Looks for nothing but his reply every time
she sifts through her mail.
He’s been silent
as a stillborn baby, but she could swear
she feels him
dreaming. He’ll come back.
Like her own pulse, this certainty
drums dumbly on
Sometimes, she shivers awake
alone. I was inside his body.
He was falling; I felt him
hit the ground.
Tell me, Dad –
Did night, an enormous wave, come down
on you all at once?
Did my baby-face flash before your eyes
when the tide crashed
against your heart, sick
This is what you wished for:
A body, unmoored;
The kind of silence that assails,
glues deep sleep
onto the insides of your eyelids.
Night arrived; nothing stayed
When you left,
you left me behind.
Only the body remembers
stillness – relaxing without wanting
or waiting for seasons to end.
[Underground, the body erupts
Someday, you will cease
to worry about frizzy hair, missed
periods, or too little sleep.
Someday, you will abandon yourself
[Love, like evil, switches form.
Love, like God, is in everything.]
Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Panther” was originally published in German in the early twentieth century. While crafting my translation of “The Panther,” my objective was to capture the original poem’s tonal/thematic essence, and then render it in a fresh, unique way – to use a different subject (a woman, instead of a panther) and different language to depict a moment similar to the moment Rilke depicts.
Elvia Ardalani’s “Nadie En El Último Momento” and “Muerto Eras Pesado y Dócil” appear in her Spanish-language collection, Miércoles de Ceniza. I wanted my translations to retain Ardalani’s poems’ tonal and thematic essence. In some instances, I borrowed her language––pulled words and even direct phrases from her poems, and then reordered them/couched them between my own words. The result: Love children that are neither wholly Elvia Ardalani nor wholly Jeanette Geraci, but resemble both of us. There’s a mysterious magic about the fact that––even in moments when I was working with another poet’s language––I ended up unconsciously playing with rhythm and sound in a way that’s typical of my habits as a writer. I guess this is an example of the strange, beautiful merging process that other translators have told me about!