4 Poems by Gemma Gorga, translated from the Catalan by Sharon Dolin


I turn the capricious kaleidoscope
of the dictionary
between my fingers.

a poem appears, radial and symmetrical,
carrying my frame of mind.

I wonder if it won’t be the other way around,
if my frame of mind will be the one to
adapt symmetrically
to the words
to say.



Giro entre els dits
el calidoscopi capriciós
del diccionari.

A voltes
apareix un poema radial i simètric
amb el meu estat d’ànim.

A voltes
dubto si no serà a l’inrevés,
si no serà el meu estat d’ànim
que s’adaptarà simètricament
a les paraules
a dir.


Long ago
before the continents were divided
and we began counting our lives
in years,
it was still possible
to pick up a pin,
prick a hole in the porous shell
and joyfully suck out the yolk’s
embryonic yellow with the egg white’s 
moist light. A journey through secret tunnels
displaced matter and food
from one concavity to another—
from the slippery darkness of beginnings
to the definitive darkness
of the throat.

That was a long time ago,
when the hens laid eggs
in the improvised shadow of four planks,
when the dogs gnawed
on carcasses and Sunday leftovers
and they seemed happy,
when the bacteria
hadn’t colonized
all the meridians of fear,
the microscopes slept
and we ate in peace
the simple fruit of the earth.


Temps enrere,
abans que se separessin els continents
i comencéssim a comptar en anys
Les nostres vides,
encara era possible
agafar una agulla de cap,
picar un foradet en las closca porosa
i xuclar amb delit el groc embrionari
del rovell barrejat amb la llum mullada
de la clara. Un viatge per túnels secrets
desplaçava matèria i aliment
d’una concavitat a una altra,
de la foscor lliscadissa dels inicis
a la foscor definitiva
de la gola.

D’això fa molt de temps,
quan les gallines ponien ous
a l’ombra improvisada de quatre taulons,
quan els gossos rosegaven
carcanades i sobralles dominicals
i semblaven feliços,
quan els bacteris
no havien colonitzat
tots els meridians de la por,
els microscopis dormien
i nosaltres menjàvem en pau
els fuits senzills de la terra.


From her I inherited two gold earrings
carved into small hexagons of light:
from one ear to the other
the trajectory is simple—
death took charge of opening
the hook here, closing it there—
such as who inherits stories or memories,
also from one ear to the other,
also the initial puncture,
blood-lit at the end of the corridor,
pain beating for life
at the lobe of each word.


D’ells vaig heretar dues arracades d’or
tallades en petits hexàgons de llum:
d’una orella a una altra orella
el trajecte és senzill
—la mort va encarregar-se d’obrir
la gafeta aquí, tancar la gafeta allà—,
com qui hereta històries o memòries,
també la punxada inicial,
la llumeta de sang al fons del passadís,
el dolor bategant de per vida al lòbul de cada paraula.

Optic Principle

Words see better at night.

We shine a moment in the center
of their blind retinas, the way meat
shines at the back of the predator’s
rancid memory.

We ourselves
are inverted images of what in reality
we would—so desperately—
like to know
how to say.

Principi Òptic

Les paraules s’hi veuen millor de nit.

Nosaltres brillem un instant al centre
de les seves retines cegues, com brilla
la carn al fons de la memòria pútrida del depredador.

imatges invertides d’allò que en realitat
—tan desesperadament—
voldríem saber



Gemma Gorga is a contemporary poet writing in Catalan, author of six books of poetry, most recently Mur (Wall, Barcelona, 2015), which won the Premi de la Critica de Poesia Catalana for the best book of poetry published in Catalan that year. Her collection of prose poems, Llibre dels minuts (Book of Minutes, Barcelona 2006) won the Premi Miguel de Palol. She teaches Medieval and Renaissance Spanish Literature at the University of Barcelona.


Sharon Dolin is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Manual for Living and Whirlwind (both from the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her fourth book, Burn and Dodge, won the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She received translation grants from PEN and Institut Ramon Llull for her translation of Gemma Gorga’s prose poems Book of Minutes (Field Translation Series, Oberlin College Press 2019). She is at work on a Selected Poems of Gemma Gorga and directs Writing About Art in Barcelona each June.