“In the Bible No One Appears Smoking” by Frank Báez

Frank Báez


But what if God or those who wrote the Bible
forgot to include the cigarettes
and in reality those Biblical figures 
spent the day puff-puff-puffing
just like how in the ’50s one could smoke
onboard airplanes and even on television
and I imagine those glorious Jews
raising cigs to their lips
and expelling smoke from their nostrils
while awaiting 
visions or God to speak to them,
and I imagine David plucking the harp
in a smoke-webbed temple, 
and Abraham chain-smoking
before deciding to kill Isaac, 
and Maria lighting up before breaking 
the news to Joseph that she was pregnant,
heck, I even imagine Jesus pulling out a cigarette
from behind his ear and scratching a match 
to take a breather before addressing the masses
gathered around him. 
I’m not a smoker. 
But sometimes I get the urge and I smoke
just like this moment as I watch the rain
pouring outside the window
and I feel like I’m Noah when he was waiting
for the flood to cease, and how he walked 
up and down the ark just
trying to figure out where he had left
that damned pack. 
Translated from the Spanish by Anthony Seidman

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation


Frank Báez (Dominican Republic, 1978) is one of the leading poets of his generation, and the recipient of the Salomé Ureña National Prize for Literature in 2009. He is also a founding member of the experimental rock group El Hombrecito. | Anthony Seidman: “In the poetry of Frank Báez, I value the sense of humor, zest for life, fearlessness in melding pop culture with high culture, his fusion of spoken word energy with traditional verse, and his vision rooted in the quisqueyano experience. It was my attempt to recreate his tone by incorporating American slang and humor, and it was an easy fit, as contemporary North American poetry (in English) has influenced his verse. Dominican poetry has been surviving on the periphery of Latin American literature, despite the presence of such luminaries as Juan Bosch, Pedro Mir, and Manuel del Cabral. Frank Báez possesses a major voice, and it is my pleasure to spread the news among Anglophone readers.”

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