Jackie K. White, translating Graciela Reyes
translations from the Spanish poems of Graciela Reyes, by Jackie K. White
It was the best day of our life together,
and the best afternoon in the city of Barcelona:
the splendor of solstice over the lingering crispness of winter,
the taste of champagne in the air,
the celebration we carried on in our hands.
It was only one day of only one summer, and we were conscious of living it.
Walking, our steps made the city,
our words building up what, much later,
they were going to tear down.
Still, Barcelona remains
ours, the best city of the best summer.
Our life remains
ours, the best of all our lives.
We already know the clamor, how it fades, how it returns,
how, deceiving ourselves, finally, we’re never deceived.
How many glasses of wine have we raised gazing into other eyes
in other noontimes equally golden, more golden?
We know life very well, its decades, its death-routines,
and we’ve already consented
to lose it all. Cleansed, alone, on guard, available:
my hands, loved by you, are full of lives.
Country blossoms on the table
and wine in green glasses. How many times
have we dreamed of this noontime?
You look at me, that ancient fire burning, but it’s new
and final. At the ultimate threshold,
one comes to an understanding of the past.
Each and every noontime
He was right, in the Sierras it rains better than anywhere.
Thick pyramids of parallel pines, red trunks and bluish cones
reaching toward clouds, all wrapped in a watery light.
The barely half-open side window
lets in scented gusts, and a few green sprinkles wet my thigh. It’s morning
and we’ve interrupted the workday to go watch it rain.
Opposite his aquiline profile, its familiar relief in the shadows,
little by little, I start to talk. He, off and on,
sets the windshield wipers stroking, and we see it, the valley below
inundated, glorious, vibrantly green, then the drops coat the glass again,
and it rains.
We’re at that desperate age in life, I tell him.
Why, says his voice,
but on he goes in the rain, and is happy, and eternal.
silent and urgent. I don’t recognize it, but it lurks
in the interstices. It is my Lethe
and I ought to descend. But I don’t know how to invent
I don’t know how to invent
They’ll die again, those tyrants of Sicily,
and I don’t know how to invent
The more transparent the language,
the more efficient it is
and the more useless for seeing within. Help me.
This is the age of passion.
I don’t want calm
or even love, I want you to destroy me
so you can reach there where my story, secret, unfolds.
Just as you couple your body so
profoundly to mine. Just as you look at me, so fully.
Search harder for me. Be my guide, my god, my companion.
It is now,
and it can be only with you.
We don’t even know
if it will keep raining. We don’t know anything. We’re absorbed
in ourselves, like a couple of kids spying
a party. My heart crunches the water and sings.
You feel it. It sways you. Let yourself go.
We are very conscious of death, conscious of terror,
today let’s have this clear
vision of being together.
Graciela Reyes was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and her book Poemas, a bilingual edition of selected poems, translated by Ruth El Saffar, was published by the Consulate of Argentina in Chicago in 1991. Her other books of poetry include Reflexiones de una mujer sola and Poemas para andar por casa (Buenos Aires, 1982), and Que la quiero ver bailar (1989), which won both the Letras de Oro prize and the Premio Cuidad de Rota, and she also writes on linguistic theory. She retired from her position as Professor of Spanish (Linguistics) at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2007.
Jackie K. White is an associate professor at Lewis University, where she serves as faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review. Her poems and translations have appeared in many journals, including Bluestem, Fifth Wednesday, Mid-America Poetry Review, Quarter after Eight, and Third Coast, and in several venues online. Her chapbook Bestiary Charming won the 2006 Anabiosis Press award, and she’s published two chapbooks since then, Petal Tearing & Variations (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and Come Clearing (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). She is a native Illinoisan in love with the city of big shoulders, the expanse of prairie, and the island of Puerto Rico. Co-translator of Miguel Cesar Rondón’s History of Salsa, she is currently translating Chiqui Vicioso’s Something Worth Saying: Essays on Caribbean Women Writers.