Juan Gelman | Poetry Forever

Jannis Kounellis | Untitled




to juan carlos onetti

poetry ought to be created by all and not just by one / he said
such things can only be said by a frenchman / a cripple /
who was implicated in the paris commune who knows how /
and no one knows whether he died or couldn’t /

everyone remembers when he would play the piano until the wee hours of the soul /
bothering the neighbors who had to go to work the next day /
who’d leave their homes badly rested / reflecting
on the mother of the pianist or poetizer /

calling down plagues upon her at every slippery step
on the cold cobblestones of the streets of paris / what’s worse
a chord would be pounding in their brains that they couldn’t get rid of /
they’d be busy melting iron / blowing glass / and they couldn’t

shake the cripple’s chord /
the cripple had installed a chord in their heads
and through it ran wild daybreaks / ill omens /
a railroad man once had a bird fly through him there /

the bird was flying into the future /
a scrap of paper that said future in its beak /
the trouble is that the cripple’s neighbors had
piano faces in the middle of twilight /

music fell from them /
tinkling the piano keys where the horizon began /
a gorgeous woman would be singing in the heads
of the neighbors / of the cripple who wasn’t really french /

he was really from uruguay /
only to an uruguayan would it occur that poetry
ought to be written by all and not just by one /
which is like saying that the earth belongs to all not just to one /

that the sun belongs not to one /
that love belongs to all and to no one /
like air / and that death belongs to all / and that life
has no known owner /

you were not a cripple / lautreamont /
what happened is that you left uruguay /
a little piece of you fell off /
touching the piano keys and preventing sleep /






for Eduardo Galeano
for Helena

I will name you time after time.
I will lie down with you night and day.
nights and days with you.
I’ll defile myself fucking with your shadow.
I’ll show you my rabid heart.
I’ll stomp on you crazy with fury.
I’ll kill you in pieces.
I’ll kill you once with paco.
again I kill you with rodolfo.
with haroldo I kill you one piece more.
I’ll kill you with my son in my hand.
and with the son of my son / little dead one.
I’m coming with diana to kill you.
I’m coming with jote to kill you.
I’m going to kill you / defeat.
never will I lack the face of a loved one to kill you again.
alive or dead / a beloved face.
until you die /
hurt as you are / that much I know.
I’m going to kill you / I
am going to kill you.




To Manuel Scorza

dreams broken by reality
companeros broken by reality /
the dreams of the companeros broken
are they really broken? / lost / nothing /

rotting under the earth? / their broken light
sown bit by bit under the earth? / someday
will the pieces get back together?
will there be a party to celebrate the reunion?

and the pieces of the companeros / someday back together?
are they walking about under the earth to get back together someday as manuel says? / will they get back together / someday?
our concrete solitude / is made of those beloved pieces /
for/give us the gentleness of paco / the sadness of haroldo / the clarity of / rodolfo / the bravery of so many

now they are pieces scattered about beneath the country
little fallen leaves of fervor / of hope / of faith /
pieces that once were joy / combat / trust
in dreams / dreams / dreams / dreams /

and the bits and pieces of the dreams / will they get back together someday?
together again / bits and pieces?
are they telling us to weave them into the fabric of the dream?
are they telling us to dream better?







I made a clandestine visit to Buenos Aires in May of 1978. The city was beautiful.
Actually, it was very beautiful during those days in May when the Porteno autumn opens itself to fire, a warmth of spring either dying or about to be born, you can never decide which.
They had advised me not to stroll about downtown, not to frequent my old hangouts. Naturally I did just that, strolled about downtown, visited my haunts.
Who would know me?
Wasn’t Paco already dead? Hadn’t they disappeared Rodolfo and Haroldo? Hadn’t they already killed Jote, Lino, Josefina, Dardo, Diana, maybe? The restaurant where my son wrote a poem on the ragged tablecloth — this poem:

The black sheep grazes
in the black field
on the black snow
under the black night
next to the black city
where I am crying dressed in red

—the restaurant was open, but my son they had disappeared two years before, with nothing known of him since. His wife was seven months pregnant when she was disappeared with him.
I read the newspapers of the day. In La Opinion—where I once worked, which I once founded — an intellectual leftist buddy (exbuddy or ex-leftist) added his paid voice to the propaganda of the military dictatorship. The paper belonged to the military by then. The ex-buddy or ex-leftist, too.
Try as I may, I can’t remember his name. He was a storyteller. Like his wife, who used to shit all over Rosa Luxemburg from a leftist stance. Having a leftist asshole didn’t stop him from shitting the daily military bread.

Rome / 5-20-80



Translated by Joan Lindgren


Juan Gelman | Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems
University of California Press 1997

Juan Gelman or “about a truth that didn’t believe in death”

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