“Dance Steps” and Other Poems

Translated from Spanish by Sergio Waisman and Yaki Setton

Dance Steps

Today death came to me
in a new way, not in things
but in me, body and mind already know
although I, I do not

death settles on my shoulder
and half a meter away, a gnatcatcher
flaps its wings, the ovenbirds
courting but three away

the little hens walking
across the grass, pecking
at two as if perhaps
taking dance steps,

life falls new upon them
as death falls new upon me


The Sermon of the Moorhens

The waters of the river recede in a rush
and the moorhens caw in the last
strange light of day as if it were
the novo angelus crossed by the whistling
of the singing thrush piercing the chorus
with its very grave tenor voice in alto
leading me to pray for a moment
as we pray here, with that melody
that seems always not to say anything
only to sing really softly until
the sound comes out and fills everything
and the immense night falls



Impacto, Marejada, Don
Tomás… flatboats crossing
the brownish waters
with an air noble and slow

and the milk turns gold
on the coffee of the San Antonio
from the reflection of a turbulent
dark gray cloudscape

the festoons announce
a storm and a biguá cormorant
black and enormous fishing
near the pier

draws its head out
of the coffee-colored milk
to dive in again
its tail unfurled

a graceful gesture of swimming
under water, while Miguel
tells me that a three-kilo
dorado must be released

back into the river and you can only take
one of ten, these little dorados
he says, will not be coming back
to the warm waters of the Paraná

do they die? I asked, they’re eaten
by bigger ones he stated
as the Catalina, the Capote,
and the Pucará passed by…

empty toward the Río de la Plata
to later return
loaded with wood
beautiful and slow along the rim of the water

cooling quickly
in the short days of April
as I sit every afternoon
on the pier at El Alba

with a book under the sun
and slowly read, watching, this
slow too and I think
of the sweet little dorados

that will die under the keels
of the prows of the Ifigenia,
Romance Isleño, Macarena,
or Don José… as if they

kept their memory, or I did,
gathering the names
of these flatboats without
knowing why… the ants gather

food before winter
and the storm, or names
that make life beautiful
Don Cirilo, Andadura,

La Primera, ¡Qué pasó!…
the little dorados don’t have
time to return now,
with autumn the waters

grow cold and flow
toward the Río de la Plata
where other bigger ones
eat them… Don Raúl

Río Paranacito, Itapé,
Pity Pity, Joaquín T…
like the wood of these
flatboats, or you and me, Miguel


A Ballerina on the Stage of the World

Leaving with the small
things, infinite life,
it is a fright the taste
of this mate and Talita
bathed in the morning
resting before the leaves
with the small bird devouring
the fruits of the lantana plant
as if they were blueberries…

I adore you, life,
with your blackbirds
and goldfinches singing behind

it always seems too little
your repeated beauty
awakening a new wonder
even the
tiniest nail on the slightly red

wood of the massive
purple quivers of the plum trees
and the last bush
for which I have no words

I love them without contradiction
with massive applause
I am yours and I am not leaving
winged boards of this house of mine

I see everything for both of us,
Talita, like you smell
the world for me
and together we enter the eden
we promised ourselves at birth

which will open for us
when the moment arrives
with a motion that includes
the others,

broad and slow, a ballerina
on the stage of the world
green toward the blue of its waters,
so beautiful, so beautiful
like the two of us…