Poems for staying at home (Day 23)


‘When spirit plays at being matter, it turns into cat’. A selection of cat poems from Darío Jaramillo. Published in Impossible Loves (Carcanet, 2019).




The moon gilds the rooftops.
Unannounced, the shadows of cats appear.
They are so stealthy
they are only their shadows.
They see everything without being seen
and everything must be still while they move
so they can feel themselves to be unmoving,
the cats, their shadows.


Cloud in the shape of a cat:
cat that eats moons.
stealthy carnivore of the sky,
disguised as a cloud
or muffled in the darkness,
cat that devours stars.
Crouching, it surveys the heavenly spheres
and guzzles them in the night,
cat that eats moons.


States of matter.
The states of matter are four in number:
liquid, solid, gaseous and cat.
The cat is a special state of matter
although doubts remain:
Is this voluptuous contortion matter?
Is this way of sleeping not heaven-sent?
And this silence: might it emerge from a place without time?
When spirit plays at being matter
it turns into cat.


Wisdom of the cat:
To be idle all day without ever being bored.
Materialisation of the cat:
when the cat becomes matter, it extends its claws.
Guile of the cat:
it pretends to be a domestic animal.
Silence of the cat:
cats keep all the secrets of the night.
Mysteries of the cat:
everything about the cat is mysterious.


Nearly all cats
are cats.
But there are also cats that are not cats.
There are, to be sure:
we know about witches who take the form of a cat
and no one speaks of cats who turn into witches.
It could happen that a cat is so laid back
that it ceases to be a cat without becoming anything else,
a cat so idle
that it can’t be bothered with being a cat.


Words for speaking about cats:
there are no words for speaking about cats.
Words do not encompass cats.
Cats are indifferent
to beings who speak.
A bark might disturb them
and a thunder-clap give cats a shock.
But cats do not hear words,
they are not interested in anything that can be said with words.
Why words when you can have smell?
Why words when
silence is possible?

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)



La luna dora los techos.
Inesperadas, aparecen las sombras de los gatos.
Son tan sigilosos
que son solamente sus sombras.
Ellos ven todo sin ser vistos
y todo debe estar quieto mientras se mueven
para que ellos puedan sentirse inmóviles,
los gatos, sus sombras.


Nube en forma de gato:
gato que come lunas,
sigiloso carnívoro del cielo,
disfrazado de nube
o embozado en lo oscuro,
gato que devora estrellas.
Agazapado, vigila las órbitas
y las engulle en la noche,
gato que come lunas.


Estados de la materia.
Los estados de la materia son cuatro:
líquido, sólido, gaseoso y gato.
El gato es un estado especial de la materia,
si bien caben las dudas:
¿es materia esta voluptuosa contorsión?
¿no viene del cielo esta manera de dormir?
Y este silencio, ¿acaso no procede de un lugar sin tiempo?
Cuando el espíritu juega a ser materia
entonces se convierte en gato.


Sabiduría del gato:
hacer pereza todo el día sin llegar nunca al tedio.
Materialización del gato:
cuando el gato se convierte en materia, saca las uñas.
Astucia del gato:
fingir que es un animal doméstico.
Silencio del gato:
los gatos guardan todos los secretos de la noche.
Misterios del gato:
todo en el gato es misterioso.


Casi todos los gatos
son gatos.
Pero existen gatos que no son gatos.
Que los hay los hay:
se sabe de brujas que se meten entre un gato
y nadie cuenta de gatos convertidos en bruja.
Puede ocurrir que un gato sea tan indolente
que deje de ser gato sin volverse nada distinto,
sólo un gato tan perezoso
que le da pereza ser gato.


Palabras para hablar de los gatos:
No hay palabras para hablar de los gatos.
Los palabras no abarcan a los gatos.
Los gatos son indiferentes
con los seres que hablan.
Un ladrido puede molestarlos
y un estruendo asusta a los gatos.
Pero los gatos no oyen las palabras.
no les interesa nada que pueda decirse con palabras.
¿Para qué las palabras si hay olfato,
para qué las palabras
si es posible el silencio?


Darío Jaramillo is one of Colombia’s foremost poets and novelists, widely acclaimed for re-energising the love poem, and winner of his country’s National Poetry Prize (2017). He is the recipient of the International Federico García Lorca Prize (2018) for a lifetime contribution to Spanish literature. His poems have been translated into English by Richard Gwyn, and have been published by Carcanet as Impossible Loves (2019). His poems also appear in The Other Tiger (Seren, 2016).

4 Comments on “Poems for staying at home (Day 23)

  1. I started reading these poems out loud to our cat, Summer. She walked over to her food and nibbled a bit. I was still reading aloud to her when she walked past my legs, made a kind of squeezed mewing sound and trotted out to the garden where she sprawled in a pool of sunlight. I continued reading to an empty room. To myself.


      • That your cat doesn’t understand English? Maybe you should try Turkish. Apparently cats understand Turkish. We should look for a translator . . . . Oz?


  2. Thankyou for the poems you’ve been sharing here over the past days. I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughtful translations of them, and discovering new poetry writing, too.


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