scars, its temperature
the parts hardened by work
the weight with which 
it will lead, or be led.
One day: try 
words on
one after the other 
like rings;
another day: the first 
ring chosen
a perfect fit:
how joyfully 
the metal glints 
for having found 
printed on skin
by lack of sun
a band, as if the ring
had been there
all along


Glorious the joy of closing one’s eyes and seeing someone
close their eyes
Their forearm feeling the drops and almost
before asking what’s up their throat goes to pieces on the floor
And glorious the key that opened all doors, the one that
a humble cloth we braided like hands in prayer the knuckles
trembling knots crossed into bundles, into footfall
do you want to untie all my knots? unlock all my doors?
yes, I want to open the doors in your foot: kiss, the doors in your big toe: kiss, the doors in your astragalus: kiss, the doors in your soleus: kiss, the doors in your sartorius: kiss, the doors in your pectineus: kiss, the doors in your hypochondrium: kiss, the doors in your ventral aspect, kiss: the doors in your occiput, kiss: the doors in your nuchal plane, kiss: the doors in your medial, kiss: the doors in your hallucis brevis, kiss: the doors in your vagus: kiss, the doors in your subclavian: kiss, the doors in your transverse process: kiss, the doors in your duodenojejunal junction, etcetera.
Yesterday I caught sight of the shattered haws mid-air
the salty sites we wandered entreating each other
the gaps unanchored, uprooted 
the slight song that in the morning rose us 
that mother I don’t have, the roe
behind my neck where the row is the roe is the row is the roe that gestates
the beginning the water where is born that blood that thickens disperses ties us down
The naked truth is: this wasp sting is my only belonging; this water that heaps up behind the doors in my face


I recently reached the conclusion that I am a guitar. 

There were numerous clues that suggested the above, but until now 

I had lived blinded to them. 

Firstly there are of course my handsome curves, 

the resonant hollow in my chest, 

my stiff arms, 

the tension of strings that keep me tied
to who knows what hair-raising notes of the past. 

To that we must add my ability to align my body 

against that of a musician, 

my fondness for the numbers 5 and 12, 

my being able to sound only when strummed, 

my inevitable position as an object

my connection to balconies and bad poets

my repeatability in simple chords

my dusty fretboard

my fixed form

my frustration at not being a hat, 

or a bird, 

or a tree, 

or a violin at least. 

Every day I rise early for work, 

hang from a wall, 

or a shoulder, 

or sit on a knee, 

and repeat the phrases of the dead, 

phrases that are not mine, 

lever of the histrionic,
ancient shell.

One thought and only one
brings me solace: that endings are mere artifice.
Nothing starts or ends. Not even I
started at my navel or end at my skin

(from the book Split)


Juana Adcock is a Mexican poet and literary translator based in Glasgow working in English and Spanish. She is the author of the poetry books Manca (Argonautica 2016), Split (Blue Diode 2019), This Body of a woman I inhabit illustrated by Nicky Arscott (Mother Mary Press). Her poems are part of the anthology Un Nuevo Sol (Flipped Eye 2019). She has translated poetry, fiction and non-fiction from Elena Poniatowska, Giuseppe Caputo, Alexander Hutchison, among others. She plays the bass in the all-female punk band The Raptors.  Twitter: @jennivora

Split was awarded the Poetry Book Society Choice for the winter of 2019 you can obtain a copy of this book here.