Three Poems by Gemma Gorga / Translations by Sharon Dolin

Man of Little Faith

Today we’re releasing the still-intact light.
Words gleam like restless
fish waiting for the miracle
of their multiplication.

Life is a wonder of great fragility:

under doubt’s imperceptible weight,
destiny will be turned into
stone. And with the receding waves,
the beach will fill with dead fish.

Home de poca fe

Avui estrenem la llum, encara intacta.
Les paraules llampurnegen com peixos
inquiets en l’espera del miracle
de la seva multiplicació.

La vida és un prodigi massa fràgil:

sota el pes imperceptible d’un dubte,
el destí quedarà convertit en
pedra. I amb el reflux de les onades,
la platja s’omplirà de peixos morts.

Long Journey

Trains and poems are running by rail.
They run day and night. Little windows
for the light to breathe—every three  
seconds, three seconds. The speed
curls inside my ears like a long coiled
Siren’s tail. Swallow a word
to hear again. On the platform
someone who moves their hand,
someone, who. Trains full of merchandise,
full of passengers, full of livestock,
full of couchettes, full of the deported.
Unexpectedly, the tunnel closes
its eyes. Shadows shudder, unwieldy
as suitcases already filled with roots.
And this absurd poem goes off the rails,
speaking—it seems to me—about distance.

Llarg Recorregut

Per les vies van els trens i els poemes.
Van de dia i van de nit. Finestretes
perquè respiri la llum —cada tres
segons, tres segons. La velocitat
es cargola a les oïdes com una
llarga cua de sirena. Empassar-se
una paraula per tornar a sentir-hi.
A les andanes algú mou la mà,
algú, qui. Trens plens de mercaderies,
trens de passatgers, trens de bestiar,
trens de lliteres, trens de deportats.
Inesperadament, el túnel tanca
els ulls. Trontollen les ombres, feixugues
com maletes massa plenes d’arrels.
I descarrila aquest poema absurd
que parlava —em sembla— de la distància.


I open the box and take out one after
another without pause. Igniting them is easy:
first, grasp them delicately between your fingers
before striking them against a rough surface for an instant—
such as the walls of night, reliefs of memory. Sometimes
I wonder where this love of mine for useless gestures
comes from, if it’s a sickness or else
a blessing: seeing that nothing comes
from nothing, to keep on insisting, in spite of everything,
to keep on burning the thin stick of words I take out
of the box delicately, one after another
without pause. Extinguishing them is as easy
as igniting them: just count to three and wake up.
The only thing remaining from this great luminosity
is a handful of tiny calcified cadavers, now scattered
across the blank page, and a strange phosphorus flavor
at the root of the soul, the exact center where language is born.


Obro la capsa i els vaig extraient, un rere
l’altre, sense aturar-me. Encendre’ls és senzill:
s’agafen primer amb delicadesa entre els dits
i es freguen un instant contra un superfície
rugosa —com ara les parets de la nit,
els relleus de la memòria. De vegades
em pregunto d’on em ve aquest amor pels gestos
inútils, si deu ser malaltia o potser
benedicció: veure que res no serveix
de res, i seguir insistint, malgrat tot, seguir
cremant la fusteta prima dels mots que extrec
de la capsa amb delicadesa, un rere altre,
sense aturar-me. Apagar-los és tan senzill
com encendre’ls: únicament cal comptar fins
a tres, i despertar. De la gran lluminària
només en resta un grapat de petits cadàvers
calcinats que ara s’escampen sobre la pàgina
en blanc, i un estrany gust de fòsfor a l’arrel
de l’ànima, al centre exacte on neix el llenguatge.

Gemma Gorga (b. 1968) has published six collections of poetry in Catalan. Her most recent collection Mur (2015) won the Premi de la Critica de Poesia Catalana. She has also published a book of translations by the Indian poet Dilip Chitre and co-translated a book of poems by Edward Hirsch. She is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Spanish Literature at the University of Barcelona.

