Three poems by João Luís Barreto Guimarães, translated from the Portuguese (Portugal) by Calvin Olsen

Castle View by Jennifer Kircher Herman

The temperature of fear

          Willis Tower
          103rd floor
          412 meters high

the top
of the skyscraper (on a balcony of glass)
for just a moment I lived
through what they may have felt
those atop the Twin towers
fire’s prisoners. But
only that first
second. Looking at the street below
(through a transparent deck)
I felt my skin being ripped by the cold
shiver of
an imminent fall –
the last voyage
of Icarus. That’s all I can speak to: how
frozen the vertigo feels –
that very first

A temperatura do medo

          Willis Tower
          103º andar
          412 metros de altura

do arranha-céus (numa varanda em vidro)
por um átimo senti o
que poderão ter sentido
os prisioneiros do fogo no alto das
torres gémeas. Mas
só o primeiro
segundo. Olhando a rua em baixo
(sobre um deck transparente)
senti a pele a ser rasgada pelo arrepio
de frio de
uma queda iminente –
a última viagem
de Ícaro. É só do que sei falar: quão
gelada é a vertigem –
aquele primeiro

Litany to bad luck

No one cares about bad luck. They all
turn their back on it (starting
with the right foot
knuckles on the table
fleeing from the fragments of a mirror). Everyone
they’ve never encountered
it (never a lost car key
a stain on your tie
an umbrella
and the wind). No one approaches it
(shooing black cats) it’s a shame
to see bad luck so lonely
(crouched under the stairs) left
to fend for itself.

Litania ao azar

Ninguém quer saber do azar. Todos
lhe voltam as costas (entrando
com o pé direito
com o punho na mesa
fugindo aos cacos do espelho). Toda
a gente
faz de conta que nunca
o conheceu (nunca uma chave perdida
uma nódoa na gravata o
e o vento). Ninguém se aproxima dele
(evitando gatos pretos) faz
pena ver o azar sozinho
(debaixo da escada) largado
à sua sorte.

Statues start to walk

          to Juan Manuel Roca

end of the afternoon arrives and the statues
come back to life –
not to rile up a mob (or fashion
ideologies) but
for this other perhaps more prosaic reason: the
workday is over. They’ve come to the end of
another day
(spent frozen in a pose)
winking a static eye in every picture
(upon hearing the metallic clink with which
the sidewalk
speaks). The statues climb down from on high
and return to movement
that little revenge against scarcity’s demands –
a whole day immobile
a whole day of silence
a whole day gone from their lives.

As estátuas começam a caminhar

          a Juan Manuel Roca

fim de tarde acontece e as estátuas
voltam à vida –
não para levantar a turba (ou moldar
ideologias) mas
por essoutra razão porventura mais prosaica: o
dia de trabalho acabou. Chegou ao fim
mais um dia
(passado a meio de um gesto)
piscando o olho estático a cada fotografia
(ao metálico tinir com que a
fala). As estátuas descem do alto e
tornam ao movimento
é a pequena vingança pelo que a escassez as obriga –
um dia inteiro quietas
um dia inteiro caladas
um dia a menos na vida.


João Luís Barreto Guimarães was born in 1967 in Porto, Portugal where he studied medicine. A poet and reconstructive surgeon, he is the author of eleven poetry collections, including Poesia Reunida (Collected Poems), published in 2011; Você está Aqui (You Are Here), published in 2013; and Mediterrâneo (Mediterranean), published in 2016, winner of the 2017 António Ramos Rosa National Poetry Award.

Calvin Olsen is an American poet and translator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where he studied under Robert Pinsky, David Ferry, and Nobel laureate Louise Glück; and an MA in English & Comparative Literature from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Communication, Rhetoric, & Digital Media at NC State University. Calvin’s poetry and translations have appeared in The Adroit Journal, AGNI, Asymptote, Salamander, and World Literature Today, among others. His translation of João Luís Barreto Guimarães’s ninth collection, Mediterranean, won the 2020 Willow Run Poetry Book Award and is forthcoming from Hidden River Press. His work has been supported by the Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship and The American Literary Translators Association.

Jennifer Kircher Herman is a writer and photographer. In her photography, she is drawn to statues, as they capture in stone the emotions of the human hands that carved them. She is widely published in literary journals, including North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Hobart, Alaska Quarterly, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, The Rumpus, American Literary Review, and The Nebraska Review, where her work also won the Fiction Prize.  She holds an MFA from Emerson College, and has been selected to participate in numerous writing workshops including Bread Loaf, One Story, and Kasteel Well, where she won the fiction fellowship.  She is currently working on a novel and a collection of essays on yearning, art, and the human condition.