from Clavel y tenebrario (Carnation and Tenebrae Candle, 1979)
Translated by Jeannine Marie Pitas
___When they realized what was happening, the
tragedy had already begun. A cloud came, fast, from the
South, and it hovered over the house, black, gray, a
chilling white, filled with hail and whistling, and every
few moments it sprouted a terrible grape.
___And the birds, at death’s door, were
collapsing over the courtyard. The trickster doves, falling
like paper, like memories; and the gold-winged parrots
who’d once made great speeches, on foot, over the orange
tree, were landing far off – without rhyme or reason –
like bunches of multicolored flowers.
___It seemed as if it were the end of
___The souls were afraid and searched for a crack,
the broken eternity.
___I’d like to tell you how things were born.
___When we lived in that house that had nothing in
particular. Almost nothing. With its many bedrooms in which
we put on plays, and the neighbors spied on us through all
the doors and windows. In one of these spaces – but, one
with neither ceiling nor floor – from the earth,
sometimes, from the night until dawn, things were born:
cutlery, graters, plates, pans, cups. Everything there,
meticulous, tender and nearly trembling. We brought these
things into the kitchen in order to use them, and it never
occurred to us to make a business of them.
___And when we moved away to another place no one
spoke about this.
___I tell it to you now, because now it sounds like
___Walking through that field, there appeared, all
of a sudden, those strange things. The people of that place
called them virtues or spirits. But, in truth it was a whole
show of sad beings, nearly immobile, never moving from that
___Substances that seemed from another world,
almost eternal, because the wind and the rain washed them
and polished them again and again. To see those snowflakes,
those drops of cream, those purest mushrooms. Those dews,
those eggs, those mirrors.
___Sculpture, or painting, or writing, never before
seen, but easily deciphered.
___Reading between the lines, the previous day came
back completely, and the future became clear.
___The great, old poets are there, where I have said.
___We put on shows in the gardens, at nightfall,
alongside the cedars and carob trees; the play was
improvised, there on the spot, and I was always afraid of
forgetting my lines, though such a thing never occurred. We
went from here to there among the cedars and orange trees,
and they came to spy on us, to listen to us, the residents
of all the neighboring mansions.
___We also had some animals in the cast; they had
learned to move on stage, to dress up, to put on shoes, and
they even said a few words.
___Throughout my teenage years, I performed in all
___But then, it all fell apart.
___And the animals returned to the forest to resume
their silent lives.
Born in Salto, Uruguay, and raised on her family’s farm, Marosa di Giorgio (1932-2004) is one of the most prominent Uruguayan poets of the twentieth century. Di Giorgio began writing in her childhood and published her first book of poems at the age of twenty-two. She then went on to publish a total of fourteen books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and one novel. While some critics have categorized her as a surrealist, she herself denied membership in any literary movement or school. Although she was relatively unknown outside the Southern Cone during her lifetime, she is now becoming more and more widely read throughout Latin America and Europe. Thanks to the efforts of various translators, she is also becoming more known in the English-speaking world.
Jeannine Marie Pitas is a poet, teacher, and Spanish-English literary translator. She is the translator of Marosa di Giorgio’s The History of Violets (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010) and I Remember Nightfall, a compilation of five books by di Giorgio forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in Spring 2017. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, and her first full-length poetry book, Things Seen and Unseen, will be published by Quattro Books in Fall 2017. She is currently Assistant Professor of Global Literature at University of Dubuque.