Sharon Dolin has published six poetry collections, most recently Manual for Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016). Her translation of Gemma Gorga’s book of prose poems Llibre dels minuts (Book of Minutes) received a 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant and is forthcoming in a bilingual edition from The Field Translation Series / Oberlin College Press in 2019. She directs Writing About Art in Barcelona each June.

Three Poems by Khal Torabully / Translations by Nancy Naomi Carlson

[I cast anchor to keep a rendezvous]
I cast anchor to keep a rendezvous.
Give me back these statues that stand
at the counter of froth:
the grinding of hinges is glair
on the moorings of memories.
Like wet nurses lacking ovaries
at sweet cardamom counters,
the merchant of Venice was weighing men
for the great chromosome mishmash.
O sourti trader, what kind of basmati rice
did you hand me for fragrant cry?

Translator’s note: Sourti refers to a Muslim man from the port city of Surat in the Indian state of Gujarat.

J’ai jeté l’ancre pour rendez-vous.
Rendez-moi ces statues debout
au comptoir des écumes :
grincement de gonds est glaire
aux amarres des mémoires.
A l’instar de nourrices sans ovaires
au doux comptoir des cardamomes
le marchand de Venise pesait les hommes
pour le grand embrouillamini des chromosomes.
Ô négociant sourti quel riz Basmati
me donnas-tu  pour odorant cri ?

[Hang on to my cord]

Hang on to my cord 
drift in my ocean name
umbilical by measure
yourself a baptism of azure.
Hang on to an ocean sky,
my only lifeline after the rift:
o only boat
that adores me in my river mouth core.
By monsoon admission
my basin is barley millstone.
In my pure bread of mélange
my throat’s in a cargo hold of storms.

Tiens cordage mon cordon
dérive en mon nom d’océan
ombilical par mesure
toi-même baptême d’azur.
Tiens cordage eau du ciel
mon seul filin de la brisure :
ô seul bateau qui m’aime
en mon cœur d’embouchure.
Pour aveu de mousson
mon bassin est meule d’orge.
En mon pur pain d’un mélange
j’ai la gorge en cale d’orage.

[The only womb I could bring along]
The only womb I could bring along
if you even recall
was a stage curtain, white as a motri
(my receptacle of oracles, my coolie treasure).
The only womb I could caress
in the vast harbor of Port Louis,
(after a deluge of black graves),
a motri filled with dreams and rainy days.
The only womb you didn’t give me when I left,
the only womb you gave me of exile,
o I couldn’t bring it along and keep you alive.
Translator’s note: Motri comes from an Indian word that refers to a large bundle, usually of possessions and bedding.

La seule matrice que je pus transporter
pour autant que tu t’en souviennes
un rideau de scène un blanc motri
(mon réceptacle d’oracles, mon trésor coolie).
La seule matrice que je pus caresser
dans la grande rade de Port-Louis,
(après un déluge de tombes noires),
un motri rempli de rêves et de jours de pluie.
La seule matrice que tu ne me donnas pour partir,
la seule matrice que tu me donnas pour exil,
ô je ne pus la transporter sans te mourir.

Khal Torabully is a prize-winning writer from Mauritius—an African island nation located in the Indian Ocean, 1200 miles from the continent’s southeastern coast—writing in French and Mauritian Creole, whose work is almost completely unknown in the United States. Attached please find the following five translations from Cargo Hold of Star (Cale d’étoiles), to be published by Seagull Books in 2020: “[Hang on to my cord,]” “[I could walk across red holothurians],” “[I cast anchor to keep a rendezvous,]” “[The only womb I could bring along,]” and “[Malabar].”

Nancy Naomi Carlson  is a poet, essayist, film director, and semiologist who has authored some 25 books. Her translation of The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper (Seagull Books, 2015), translations of Abdourahman Waberi, from Djibouti, was a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award. Her translations have appeared in such journals as AGNI, The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, Massachusetts Review, and The New England Review. My non-translated poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review.