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- by Idra Novey


A man lifts a blue leather volume of Simone Weil from ‘53, brushes off a film of dirt. “Buried,” the vendor says, “in a yard with those other leather ones. Two kids brought them in a wheelbarrow.” The man nods—it is a common story eleven years after Pinochet: the unearthing of a book buried in fear and found in a yard or basement and sold swiftly like the furniture of the dead. 

“I’ll give you 500 pesos for it,” he offers the vendor, the cost of an ice cream, a small box of mints. 

He resists pressing the cover back, thinking of his own edition of La Necesidad de Raices, the night his daughter burned the book in a firepit an hour before soldiers searched the house. The moment they entered, he smelled it—the smoke still in her hair.


If it’s a natural death, you said,
let it be fast—un ataque 

de corazón. You’d always 
wanted dual passports, and to die 

from anything but cancer, the castle 
slowly devouring its own rooms 

and walls. Every winter we return 
to these questions of threshold

and dignity; whose country 
is the more forgiving, as we sink 

into another year of marriage. 
The first walk brisk enough 

to see our breath, we begin again
the discussion of endings, 

then of children, as if they were the same 
plaintive wish. Here, my love, 

your thickest scarf, your hat.

Idra Novey’s poetry appears or is forthcoming in Slate, Paris Review, and Ploughshares. In 2005, a chapbook of her poems was selected by Carolyn Forché for the 2005 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. She received a PEN Translation Fund Award for her translations of Brazilian poet Paulo Henriques Britto; The Clean Shirt of It, a book of Britto’s poems in her translation, was published in the Lannan Translations Series from BOA Editions in 2007. She has taught at Columbia University, in the Bard College Prison Initiative, and at the Catholic University of Chile in Valparaíso. Her collection of poems, The Next Country, was been selected for the Kinereth Gensler Award and was released by Alice James Books in the fall of 2008.
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