January 17, 2018KR OnlinePoetry

Nocturne

Translated from Spanish by Rachel Galvin and Harris Feinsod

           Cool glass, when leaning forehead against window. Late-night lights go out, leaving us even lonelier. Spiderwebs woven by wires over rooftops. Hollow trot of passing nags touches us for no reason.
           What does the howl of these cats in heat call to mind, and what can the scraps of paper be plotting as they slither onto empty patios?
           The time of night when old furniture seizes the chance to shed its lies, when pipes make strangulated cries, as though suffocating inside the walls.
           Now and then we think, when flipping the electric light switch, of the fright the shadows must feel, and we’d like to warn them so they have time to curl up in the corners. And now and then there is something sinister about the telephone-pole crosses over the rooftops, and one wants to slink along the walls like a cat or a thief.
           Nights when we wish for a hand to caress our lower back, when we suddenly realize that no tenderness compares to stroking something as it sleeps.
           Silence!—voiceless cricket that hops in our ear. Leaky faucet song!—the only cricket that fits the city.

Buenos Aires, November 1921.

Oliverio Girondo
Oliverio Girondo (Argentina, 1891-1967) was one of the most important Latin American poets of the twentieth century. He published seven volumes of poetry, including Twenty Poems to Be Read on the Streetcar. He was at the center of an Argentine vanguard called the Grupo Florida, which included Jorge Luis Borges, Macedonio Fernández, Xul Solar, and Norah Lange, whom he married.

Rachel Galvin is the author of Pulleys & Locomotion and translator of Raymond Queneau’s Hitting the Streets, which won the Scott Moncrieff Prize. She is coeditor of Auden at Work. In late 2017 a collection of poems titled Elevated Threat Level will be published by Green Lantern Press and a work of criticism, News of War: Civilian Poetry 1936-1945, will be published by Oxford UP. With Harris Feinsod, she translated a volume of Oliverio Girondo's poetry, forthcoming from Open Letter Books. She is assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago.

Harris Feinsod is assistant professor of English and Comparative Literature at Northwestern University. His recent writing appears in American Literary History, Iowa Review, n+1, and The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (4th ed.), for which he was assistant editor. He is the author of The Poetry of the Americas: From Good Neighbors to Countercultures (Oxford UP, 2017). With Rachel Galvin, he translated a volume of Oliverio Girondo's poetry, forthcoming from Open Letter Books.