Dibaxu – Juan Gelman


This is a bilingual Ladino-Castellano poetry collection written by acclaimed Argentine poet Juan Gelman, published in 1994. He decided to call it dibaxu, a Sephardic term that means “under”. The title already conveys the complex universe the reader may find under the veil of a seeming simplicity; a deluge of obstreperous feelings said in an undertone. The past, love, confusion, countless sensations, strong desires, empty spaces, a search for a homeland – roots with which I fail to identify, once more.
In this book, Gelman’s poems first appear in Ladino and then in Spanish; I’ll follow the same order, including the English translation afterwards.
tu boz sta escura
di bezus qui a mí no dieras/
di bezus qui a mí no das/
la nochi es polvu dest’ixiliu/
tu voz está oscura
de besos que no me diste/
de besos que no me das/
la noche es polvo de este exilio/
your voice is dark
of kisses that you did not give to me/
of kisses that you do not give to me/
night is dust from this exile/
The act of revealing real emotions – an act often fraught with ineffable difficulty – never looked so simple. Gelman masterfully expresses in a few words, everything that sometimes requires numerous pages and that tangible concept of fleeting nature we call time; everything that emerges from the depths of love, regret,
amarti es istu:
un avla qui va a dizer/
un arvulicu sin folyas
qui da solombra/
amarte es esto:
una palabra que está por decir/
un arbolito sin hojas
que da sombra/
loving you is this:
a word that is about to speak/
a small tree without leaves
that provides shade/
Through unique and recurring imagery and a naturally distinctive cadence, he places the reader inside his mind; our mind, that inhospitable region where dreams and yearnings continue to accumulate in secrecy, longing for emotional impetus. Concise lines that belong to a bigger picture, a fragmented reality; lines that are accompanied by the use of somewhat distracting slashes, part of the author’s individual style.
dizis avlas cun árvulis
tenin folyas qui cantan
y páxarus
qui adjuntan sol/
tu silenziu
lus gritus
dil mundu/
dices palabras con árboles/
tienen hojas que cantan
y pájaros
que juntan sol/
tu silencio
los gritos
del mundo/
you say words with trees/
they have leaves that sing
and birds
that gather sun/
your silence
the cries
of the world/
Gelman’s poetry reveals itself without any affectation; some things are open to interpretation but amid so much comforting frankness, they are so, so clear. He voices his thoughts with simple yet evocative metaphors and a pithy language which defies any traditional rule.
His thoughts, thus, are diaphanous as fire.
pondrí mi spantu londji/
dibaxu dil pasadu/
qui arde
cayadu com’il sol/
pondré mi espanto lejos/
debajo del pasado/
que arde
callado como el sol/
i will set my fear afar/
underneath the past/
that burns
silent as the sun/

* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s