Two Poetic Fragments from Landsmoder by Elena Salamanca [trans. Ryan Greene]

Translator’s Note: These poetic excerpts come from Elena Salamanca’s book Landsmoder, which was written for a performance she staged in 2011 where, dressed like a “president’s wife,” she mounted a national monument in San Salvador (see cover image), cloaked the carvings of the 5 women at the bottom of the monument in what looked like body bags, placed funeral wreaths of cypress at the base, and read the entire book of poems “en voz alta” with a “military band” in attendance.

Landsmoder is an urgent, searing, and sometimes grotesque collection that explores the intersection between nationalism, patriarchy, and violence. The title comes from a Norwegian word that Elena translates as “madre de la patria” — or “mother of the nation/homeland/fatherland.” The fragments included here demonstrate a range of styles/voices Elena adopts throughout the book. Always, though, her focus centers on the body.

fragmento de “Colegio de señoritas españolas venidas a menos”


Con la amargura de repetir una mentira,
repetí cada lunes la oración a la bandera.

La amargura bajó a mi boca,
viscosa y amarilla como el pegamento,
hasta sellar mis labios.

Yo no voy a repetir más, señoritas,
no quiero masticar la flor nacional,
quiero comer al pájaro de esta tierra:
clavarle los dientes en el pecho
henchido de himnos nacionales.

Yo no voy a repetir constantemente que la bandera es
la mortaja que me cubrirá en la muerte.
Frío es el suelo,
y es la bandera
una servilleta con la que limpiaré la sangre después de devorar al pájaro.

fragment from “Academy of once-wealthy Spanish señoritas”


With the bitterness of repeating a lie,
every Monday I pledged my allegiance to the flag.

The bitterness descended to my mouth,
viscous and yellow like glue,
until it sealed my lips shut.

I won’t repeat it any more, señoritas,
I don’t want to gnaw on the national flower,
I want to eat the bird of this land:
to sink my teeth deep into its chest
bursting with national anthems.

I won’t keep constantly repeating that the flag is
the shroud that will cover me in death.
The ground is cold,
and the flag is
a napkin I’ll use to wipe up the blood after devouring the bird.

fragmento de “Salve, Landsmoder”

Soy buena porque abro las piernas.

Yo crié las ovejas,
yo degollé las ovejas,
y zampé sus cabecitas blancas en estacas alrededor de mi casa.

La gente sabía que yo era buena
porque cerraba mis piernas únicamente el día que destazaba las ovejas.

Yo era tan buena:
la falda subida, las piernas abiertas,
que las gentes pensaban que las cabezas de las ovejas eran mis muñecas,
cosidas con mis manos,
pegadas con mi saliva,
bellos labios rojos
pintados con la sangre que brotaba de entre mis piernas.

Si cierro las piernas, ya no seré buena:
de mi sangre brotarán los hombres más infelices.
Y usted me dejará
con el hociquito listo,
la falda rasgada,
y mis ovejas perdidas


fragment from “Hail, Landsmoder”

I am good because I open my legs.

I raised the sheep,
I slaughtered the sheep,
and stuck their little white heads on stakes around my house.

People knew that I was good
because I only closed my legs on the day I butchered the sheep.

I was so good:
my skirt hiked, my legs open,
that people thought the sheeps’ heads were my dolls,
sewn by my hands,
glued with my saliva,
beautiful red lips
painted with the blood flowing from between my legs.

If I close my legs, I won’t be good any more:
the most wretched men will flow from my blood.
And you will leave me
with my little snout ready,
my skirt ripped,
and my sheep lost

Far away.

Elena Salamanca (San Salvador, 1982). Writer and historian. She has published La familia o el olvido (2017 and 2018), Peces en la boca (2013 and 2011), Landsmoder (2012), and Último viernes (2017 and 2018). Her work has been translated into English, French, German, and Swedish. Since 2009, she has combined literature, performance, memory, and politics in public space. She is a doctorate candidate in History from the Colegio de México, and her thesis investigates the relationships between Central American unionism, citizenship, and exile. She earned her masters in History from El Colegio de México (2016) and the Universidad de Huelva, Spain (2013).

Ryan Greene (b.1994) is a translator, poet, and bookmaker from Phoenix, Arizona. He started F*%K IF I KNOW//BOOKS in summer 2019, and he’s translated work by Claudina Domingo, Ana Belén López, Elena Salamanca, Giancarlo Huapaya, and Yaxkin Melchy, among others. His translations have found a home in places like Asymptote, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Tripwire (forthcoming). His translations of selected poems by Ana Belén López appear in the bilingual chapbook rojo si pudiera ser rojo // red if it could be red (Anomalous Press, 2019). He currently facilitates the Cardboard House Press Cartonera Collective bookmaking workshops at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.