Poetry by Silvina López Medin

A Brief History of My Northern Uncles

Wreck upon wreck:
the asphalt, the old Mercedes Benz, my uncles inside it
everything creaking, that tree
overgrown, buckling the pavement
its shade touching everything
like a lapacho or a mother. Inside, always
barking: the dog, years in the playroom,
devoured furniture, photos, a finger—
you have to yell
just to be able to hear yourself; hoarse,
they go out onto the balcony in search of happiness, a river
although there is no river there is no sea
there is torrent
water that batters and breaks, and the storm follows.

But when there is sun
they sweep leaves,
spy on their neighbors with binoculars
spaghetti strap, cleavage, a birthmark
from afar none of it looks fake
you can’t see the film of dust.
They open trunks, dress
in clothes from their mother’s time
when there used to be silence, no dog
no huge tree
clothes too big or tight. Does it hurt?
They read together the end of the story
where everyone dressed this way
from another era
throw themselves into the sea
but I already told you, there’s no sea here,
they wouldn’t know what to do with such an ending.

Like That Birthday We Showed Up Late To

And when we asked after our sick aunt
a cousin said, “She was tired and went to sleep,”
because of the way she looked at the corner
where a little girl sucked the last
guts of cake from a candle, we gathered
that we would never see her again.

Someone made an alcove with their fingers
tried to relight the flame the wind had blown out,
someone picked up tissues from the floor
one by one,
someone held a pen and paper
but it was out of ink,
someone left their pale lipstick on the rim of a glass,
someone rubbed at the circle that glass left on the wood,
someone looked at the wood and remarked, “Oh,”
when there was nothing
to be surprised about, before
any other little girl
emerged from her hiding place beneath the table and with one yank
of the tablecloth
lay waste to the measure of these gestures.


I memorized
all the ways the body
could fit into words
how to make from a hint of laughter
a lightning bolt,
engraving every so often
my own name
looking for the stone’s
sure center
from which you can jump
to the other shore—
I had done everything
no, everything,
out of step
like someone who sees a sign that warns
of a mountain and stones
stones falling,
I didn’t know how to stop that crumbling.


The artifact my father fashioned,
a V-shaped branch and piece of rubber,
when at the edge of the neighborhood
there was a river and kids played
target practice on the birds,
I’ve let it fall into some lost corner,
I’ve let the stones gather dust.


The table between us
each head in its book
I raise my eyes
you turn a page
take a sip of coffee
look at the black puddle left behind on the plate
when you set down the cup a drop splashes your sleeve
you turn another page
take a drag, the ash on the verge of falling,
I push the ashtray towards your side of the table
the noise of it sliding
makes you raise your eyes for an instant

my mouth lets escape
smoke that doesn’t quite take shape and your face
once again

I close my book
turn the lighter’s metal wheel
that click, that click.

I Eat and Sleep with a Stranger

What an airplane allows:
the dulled blade of a knife,
two or three ways of stashing the foil
folded neatly or rolled into a ball, the same ways
we might fit our bodies into the seats
now that the flight attendant turns out the lights with no word of
like a severe or silent mother,
this strange head can’t find a place
doesn’t surrender to sleep
falls on my shoulder, lifts up
in a well-advised sway
from the wine in the disposable cup
we don’t pass the time of day
but something passes every so often
the border of the armrest
my hand which stretches
to steer the cup to the flight attendant, or the rhythm of that breathing
which escalates, retreats,
he has fallen asleep, I think
but who
has fallen asleep
he has no name
he has fallen asleep
I insist and my eyelids
begin to close
the way a mother closes
slowly the door
until she hears the click
my head falls, I fall
into the hollow of a shoulder.

Royal Enfield

If we could remain
in that over-embrace a motorcycle demands
you think, as a dog
crosses the pavement
like a black stain,
your head lowered
to feel the speed rattle
through his spine, the crowns of the trees
recede into the distance and you tighten your grip
now that you’re being pursued
by an idea: in the shade of those trees
together you will leave the motorcycle’s body
where the chrome will fail to rust
and walk
each clutching a helmet.


Silvina López Medin

Silvina López Medin (b. 1976) was born in Buenos Aires and lives in New York. Her three books of poetry are La noche de los bueyes (Madrid, 1999), awarded the International Young Poetry Prize, Esa sal en la lengua para decir manglar (Buenos Aires, 2014), and 62 brazadas (Buenos Aires, 2015). Her play Exactamente bajo el sol won the Plays Third Prize by the Argentine Institute of Theatre. She co-translated Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson (Buenos Aires, 2015) and Home Movies by Robert Hass (Buenos Aires, 2016). She co-edits the Señal series for contemporary Latin American poetry at Ugly Duckling Presse.

Jasmine V. Bailey

Jasmine V. Bailey’s first poetry collection, Alexandria, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2014 and won the Central New York Book Award. Her second collection, Disappeared, was published in 2017 by Carnegie Mellon, and her chapbook, Sleep and What Precedes It, won the 2009 Longleaf Press Chapbook Prize. She has been an Olive B. O’Connor Fellow at Colgate University, a Fulbright Fellow in Argentina, and a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Carolina Quarterly, 32 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, Cimarron Review, Midwest Quarterly, and other journals.

Esa sal en la lengua para decir manglar. Copyright (c) Silvina López Medin, 2014. English translation copyright (c) Jasmine V. Bailey, 2018.