One Man’s Wake — (1961)

Selected Poems of Juan Gelman
 translated by Hardie St. Martin

The Art of Poetry

Of all trades, I’ve chosen one that  isn’t mine.

Like a hard taskmaster
it makes me work day and night,
in pain, in love,
out in the rain, in dark times,
when tenderness or the soul opens its arms,
when illness weighs down my hands.

The grief of others, tears,
handkerchiefs raised in greeting,
promises in the middle of autumn or fire,
kisses of reunion or goodbye,
everything makes me work with words, with blood.
I’ve never been the owner of my ashes, my poems,
obscure faces write them like firing bullets at death.