The Age of the Girls

translated by Calvin Olsen

A photograph of a mug on a wooden table. A coffee shop can be seen out of focus in the background

The girls who were talking in the corner not long ago
are just now starting to get up
(grabbing jackets from the coatrack)
taking up their umbrellas again and a forgotten wallet
that the tallest comes to rescue
from the mess of cigarette butts touched with
cake cream and
lipstick. The middle of the day conveys the
age of the girls
they have succeeded in quietly shattering
a chapter of their lives.
They dissolve toward the door
vestiges of voices that are no longer theirs
no longer catching my eye
(now drawn to the corner table that they left aligned
with the rest of the mess). Oh
how I envy the boy whose job it is to bus the table.
He barely notices how they let that moment
slip into the ether
he moves quickly to sweep the crumbs of that happiness
(not what’s strewn across the tabletop but
in that concentrated air:)
secret combinations
fragments of echoes
(some syllable detached from
a ragged paragraph)
that you tilt your ear toward with a craving for time
as if it were the tip.

Translation from the Portuguese

João Luís Barreto Guimarães is a reconstructive surgeon from Porto, Portugal, and the author of eleven poetry books. His work has been awarded the António Ramos Rosa National Poetry Award and the Armando da Silva Carvalho Poetry Award, and he has twice been a finalist for the International Camaiore Prize.

Calvin Olsen is a poet and translator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His translation of João Luís Barreto Guimarães’s Mediterranean won the Willow Run Poetry Book Award and is forthcoming from Hidden River Arts.