Three Poems by Irene Gruss

translated from the Spanish by Ivan Ivanissevich


I was washing clothes
while many people
not just because
there were blows*
now they’re no longer
not just because
and while sirens and shots
passed, dry noise,
I was washing clothes,
and the blinds in darkness.

*Translator’s note: The translation of the original Spanish “golpes” (blows, military coup(s), hits) poses a challenge, since the double reference inherent to “golpes”—both to tortures/violence and to the Argentine military coup of 1976—gets lost in the English “blows” or “hits.” “Blows” was chosen because it expresses better the reference to torture and violence in general, its musical reso- nance is more in accord with the tone of the verses, and also because it opens up a more universal projection of the poem that adds to its poignancy and meaningfulness today: it points toward the fate of so many mothers all over the world who carry on with their dislocated lives in the midst of wars and violence.

Letters to My Mother

So far the great painter
is the wind, says my mother, while
she drags with one foot
a yellow spot of leaves
falling on the unknown park.
So far the great painter (the wind, says she)
is drawing us
separated as we are by a tree, an immense trunk
ah, how much would we love to join our hands
dance around it
lay a cheek on the frozen bark.
But we are separated
by the immense trunk of a tree
in the unknown park.

The Incomplete World

The reverse of the world plagued with
undulating, illuminated.
The world as it is
may hardly complete
the arrival to the
undulating daisies.
Who needs those flowers,
who falls short by describing them
as they are, there?
Who may know how those flowers are?
And if they are not daisies?
If one does not arrive,
if the world doesn’t complete itself?