From “I Remember Nightfall” by Marosa di Giorgio, translated by Jeannine Marie Pitas




Prose


 


Photo of Di Giorgio courtesy the author's family.
Photo of Di Giorgio courtesy the author’s family.

 

Photo of Pitas courtesy Bob Felderman
Photo of Pitas courtesy Bob Felderman

 

The following pieces are excerpted from “The War of the Orchards,” the third book in the collection, I Remember Nightfall, translated from the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas and forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse in August 2017.

Born in Salto, Uruguay, and raised on her family’s farm, Marosa di Giorgio (1932-2004) is one of the most prominent Uruguayan poets of the twentieth century. Di Giorgio began writing in her childhood and published her first book of poems at the age of twenty-two. She then went on to publish a total of fourteen books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and one novel. While some critics have categorized her as a surrealist, she herself denied membership in any literary movement or school. Although she was relatively unknown outside the Southern Cone during her lifetime, she is now becoming more and more widely read throughout Latin America and Europe.

Jeannine Marie Pitas is a writer, teacher and Spanish-English literary translator currently living in Dubuque, Iowa, where she teaches at the University of Dubuque. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks and the translator of several Uruguayan poets. Her first full-length poetry collection, Things Seen and Unseen, is forthcoming from Quattro Books.

 

Es junio y de tarde en los tiempos druídicos y el techo empieza a irse, a volar como una nube. El zapallo se entreabre, da su olor a rosa, el extraño aroma a clavel de los zapallos. Mamá está cerca del fuego, labra un pastel, grande. Yo voy de aquí para allá. El pastel parece un hombre, es como un fantasma, tiene ojos azules y cabello largo. Me acerco al aparador, enumero las tacitas, una a una, todas son livianísimas como cáscaras de huevo; la dulcera es rosada como una rosa.

Mamá me llama; voy hacia ella; el pastel gime un poco, conversa con mamá.

Afuera, va a caer la noche; las plantas se quedan inmóviles, se hamacan.

En el cielo empiezan a tintinear los muertos, empiezan a brillar.

Junio de tarde allá en la casa.

 

6

It’s a June afternoon in the time of the druids and the roof begins to take off, to fly away like a cloud. The squash opens halfway; it gives off its smell of roses, that strange carnation fragrance the squashes have. Mama stands near the fire; she’s making a cake, a big one. I move about, this way and that. The cake looks like a man, a ghost; it has blue eyes and long hair. I approach the cupboard, count the cups one by one, all are as delicate as eggshells; the syrup jar is as pink as a rose.

Mama calls me; I go to her; the cake moans a little, speaks with her.

Outside, night is about to fall; the plants remain immobile, swinging.

In the sky the dead begin to jingle, begin to shine.

A June afternoon, there in the house.

 

7

Veo nacer los hongos, sus caras zonzas y bonitas; parecen campanas, parecen sombreros, parecen sexos. En lo hondo resuena la campana de palo, hay otra gente, una subgente que mi padre aborrece. La abuela también convoca a la cena, llama a los pastores; les ofrece arroz –con aroma a arvejo– guiso de hongos. Yo me aferro a la cocina, a los viejos gatos. En el aire oscuro brillan los zapallos, las manzanas, igual que caramelos. Después, cae la noche monstruosa. En lo hondo del llano, arde una lucecita. Cada uno va a su lecho. Las románticas tías descansan con la mano en la almohada y las corolas abiertas.

Entonces, alguien se levanta, ¿irá a perpetrar un crimen? Mas sólo se oyen gemidos y todo queda en paz.

Por la calleja anda un caballo, como una terrible muchacha, con sus cabellos y sus ancas. En el aire gira un planeta o un murciélago.

… Debajo de las magnolias ¿quién está?

 

I watch the birth of the mushrooms, their faces dull and lovely; they look like bells, like hats, like sexual organs. In the distance the wooden bell resounds; there are other people, underlings my father despises. My grandmother also rings for dinner, summons the shepherds, offers them rice—with the scent of peas—mushroom stew. I retreat to the kitchen, to the old cats. In the dark air the squashes, the apples gleam, bright as candy. Then, the monstrous night falls. In the depths of the plain, a little light burns. Everyone goes to bed. The romantic aunts rest with a hand on the pillow and their corollas open.

Then, someone gets up. Are they going to commit a crime? But all we hear are moans and then everything remains at peace.

A horse comes up the road like a terrible girl, with its mane and its haunches. In the air a planet or a bat is spinning.

…And under the magnolias—who’s there?

