Enrique Solinas and Márgara Averbach

Nouha Gorani Homad


The following selections from two Argentinian authors, Márgara Averbach and Enrique Solinas, deal with loss. Since I know the two authors personally, their poems are that much more touching. I have felt their pain up close, and I have tried in these selections to convey the evocative quality of their poems.

Translating poetry has always been particularly challenging for me. I’m usually more comfortable with narrative.

For these selections, I was fortunate to have the authors themselves collaborate with me in the rendering of their works into another language. I had already collaborated with Márgara over the translation of her novel Una Cuadra [Grass between the Cobblestones] into English, which was a fascinating experience. With Enrique, this was the first time that I translate his work. Below, I have appended the back and forth about the poems, and the changes they suggested as the translation unfolded.



In 2008 I met Enrique Solinas in Buenos Aires. I was at the time visiting my daughter in Santiago de Chile and she had surprised me with a trip to Buenos Aires to revisit my old haunts. My daughter, Gida, and I met up with Jorge Paolantonio and Enrique for dinner in the Palermo neighbourhood to talk about Jorge’s Ceniza de orquídeas which I was in the process of translating for the New York City based publisher, Jorge Pinto Books. In conversation, Enrique told me he wrote poetry and gave me a copy of his poems. I found the poems hauntingly beautiful, very tender and gentle just like him. When Jorge died suddenly in July 2019, Enrique was devastated. The loss he had sustained was beyond words. The following poems are selections from his dedicatory to Jorge.

Señor de los pájaros y otros poemas
Enrique Solinas

a Jorge Paolantonio, in memorial

« Señor de los pájaros,
Señor del silencio,
algo no termina de llegar
hacia la otra orilla;
algo ha quedado en medio
del dolor y del recuerdo;

donde las canciones y los poemas
que tanto soñé
van perdiendo su por qué,
van perdiendo

el color del sentido. »

Lord of the Birds and other Poems
Enrique Solinas

to Jorge Paolantonio, in memoriam

‘Lord of the birds,
Lord of the silence,
something is still coming
something has not yet arrived
from at the other bank;
something has remained in the middle midway
of pain grief and remembrance;

where the songs and poems
that I had so long dreamed
are losing their sense,
they are losing
the colour of their meaning.’


The translations are beautiful, thank you very much, Nouha. Jorge loved you, he always kept you in mind. You were a great friend to him.


Poema para tu cumpleaños
Estas palabras nunca serán
lo suficientemente certeras
para decir todo lo posible.Celebremos la vida esta noche,
he visto tu rostro
bajo el cielo estrellado.
He sentido el amor.Hago una corona de flores,
la coloco sobre tu cabeza,
tanta belleza me emociona.Como esas canciones de infancia
que en el recuerdo se repiten
una y otra vez,así estarás,en mí,por siempre.
Poem for your birthday

My words will never be
Precise,accurate Strong? Enough Strong
to say everything that I have to say.

Let us celebrate life tonight,
I have seen your face
under the stars in the sky heaven stars.
I have felt your love.

I make weave a crown of flowers,
I place it on your head,
I am moved by such beauty.

Like those songs of childhood
that are fixed in the memory
one time and again and again,

So will you be,

within me,



‘Certeras’: ‘seguras’, is good. So yes, strong, in the sense of firm is ok.


Tres muertes
                   a Mascha kalékoLa primera vez que morí fue
cuando murió mi madre.
El hospital era negro como el cielo
y su respiración cesó
como cuando el viento calla.La segunda vez que morí fue
cuando murió mi padre.
El hospital era claro como el sol
y todos teníamos la certeza
de lo que iba a suceder.Pero la tercera vez que morí,
aún sigue sucediendo.
Todo fue de repente,
enterré tu memoria
en mi corazón
y allí existe intacta.Ahora sé que no sé
–y esto es seguro–
si estaré muerto
y no me he dado cuenta
o si morí tantas veces,
pero tantas veces,
que ya no muero más.
Three Deaths
                   for Mascha KalékoThe first time that I died was
when my mother died.
The hospital was as dark as the sky
and her breath failed
like when the wind is quiet breeze fell silent.The second time that I died was
when my father died.
The hospital was as light as the sun
and we all had the sure knowledge
of what would happen was to come.But the third time I died,
Still keeps happening.
It was unexpected in a moment,
I buried your memory
in my heart
and there it survives complete.Now I know that I don’t know
– and this is for sure –
If I have died
and I was unaware unawares
or if I died so many times,
but so many times,
that I cannot die again.
Enrique, why the dedication to Mascha Kaleko? Is there a story behind that?

I dedicated the poem to this German Jewish poet because she has a poem called “The Famous Feeling”, which talks about three deaths, in a vague way. I took that poem and rewrote it: that is why I dedicated it to her. My poem arises from her poem.



