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.

Story of My Death

We present this work in honor of Malvinas Day.

Leopoldo Lugones
Artgentine
1874 – 1938

 

I dreamed death and it was very simple;
a silk thread enveloped me,
and every kiss of yours,
with one loop less encircled me
and every kiss of yours
was a day.
and the time that passed between two kisses
a night. Death was very simple.
and little by little the fatal thread
unraveled. I no longer retained it
but for one end between my fingers…
When you suddenly went cold
and you no longer kissed me…
I let go of the end, and my life left me.

Paths of the Mirror

In honor of Dia de la Memoria, we present this work by one of Argentina’s most poignant poets.

Alejandra Pizarnik
Argentine
1936 – 1972

 

And above all else, to look with innocence. As if nothing was happening, which is true.

But you, I want to look at you until your face escapes from my fear like a bird from the sharp edge of the night.

Like a girl drawn with pink chalk on a very old wall that is suddenly washed away by the rain.

Like when a flower blooms and reveals its heart that isn’t there.

Every gesture of my body and my voice aimed to make myself into the offering, the bouquet that the wind abandons on the porch.

Cover the memory of your face with the mask of who you will be and scare off the girl you once were.

The night of us both scattered with the fog. It’s the season of cold foods.

And the thirst, my memory is of the thirst, me underneath, at the bottom, in the hole, I drank, I remember.

To fall like a wounded animal in a place that was meant to be for revelations.

As if it meant nothing. No thing. Mouth zipped. Eyelids sewn. I forgot. Inside, the wind. Everything closed and the wind inside.

Under the black sun of silence the words burned slowly.

But the silence is true. That’s why I write. I’m alone and I write. No, I’m not alone. There’s somebody here, shivering.

Even if I say sun and moon and star I’m talking about things that happen to me. And what did I wish for? I wished for a perfect silence. That’s why I speak.

The night is shaped like a wolf’s scream.

Delight of losing one-self in the presaged image. I rose from my corpse, I went looking for who I am. Migrant of myself, I’ve gone towards the one who sleeps in a country of wind.

My endless falling into my endless falling where nobody waited for me –because when I saw who was waiting for me I saw no one but myself.

Something was falling into the silence. My last word was “I” but I was talking about the luminescent dawn.

Yellow flowers constellate a circle of blue earth. The water trembles, full of wind.

The blinding of day, yellow birds in the morning. A hand untangles the darkness, a hand drags the hair of a drowned woman that never stops going through the mirror. To return to the memory of the body, I have to return to my mourning bones, I have to understand what my voice is saying.

from Santos Vega

We present this work in honor of the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Rafael Obligado
Argentine
1851 – 1920

 

Runs the tale that on an evening
When itself the pampa abysses
In its own far-reaching acres,
Without its crown of stars atwinkle,
O’er the loftiest of the hillocks
Where there is most smiling clover
Shines the torch without an owner.
Amid the vague mist’s formless curtains,
To the end the breeze may temper
The soft wings of wooing slumber.

Yet if the faintness be altered
To a tempest from its bosom,
Wildly bursts the concave thunder—
Which is speech of the dread lightning—
Strikes the lone ombu obliquely
Flaming tongue of ruddy serpent,
Which, calcinating its branches,
Serpentines, runs and mounts upward,
And from the tall tip discharges
Its scales in a brilliant shower.

It Comes in Every Storm

In honor of Carnival Monday, we present the work of one of modern Argentina’s most celebrated poets.

Olga Orozco
Argentine
1920 – 1999

 

And don’t you feel also, perhaps, a stormy sorrow on the skin of time,
like a scar that opens again
there where the sky was uprooted?
And don’t you feel sometimes how that night gathers its tatters into an ominous bird,
that there’s a beating of wings against the roof
like a clash among immense spring leaves struggling
or of hands clapping to summon you to death?
And don’t you feel afterwards someone exiled is crying,
that there’s an ember of a fallen angel on the threshold,
brought suddenly like a beggar by an alien gust of wind?
And don’t you feel, like me, that a house rolling toward the abyss
runs over you with a crash of crockery shattered by lightning,
with two empty shells embracing each other for an endless journey,
with a screech of axles suddenly fractured like love’s broken promises?
And don’t you feel then your bed sinking like the nave of a cathedral crushed by the fall of heaven,
and that a thick, heavy water runs over your face till the final judgment?

Again it’s the slime.
Again your heart thrown into the depth of the pool,
prisoner once more among the waves closing a dream.

Lie down as I do in this miserable eternity of one day.
It’s useless to howl.
From these waters the beasts of oblivion don’t drink.