Yirama Castaño Güiza (trans. Christina MacSweeney)


‘Each photograph leaves a trail of silence’
Trika, Brazilian documentary photographer

The rain has filtered through the cracks, like droplets of soul that roam around the house. The bulb isn’t working, but beams of light form patches, while the memory dissolves.

There are three clouds over the mountain today and a moon threatening to fall onto the fields. Formless forms, crumbs of life like greyness, white above white, black beneath black, white on black, nothing in the square.

The strands of your hair kink into their own curliness and I pull mine straight until it covers my lips.

The prints of your hand grab my neck.

Outside the crockery shows the scars of erosion but there’s nothing we can do from the window.

They all run, the extreme thinness tangles around the feet and drags the wind with its leg.  The sundried sand rises when the one playing passes. Far from these eyes, the buildings seem like ghosts. Unreachable heights on the other side of the hill, of these scraps of brick, these pieces of hollow wood, these metal sheets that are roofs, of these shacks that are our houses. All kites follow God.

You don’t stop, don’t look. The watermark that was childhood blurs on the paper and seeps into it like molten metal. Folds of tin and copper fill the white spaces of the portrait. My sisters, we lose our legs, only the hems of our skirts resting on the frame.

The display cabinet exhibits her body, curled on its side. Time has erased her face. He lies fallen on top of that cabinet. His arm hangs down on one side. On our knees, we advance twelve steps.  It’s the room they shared. The open door, the mountain, the void.

The rock enters the water and the ripples reflect the small silvery fish that starts to chase after the crumbs of this night.

I’ve seen the nine faces of my mother pass twenty times. The lines of her image layer upon layer. Her particles, suspended in the air.

The fragile shadow, the fragile, peeling body. Ink runs through a patch of mould. Nothing, not even the flight of time, can change the colour of the skin.

The feet on tiptoe on the bare legs. The earth has dug two ditches, growing in length.

The object woman parts her lips slightly. Red letters form the word Feminine. Nothing but transparency on the nitrate. Life is about to burst into flames.

How many stories have I kept in this album?
Scaly faces fall apart before my eyes
Silvered images
Pigments of memory


The Colombian Edition of The London Magazine is out now and available from our online shop. Published in anticipation of next month’s Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias, this issue will be followed by a Spanish language version, out in January 2022, in Colombia and the UK.
Cover image: Ritual (Pescadores), oil on canvas, 100x150cm (Pedro Ruiz, 2010)


Yirama Castaño Güiza was born in Socorro, Santander, Colombia, in 1964 and is a poet, journalist and editor. She took part in creating the ‘Common Presence’ Foundation and Magazine (la Revista y la Fundación Común Presencia). She is a member of the Comité Asesor del Encuentro Internacional de Mujeres Poetas de Cereté, in Córdoba, Colombia. Her published books include Malabar en el abismo, Memoria de aprendiz, El sueño de la otra, Jardín de sombras and Naufragio de luna, Cuerpos antes del olvido, a bilingual edition with the poets Stéphane Chaumet from France and Aleyda Quevedo from Ecuador and Poemas de amor, in co-authorship with the Spanish poet Josefa Parra.

Christina MacSweeney received the 2016 Valle Inclán prize for her translation of Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth, and her translation of Daniel Saldaña París’ Among Strange Victims was a finalist for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award. Other authors she has translated include: Elvira Navarro (A Working Woman), Verónica Gerber Bicecci (Empty Set; Palabras migrantes/ Migrant Words) and Julián Herbert (Tomb Song; The House of the Pain of Others).

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