I first met Márgara in the summer of 1997. We were both visiting scholars at Santa-Barbara University, California. After a dinner at the beautiful home of one of hosts the programme, a home in the mountains around Santa-Barbara, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a guitar was produced. I offered to play a Zamba and asked Márgara if she would sing along with me. I suggested Luna tucumana. There were suddenly tears in Márgara’s eyes. She said she couldn’t possibly sing that zamba, it brought back painful memories of her father. We ended up singing Guitarrero, a less evocative song for her. In 2016, my daughter and I spend the day with Márgara and her family at their campo home in Ezeiza, near Buenos Aires. She told me that she had broken out of her habit of writing mostly prose. She was actually writing poetry now as well. Her collection of poems was very personal, mostly addressed to her ‘viejos’, her parents, her husband and her children, about loss and love. Several of those poems – three of which are translated here – are about her father.

hablar sola
Márgara Averbach






                    LOS OTROS

Zamba (2010)
(a papá)

Esta música se me clava
en los labios.
Sé que voy a llorar
cuando la oigo.
Voy a llorar
con tu nombre
metido en el sueño,
como si no fuera fácil la palabra,
como si no fuera blanda.

La que viene
desde la radio,
en ondas que tanto tratabas de explicarme,
es tu música.
La única que te recuerdo.
No tenías muchas.
Y ahí estás, de pronto,
cantándola mientras
vamos en auto hacia el frío,
que te gustaba
Esta música
talla tu
ausencia en el aire:
un hueco
de hielo.
Alguna vez,
tuviste mi edad
y desde mi edad de ahora,
me hablabas
del mundo
con una tristeza
larga, empecinada.
De eso sí,
me acuerdo.
La zamba es alegre, decías,
pero cantabas las tristes
preferiste la muerte.
La adelantaste.
Tal vez,
algún día,
lo entienda.
Por ahora,
te miro en el auto,
te escucho cantarme
como si estuvieras.


Talking to Myself
Márgara Averbach






                               The others
Zamba (2010)
(for my father)

This music seals   stabs
My lips.
I know I will cry     am going to
when I hear it.
I will cry       am going to
at your name
tucked figured in the dream,
as if the words were not easy as if the word were difficult,
as if it were not comforting    tender
The music The zamba that comes
from the radio,
in waves that you were trying so hard to explain to me,
is your music.
The only one I remember.
You did not have many.
And there you are, suddenly,
singing it while
while we drive into the cold,
that you liked
so much.
This music
carves moulds sculpts out your
absence in the air:
a hollow
of ice.
Once, when you were my age
and from my age now,
you talked to me
of the world
with a sadness
long, limitless
with a long, measureless
Oh yes,
I remember that.
The zamba is happy, you said,
but you sang only the sad ones.
But then, Then
you preferred death.
You hastened it.
one day,
I might will understand.
For now,
I look at you in the car,
I hear you singing to me
as if you were there.

The only general thing is that my poetry has rhyme. When I translate poems into Spanish and they rhyme in English, I make them rhyme in Spanish… But I could never do it when I translate into English so it is OK if you do not do it… Only: maybe there should be an explanation about this. I think using rhyme or not is kind of a split in poetry nowadays. Most poets do not use rhyme. I need to do it.





(I would look for a more violent verb, “clava” is “me pone un clavo en los labios”) 
Dale, stab me gusta… Perfecto.



(de nuevo, más violento)



Tormenta (2016)
(a papá)No sé por qué
levanto la vista.
El cielo está bajo.
Y yo me acuerdo, claro:
de vos, de mí (pero chica),
de tu dedo largo,
de tus palabras.
Un perro, ¿lo ves?
¿El árbol?
¿El caballo?
Discutíamos nubes y,
en ese rato sin tiempo,
vos eras casi alegre.
casi entero.
porque sí,
el cielo
está bajo
de nuevo.
Y yo
me acuerdo.
Storm (2016)
(For my father)I don’t know why
I look up.
The sky is overcast  dark  closing in.    low
And I remember clearly vividly      of course:
you, me (but a girl),
your long finger,
held above poised above,
your words.
A dog, do you see it?
The tree?
The horse?
We discussed clouds then,
And in that time moment outside of time,
You were almost happy cheery.
You were
almost whole complete.
You were smiling.
just because,
the sky
is closing in             low
And I
(quiero decir que da la impresión de que lo podés tocar con las manos, you can touch it with your hands).


(acá, “claro” es of course, evidently)


Café (2010)

No viniste.
El café se me hizo noche fría
entre los labios.
Pero no quiero irme
Sé que
hubiera sido
no esperarte.

Coffee (2010)

You did not come.
The coffee got cold last night    turned into cold night
On my the lips.
It is raining.
But I do not want to leave
even yet.
I know that
It would have been not waiting for you
worse would have been
not waiting for you worse.