Álvaro Hernando Freile: “Tahalí (Addiction)”


Translated by María Luisa Ortega Hernández (DePaul University of Chicago) and read by Antonio Martínez Arboleda (University of Leeds)


tahalí (*)(Addiction)


            The slavery of desire

      or suffering dressed as sex


I swallow the smoke at your waist

as a tahalí of fingerprints,

as a curved abacus

where beads balance

when he joins in, adding one more.


Dollar bills on fire

a hip on fire

a hand on fire

beading on fire

invoice price on fire.


I dress in that chain,

unbreakable, made of touch

as if an anchor


submerged in your depth

an invisible leather

moored fast into your earth.


How do I break you?

(*)TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: Even though the Oxford English Dictionary records the word “tahalli,” indicating as erroneous the form “tahali,” J. G. Lockhart’s translation of The Spanish Ballads (1822 publication) leaves it in the original Spanish except for the accent: “Of gold-wrought robe or turban — nor jewelled tahali.” (“The Zegri’s Bride”). John Parkinson does the same in his poem “The Death of Khalid Ibn Walid. ‘The Sword of God.’”: “Not thus, / Not thus should Khalid die. What ho! my spear, / My mail, and helm, and gleaming tahali;” (Parkinson, John. Lays of Love and War. Ardrossan: Arthur Guthrie & Sons, 1890, 46-50). Likewise, H. W. Longfellow uses the Spanish word, printed with the Spanish accent (1856 & 1886 editions: “tahalíes”) and without the accent (1835 edition): “A band of Moorish knights gayly arrayed in gambesons of crimson silk, with scarfs of blue and jewelled tahalies, […]” (“Ancient Spanish Ballads.” Outre-mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea. New York: Harper, 1835, 1-26). Now, among such noble company and upon considerable reflection, this translator feels compelled to leave the original Spanish “tahalí” in her English translation—accent included—as the best word to render the Spanish-Moorish voice it evokes, and the mystical depth revealed by its meaning.

My gratitude to all the librarians who facilitated my research for the title of this poem in translation. Special thanks to Jennifer Schwartz, Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian, John T. Richardson Library, DePaul University, whose enthusiasm, knowledge, and guidance led this amazing team: Susan Bazargan, Research and Reference Librarian, DePaul University; and Kathy Young, University Archivist/Curator of Rare Books, Loyola University Chicago Archives & Special Collections. No wonder Jorge Luis Borges envisioned Paradise as a library!



Poema leído por el autor


tahalí (adicción)


             La esclavitud del deseo

    o el sufrimiento vestido de sexo


Trago el humo en tu cintura

como tahalí de huellas,

como curvado ábaco

en el que cuadran las cuentas

al sumarle uno de más.


Billetes en llamas

cadera en llamas

mano en llamas

abalorio en llamas

factura en llamas.


Me visto esa cadena,

irrompible, hecha de roce

como de un ancla


sumergido en tu profundidad

invisible el cuero

aterrado a ti.


¿Cómo quebrarte?


(Ex-Clavo. Valencia: Karima Editora, 2018, 62)

Álvaro Hernando Freile: “Anthropophany!”


Translated by María Luisa Ortega Hernández (DePaul University of Chicago) and read by Antonio Martínez Arboleda (University of Leeds)




                                                                           A slave to ignorance

                               or the tyranny of thinking ourselves wise


I am a sinner among sins,

an effect within a cause

illuminated darkness

waiting, not searching,

disguising its thunder between silences.


I am this way an implicit man

exploding between moments

almost trapped within a tempered name

anonymous even then and made of clay,

as if water contained in a dry, branchy flame.


But once in a while logic imposes itself


and I discover myself illuminated

among brilliant conclusions

and all of me I am sacred bioluminescence.


I acknowledge that there is an indefinite stubbornness

in this instant of such concrete wisdom.

anthropophany! Inopportunity in kairos.

And I continue being a poor fool,

a reader searching for the phrase for the word.





Poema leído por el autor




                                                                Esclavo de la ignorancia

                                                     o la tiranía de sabernos sabios


Soy un pecador entre pecados,

un efecto dentro de una causa

la oscuridad iluminada

que espera, que no busca,

que disimula el estruendo entre silencios.


Soy así un hombre implícito

estallando entre momentos

casi retenido dentro de un nombre templado

y aún así anónimo y de barro,

como de agua contenida en la llama seca.


Pero de vez en cuando la lógica se impone


y me descubro iluminado

entre brillantes conclusiones

y todo yo soy bioluminiscencia sagrada.


Reconozco que hay una necedad indefinida

en este instante de sabiduría tan concreta.

¡antropofanía! Inoportunidad en el kairós.

Y sigo siendo un pobre majadero,

un lector en busca de la frase de la palabra.


(Ex-Clavo. Valencia: Karima Editora, 2018, 45)