Jeanette Geraci translating Rainer Maria Rilke and Elvia Ardalani

She’s Written To Him Five Times In Two Years

After Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Panther”

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
inside her.   

Sometimes, she shivers awake

alone.  I was inside his body. 
He was falling; I felt him

hit the ground. 
I Could Not Follow After Elvia Ardalani’s “Nadie En El Último Momento”

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
of rising?

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.

When The Heart Stops Ticking, The Soul Does Not Change Shape

After Elvia Ardalani’s “Muerto Eras Pesado y Dócil”

Only the body remembers
stillness – relaxing without wanting
or waiting for seasons to end.

[Underground, the body erupts
into bloom.]

Someday, you will cease
to worry about frizzy hair, missed
periods, or too little sleep.

Someday, you will abandon yourself
without resistance.

[Love, like evil, switches form.
Love, like God, is in everything.]

Translator’s Note

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!

Jeanette Geraci graduated from Florida Atlantic University’s MFA Creative Writing program in Spring 2017. Her creative nonfiction, flash fiction, and original poetry have appeared/are forthcoming in Room Magazine, 3Elements Literary Review, Blue Fifth Review, Lunch Ticket Literary Magazine, Lingerpost, Compose Journal, and numerous other publications. Jeanette received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2016. She currently lives and works in South Florida. This is her first published translation.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian German-language poet and novelist. His poetry, creative prose, and collected letters continue to inspire readers around the world.

Elvia Ardalani is a contemporary Mexican poet who has published four collections (including her most recent, Miércoles de Ceniza) and currently teaches Creative Writing and Spanish literature at the University of Texas-Pan American.