Of Encounters and Places

In honor of Malvinas Day, we present this work by one of Argentina’s great modern poets.

Elizabeth Azcona Cranwell
Argentine
1933 – 2004

 

A request from the sun. Its understanding of this difference
the label that speaks among things
lamp or star keeping watch over the area that separates us
and lets us illuminate ourselves with the color of distance.

Again I take from the air the slight awareness
that hides the balance of a flower.
Nevertheless we have watched the same bird
we have seized its import, its situation at night
and the place our hearts dominate is the same.

If I must go down through other times
I will have this embrace tied to my memory
like a stone from the sea or a rupture of algae.
They are the night’s circuits where we have held each other
or the uncertain manners of a morning in flight.

Then distance has already stopped digging into the soul
the astrolabe is intent on encountered water
although the smoke of the forest announces nostalgia
that can devour the heart of a blackbird.

The trees carve on wood the name of the earth
like twin flames we have purchased the air for growing
to save with our laughter another corner of the world.

It may be everything that happens is the food of a distant life
silently teaching the language of water
giving love its place
among the confusion of birds.

Nuptial Song

We present this work in honor of the Argentine holiday, Dia de la Memoria.

Susana Thénon
Argentine
1935 – 1991

 

i got married
i got married to myself
i said yes
a yes that took years to arrive
years of unspeakable suffering
crying with the rain
locking myself up in my room
because i—the great love of my existence—
was not calling myself up
was not writing to myself
was not visiting myself
and sometimes
when i dared call myself
to say: hello, am i OK?
I would deny myself

i even managed to write my name in a list of bores
i did not really want to join
because they babbled too much
because they’d not leave me alone
because they’d fence me in
because i could not stand them

at the end I did not even pretend
when I needed myself

i intimated to myself
nicely
that i was fed up

and once i stopped calling myself
and stopped calling myself

and so much time went by that I missed myself
so i said
how long has it been since my last call?
ages
must have been ages
and i called myself up and i answered and could not believe it
because even if it seems incredible
i had not healed
i had only shed blood

then i told myself: hello, is it me?
it’s me, i told myself, and added:
such a long time no see
me from myself myself from me

do i want to come home?

yes, i said

and we got together again
peacefully

i felt good together with myself
just like me
i felt good together with myself
and so
from one day to the next
i got married and i got married
and am together
and not even death can separate me

On a Crimson Leaf

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 75th birthday.

Diana Bellessi
Argentine
b. 1946

 

Infinite mirror the waters of the night.
I listen to the call
of the first siriri-duck
migrating from the south.
Lilies in the still air intoxicate.
A crimson
leaf has fallen and floats on the river.
Might it be the one
that ha T’sui-p-‘in, prisoner in the women’s quarters,
wrote her poem on?
Sent forth to risk the river
in hopes someone in the world of men
may take it from the water.

Profit and Loss

Julio Cortázar
Argentine
1914 – 1984

 

I’m lying again, with grace,
I bow respectfully before the mirror
reflecting my collar and tie.
I believe I am that gentleman who goes out
every morning at nine.
The gods are dead one by one in long lines
of paper and cardboard.
I don’t miss anything, I don’t even
miss you. I feel a little hollow, but it’s just
a drum: skin on either side.
Sometimes you return in the evening, when I’m reading
things that put me to sleep: the news,
the dollar and the pound, United Nations
debates. It feels like
your hand stroking my hair. But I don’t miss you!
It’s just that little things are suddenly missing
and I might like to seek them out: like happiness,
and the smile, that furtive little creature
no longer living between my lips.

The Pines

In honor of the Argentine holiday, Independence Day, we present this work by one of Argentina’s most independent voices.

Silvina Ocampo
Argentine
1903 – 1993

 

You didn’t listen to the beating of a tree’s heart,
couched against the trunk gazing upwards,
you didn’t see the leaves moving
with the throb of a heart,
you didn’t feel the shudder
of the swaying branches above your body,
you didn’t listen to the heart of the pines
when the wind moves them and those leaves
that are like green fragrant pins
fall, and when the clouds pass,
you didn’t see that the world was turning,
the entire world, and you didn’t feel
that the sky was drawing near,
was entering inside the pines,
and that you were disappearing, penetrating with it
inside the pines, becoming in that sky another tree.

Song

We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Leopoldo Marechal
Argentine
1900 – 1970

 

The River of your Dreams will recite the alphabet of waters.
It will have trees, like greem flames
sparking out larks
and tall bamboos will net heliotrope moons
in the dream river only you can overleap.

Dawn will be a lotus that perfumes
the death of your nights;
so much pecking at stars will intoxicate hummingbirds.
You will find pools of still water and a pollen that drugs the wind
in the dream river only you can overleap.

Shouldering my oar, I have watched a hundred days set sail.
My brothers will peel the reddest of the world’s fruit.
I, with my stilled oar, night after night,
search for the dream river only you can overleap.

from Martin Fierro

We present this work in honor of Argentina’s National Flag Day.

