What they don’t know – Juan Gelman

Juan GelmanThe great Argentine poet, Juan Gelman (d. 2014) was born in Buenos Aires on May 3, 1930. On August 26, 1976, his children, Nora Eva, 19 years old, and Marcelo Ariel, 20, were kidnapped by the security forces, along with their daughter-in-law María Claudia Iruretagoyena, 19 years old, who was seven months pregnant. On January 7, 1990, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team identified the remains of his son Marcelo, found in a river in San Fernando (Greater Buenos Aires), inside an oil drum filled with sand and cement. The poem translated below describe the plight of individuals on the run during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War (1976-1983).


dark/luminous times/the sun
shrouds in sunshine the city rent
by sudden sirens/the police on the hunt/night falls and we
we will make love under this roof/the eighth

in a month/they know almost everything about us/except for
this plaster ceiling under which
we will make love/and neither do they know
the old pine furniture under the previous ceiling/nor

the window that the night pounded while it shone like the sun/nor
the beds or the floor where
we made love this month/surrounded by faces like the sun that
shrouds the city in sunshine

Juan Gelman, from Hechos (1974-1978)
Translated by John Lyons

tiempos oscuros/luminosos/el sol
cubre de sol la ciudad partida
por súbitas sirenas/la policía busca/cae la noche y nosotros
haremos el amor bajo este techo/el octavo
en un mes/conocen casi todo de nosotros/menos
este techo de yeso bajo el cual
haremos el amor/y tampoco conocen
los viejos muebles de pino bajo el techo anterior/ni
la ventana que la noche golpeaba mientras brillaba como el sol/ni
las camas o el suelo donde
hicimos el amor este mes/rodeados de rostros como el sol que
cubre de sol la ciudad


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