Roque Dalton – Two Poems

Communism will be, among other things,

an aspirin the size of the sun.


The first of these great short poems by Salvodoran poet, guerilla and communist, Roque Dalton, was translated and sent to me by Kansas City poet Anne Boyer

I wanted
Roque Dalton (San Salvador, 1935 –1975) 

I wanted to talk about life in all the corners
filled with song I wanted to join a river of words
the dreams and the names what is not said
in the newspapers the agony of the lonely
caught in the folds of the rain
reclaim the bare parables of the lovers and leave them
at the feet of a child’s game
elaborating their sweet daily destruction
I wanted to pronounce the syllables of the people
the songs of their anguish
point out where the heart is lame
to say who alone deserves a shot
in the back to tell of my own country
lay down the exodus of the large
migrations that opened all the paths of the world
of love even dragged over there
by the ditches to talk to you about trains
and my friend who killed himself with another’s knife
of the history of all of the people torn
from the blindness of the myth of reefs
the century that will end with my three sons
of the tongues of the birds and the furious foam
of the great quadrupeds’ stampede
and I wanted to tell you about the Revolution
and about Cuba and the Soviet Union
and about the woman I love because of her eyes
of the smallest storms
and of your lives filled with sunrise
and asking people who saw it who said that
how could it be done I got here
ahead of you
and of all of the things of nature
and of the heart and its testimony
of the last fingerprint before annihilation
of the little animals and of tenderness
I wanted to say yes all that and tell
a lot of the stories I know and were told to me in my time
and all that I learned living in sorrow’s big room
the things that were said by the poets before me
and that it was good to know

And I could not give you more—closed door
of poetry—
than my own headless body in the sand of the ring.

(mexico-havana-san-salvador-prague 1961-1965)

(trans. by Anne Boyer) 

The second was sent this morning by a Feral Subject

On Headaches

By Roque Dalton

It’s great being a communist

although it gives you many headaches.

Because communists’ headaches

are historical, that is

they won’t go away with painkillers

only with the realisation of Paradise on Earth.

That’s how it is.

Under capitalism our heads hurt

and our heads are ripped off.

In the struggle for Revolution the head is a delayed-action bomb.

In the construction of socialism

we plan for the headache

which doesn’t alleviate it – quite the contrary.

Communism will be, among other things,

an aspirin the size of the sun.


Sobre Dolores de Cabeza

Es bello ser comunista,

aunque cause muchos dolores de cabeza.

Y es que el dolor de cabeza de los comunistas

se supone histórico, es decir

que no cede ante las tabletas analgésicas

sino sólo ante la realización del Paraíso en la tierra.

Así es la cosa.

Bajo el capitalismo nos duele la cabeza

y nos arrancan la cabeza.

En la lucha por la Revolución a cabeza es una bomba de retardo.

En la construcción socialista

planificamos el dolor de cabeza

lo cual no lo hace escasear, sino todo lo contrario.

El comunismo será, entre otras cosas,

una aspirina del tamaño del sol.


The source of the last poem and more information about Roque Dalton via Cordite Poetry Review here and an excellent post by Venepoetics on Roberto Bolano and Roque Dalton here

An alternative translation, which I quite like, specifically because the line about organisation is a better allusion to current socialist practice than ‘plan’, recently turned up here:

On headaches

It’s great to be a communist,
although it brings on lots of headaches.

It’s that a communist’s headache is, in principle, historical; that is,
it doesn’t respond to analgesic tablets,
only to the realization of Heaven on earth.
That’s the way it is.

Under capitalism our heads hurt
and then it’s off with our heads.
In the struggle for Revolution
the head is a time bomb.

In the construction of socialism
we organize our headaches
which doesn’t make them less frequent, but just the opposite.

Communism will be, among other things,
an aspirin the size of the sun.

— Roque Dalton


About anti

Anthony Iles is currently a doctoral candidate at the School of Art & Design, Middlesex University. A founder member of the Full Unemployment Cinema. A contributing editor with Mute / Metamute since 2005. He is the author, with Josephine Berry-Slater, of the book, No Room to Move: Art and the Regenerate City (Mute Books, London 2011), contributing editor to the recent publications, Anguish Language: writing and crisis (Archive Books, Berlin, 2015), and Look at Hazards, Look at Losses (Mute/Kuda, 2017) and a contributor to Brave New Work: A Reader on Harun Farocki’s Film A New Product. Recent essays have been published in Mute, Radical Philosophy, Rab-Rab: Journal for Political and Formal Inquiries in Art and Logos.
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