 
8

Si en la noche oigo ladrar los perros, mi corazón se parte; si los oigo clamar lejanamente mi corazón se detiene, apresurado. Y torno a ver la huerta antigua, el jardín de aquellos años, el aroma a arveja, las vacas, los caballos que pastan en la luna. Entonces, los hombres se reúnen bajo el olivar, charlan de la próxima cosecha, de los fantasmas que en esa época acuden como pájaros, los espectros con alas de sábanas, y se roban todo el fruto.

Me acerco a las cómodas, las dulceras con sus higos y sus lilas. (En la cama ¿quién se halla? ¿es un viejo? ¿es una novia?).

Voy a la casa, a las fogatas. Si en la noche, un perro ladra, torno a ver la muerte, vuelvo a ver la vida.

 

If I hear dogs barking in the night, my heart breaks; if I hear their distant clamor, my heart stops hastily. And I go back to look at the ancient orchard, the garden of those years, the smell of peas, cows, horses grazing in the moonlight. Then, the men meet in the olive grove; they speak of the coming harvest, of the ghosts that at that time are appearing like birds, the specters with wings made of sheets, and they steal all the fruit.

I approach the chest of drawers, the syrup jars with their figs and lilacs. (But in the bed—who’s there? An old man? A bride?)

I walk toward my house, toward the bonfires. If a dog barks in the night, I turn around and see death; I turn back and see life.

 

Cuando llovía mucho, a cántaros, y se formaba aquel río, debajo de aquel puente, y pasaba a lo lejos, el carro de las cartas. Y la abuela nos hacía venir junto al hogar, al leño ardiendo, allí las tres de pie, o sentadas, con los delantales a rayas, las tibias zapatillas, y ella nos servía dulce, miel, y nos hablaba jovialmente, como si nosotras también fuésemos viejecitas, o más pequeñas de lo que, en verdad, éramos. Y los gatos como lechuzones, hacienda menudísima. Y de las claras nubes caía agua, agua. Y alguna vecina –de las que moran en el pastizal, en la arboleda– empezaba a escurrirse hacia la casa, bajo las aceitunas, las locas magnolias, hasta llegar a nosotras, con el canastillo a cuestas, de huevos, de hongos, de papas recién hervidas. Entonces, nos reíamos todas juntas. Y de las blancas nubes seguía cayendo agua.

 

When it rained heavily, in buckets, that river formed under that bridge, and in the distance, the mail truck passed. And my grandmother made us come close to the hearth, the burning firewood; there the three of us stood, or sat, with our striped aprons, our lukewarm slippers, and she served us sweets, honey, and spoke to us with great joy, as if we were old ladies like her, or else small children, younger than our actual age. And the cats like great owls, the tiniest house. And water, water fell from the bright clouds. And some neighbor—one of those who dwell in the pasture, in the grove—was hurrying toward the house, under the olives, the crazy magnolias, until she reached us, bearing a basket of eggs, mushrooms, recently boiled potatoes. Then, we all laughed together. And water kept streaming down from the white clouds.

 

10

De pronto, nacieron gladiolos. En un lugar alto, y en el norte. Sé que hay gladiolos rojos, y azules, y gladiolos negros. Los de mi casa sólo son blancos. Empiezo a caminar hacia ellos. Pero, se venderán. (Y este año más pronto, acuciados por el rumor de la guerra); éste es uno de nuestros negocios; así vivimos. Sigo caminando; me llevan aún sin que les mire. Esa bandada de muertos, de palomas. Cuando llego caigo de rodillas; tengo intenciones de llorar. Vuelven todos los años, pero nunca tan desgarradores. Se me cae encima esa nube, esa hermosura.

Estoy a la vez, mareada y en éxtasis, siento malestar y bienestar. Me quedo tan extraña, como si estuviera muerta o encinta. Y si no vienen por mí, no podré irme.

 

10 

All of a sudden, gladioli were born. In a high place, in the North. I know that there are red gladioli, and blue, and black gladioli. Around my house there are only white ones. I begin to walk toward them. But they will be put up for sale. (And this year sooner than ever, hurried on by the rumors of war); this is one of our businesses; that’s how we live. I keep on walking; they come and get me even before I look at them. That flock of corpses, doves. When I get there I fall on my knees; I feel like crying. They come back every year, but they’re never as heartbreaking as this. That cloud, that beauty falls over me.

I am at once dizzy and ecstatic, ill and well. It’s so strange, as if I were dead or pregnant. And if they don’t come for me, I’ll never be able to leave.