Some months ago, a chain of hyperlinks led me to three poems Sergio Loo published in Crítica. (I forget how this search began, but I’m sure I was looking for something gay and Spanish.) These poems — “Caballitos desbocados de hocico contra el muro,” “Todavía no me aprendo los diálogos de esta comedia romántica,” and “El viernes de quincena es una balada para nosotros” — are funny and despairing, love poems so frantic they almost forget to break their lines. I translated them first, trying as I did so to capture the feeling of being on a carousel spinning so fast that the horses are about to fly off their poles.
Loo is a poet who swerves between the narrative and the surreal. He’s also a poet who died far too young — that frenetic despair suddenly interrupted (or perhaps most concretely realized, Loo seems to suggest) with the diagnosis of Ewing’s sarcoma in his left leg in 2011. These three prose poems — “Occipital,” “Temporal,” and “Spinal Region (Twelve Spinal Vertebrae)” — appear in Loo’s posthumously published Operación al Cuerpo Enfermo. The title translates as Operation to a Sick Body, or, more intelligibly, as Operation of a Sick Body — that body’s functioning, its composition and decomposition under forces biological, cultural, linguistic, and political. This body is Loo’s, and it is also the body of lovers like Pedro, a political “pincushion,” and a person with AIDS. Pedro’s body in “Occipital” stands, in many ways, for the poems in this book: their beauty, their operation, does not reside in them individually, but in their relationship with other poems, other parts. Loo’s notion of illness is expansive too: it comes to signify an ill fit and a mismatch, or body part diminished or grown out of proportion.
Illness is itself linguistic: a change of state conveyed as much through words as through pain. In translating the poems, I have tried to maintain, as best as I can, the structure of Loo’s sentences, modifying that structure only when necessary to make sense in English. This preservation seems appropriate given Loo’s interest in the way language shapes the experience of embodiment, of death and dying.
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