Daniel Borzutzky is the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for his translation of Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks. Read his introduction to his translations of Zurita’s work here

      Camp Pisagua Prison
  -The hammered beaches-

And mounting themselves one over
the other the beaches looked like scars
in the crying cheeks of the night

Then the ferocious camps began to appear:
nailed in with hammers the beaches of Chile swayed
crackling beneath them

Holding up the sheds where thousands and thousands
of prisoners saw a pile of sticks trace itself between
the breakers and later their souls flying above them

There where the dead don’t return but yes the Pacific
but yes the great sea swells    but yes the breakers
battering the plank beaches as if the sea swells were
a wail and the death camps a cheek drenched in tears
rising in the waves    devastated    like us   mopping up
these sobs 

     Villa Grimaldi Prison

No one is the homeland, was the
apparent scream of the blind planks
in the dead homeland of the sea

This is how the chilean prisons were emerging    the snowy
peaks of the Andes were nothing but planks nailed to those barracks

In the middle of the ocean’s abyss    as if they had wanted with
their shredders to remind us of the infinite pain of the camps
the quarters   the infinite sheds where they killed us

When the Pacific opened up and we carried one another 
we saw the stakes of a cordillera and then a dead sky
sinking into the slit of the sea until it became the final silence
that covers our remains    still nailed down    still broken    
our eyes still open     looking out from those barracks the
dead gaze of the ocean  

     Colonia Dignidad Prison
-The barbed wire of the night-

This is how we were swept up by love,
we would say, and our arms were being
broken like shreds in the pieces of wood

Turbulent    like lost souls    that’s how they dawned
the landscapes smashing themselves against the doors
of the dead buildings

Like tides of earth    searching for themselves between the
planks of those barracks just as we searched for our faces
in the chilean prisons     dismembered      crossing   

And they were the joisted coasts    the broken fronts    the planks
of the mountains that were rising answering us with the image of some
bodies smashing themselves against the rocks    But which rocks?  but
which coasts?  but which mountains? and the sky was sinking
into the barbed wire of the night like a mute sea that nothing explains