José Hernández
Argentine
1834 – 1886

 

He lashed the air with two bola shots,
Round his head like rings they spun;
One grazed my arm with a glancing hit,
A hair’s breadth would have splintered it:
Those balls of stone whizz through the air
Like bullets from a gun.

Aijuna! I’ll say he was quick and sly—
He missed me by simple luck;
The blood worked up to his ugly head,
Till like a colt he was seeing red:
He would feint at me with the right-hand ball
Before with the left he struck.

But a bitter turn Fate served me there
As we circled round and round,
I saw my chance and went rushing in,
While he backed away to save his skin.
My foot tripped up in my chiripá
And headlong I hit the ground.

Not a moment’s grace to commend my soul
To the hands of Almighty God
Did the savage give; as he saw me fall
He sprang like a ravening animal.
As I twisted my head, beside my ear
I heard the bolas thud.

And onto my back with tooth and nail
He leapt like a clawing brute
He was reckless then that I’d still my knife,
He was blind with his rage to have my life,
Not a ghost of a chance he let me have,
To strengthen and get my foot.

No trick or dodge could the brute on unlodge
Though I tried the every one;
Flat under him I lay full length,
I couldn’t turn over with all my strength.
As strong as a bull that Indian was
And he seemed to weigh a ton.

The captive that lay in her tears and blood
Half killed by the murderous whip,
When she saw my plight forgot her pang,
Like an arrow there to my help she sprang,
She gave the Indian a sudden tug
That made him loose his grip.

As soon as again to my feet I got
At each other again we tore,
Not a pause for a breather could I get
I was soaking wet with my dripping sweat,
In all my fights I’ve never been in
Such a touch-and-go before.

As madder and madder the savage grew
I calmed down more and more—
Until the Indian has made his kill
There’s nothing his ravening rage can still—
Till one of his whirling cords I cut
And began to press him sore.

As he staggered back, I leapt and closed
With lightning thrust and slash.
Though he kept his feet and escaped my grip
He lost the fight by that fatal slip;
I got home once with a scalping chop
And once with a belly-gash.

I got him again with a ripping lunge,
He began to hmpf and puke;
He was failing fast with each breath he took,
He knew he was done, but even then,
With never a flinch he rushed again,
With such a yell that it seemed to me
That the earth and the heavens shook.

And there, thank God, I finished him;
Well home I rammed my knife.
I was weary and sore, but desperate;
I lifted him up as one lifts a weight;
And gutted there, from the raking steel
I threw him off when I knew by the feel,
That he hadn’t a spark of life.

When I saw him dead I crossed myself,
The help of heaven to thank;
The kneeling woman beside me there,
At the Indian’s body could only stare,
And the to the skies she raised her eyes,
And in tears on the ground she sank.

To—

We present this work in honor of the Argentine holiday, May Day Revolution.

José Rivera Indarte
Argentine
1814 – 1845

 

Written on the Gulf of Mexico

The windswept waves are rolling high,
Our bark bounds o’er an angry sea,
The storm is blackening the sky,
But all my soul is fixed on thee.

Oh, pray for me, thou gentle one,
To him who rules earth, sea and air;
And moved by thy celestial tone,
He yet my wayward life may spare.

It was no strain of earthly love
Which drew my being unto thine;
It was a call from heaven above,
An opening unto love divine.

Thou art with me where high or low,
These widely-wandering steps may roam;
And all the joys of heaven I know,
Are visioned in thy peaceful home.

Before thy presence crossed my life,
Full many a wish strayed wide and far,
To the poor gains of civil strife,
The blood stained laurels snatched from war.

The treacherous lures of low desires,
The breath of popular applause;
But thou hast kindled purer fires,
And oped my eyes to higher laws.

Still bear me ever in thy heart,
E’en though the burden bring thee pain;
‘Tis agony, indeed to part;
But Oh, ‘tis bliss to meet again!

The Post-Nuclear Ones

Lola Arias
Argentine
b. 1976

 

One. I’m going to stop lying. I’m going to stop
smoking. I’m going to stop being afraid of the dark.

Two. I’m never going to make mistakes again just
because it’s nighttime or it’s cold or there’s a
melancholy cloud over my head.

Three. I have to stop wasting time. When I get
home I’m going to start writing. I’m not going to
answer the phone or eat the leftovers from my
fridge or read all those books waiting on my
bedside table like skyscrapers.

Four. I’m thirty tomorrow. Instead of having a party
I’m going to get in the bath and read my old diaries.
How old are you when youth ends?

Five. I can’t hear my heart under the water. I could
die now and I’d never know. If I die I want to be
cremated and my ashes scattered in the sea or the
river or flushed down the toilet. I’d rather be dead
under water than dead under ground.

Six. I have to learn to breathe better. I’d like the air
to leave me without my realizing, as if I were a
mermaid at the bottom of a bathtub.