The Girl on the Balcony

Selected Poems of Juan Gelman
translated by Hardie St. Martin

The Girl on the Balcony

The afternoon went down that street near the port
making its way slowly, swaying, filled with odors.
The old houses look pale on afternoons like this,
their squalid sadness shows more than ever and their walls
look unhappier than usual, deep stairways
give off light like phosphorescence from the sea
and perhaps dead eyes watch the late afternoon as if remembering.

It was six o’clock, something gentle stopped the newcomers,
something  gentle as if coming from the afternoon’s lips,
something full of lust.
Faces relax on afternoons like this,
they burn with something childlike
against the darkness, the breath of dancehalls.

This gentleness was as if each one were remembering a woman,
their thighs intertwined, his head on her belly,
the silence of the newcomers
was a heavy surf in the middle of the street
making knees and leftovers of tenderness crash
into the New Inn, its doors, its entrances the color of neglect.

And then the girl appeared on the balcony
standing over the afternoon that was as much hers as her room with its unmade bed
where every man believed he had loved her once
before forgetfulness had set in.