ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

A journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


Two Spanish Poems by Carlos Barbarito translated by Ricardo Nirenberg.


Translator’s note: I have preceded Barbarito’s poems by three texts taken from Einstein, Heraclitus, and Kitarō.  Such liberty, after all, is minor compared to the ones I have taken in the translation.

“What do we mean by rendering objective the concept of time?  Let us consider an example.  A person A (‘I’) has the experience ‘it is lightning.’  At the same time the person A also experiences such a behavior of the person B as brings the behavior of B into relation with his own experience ‘it is lightning.’  Thus it comes about that A associates with B the experience ‘it is lightning.’  For the person A the idea arises that other persons also participate in the experience ‘it is lightning.’  ‘It is lightning’ is now no longer interpreted as an exclusively personal experience, but as an experience of other persons (or eventually only as a ‘potential experience’).  In this way arises the interpretation that ‘it is lightning,’ which originally entered the consciousness as an ‘experience,’ is now also interpreted as an (objective) ‘event.’  It is just the sum total of all events what we mean when we speak of the ‘real external world.’”
Albert Einstein, “Relativity and the Problem of Space,” in Ideas and Opinions, New York, 1954, p. 363.

El momento se encarna en un niño…

El momento se encarna en un niño
que tiembla, detrás de una ventana,
ante el relámpago. ¿De qué
está compuesta esa luz fugaz y fría
que es luz pero también serpiente?
No hubo previsión como no hubo aviso;
demasiado espacio fue dedicado al tedio,
a un mero permanecer de polvo en la alfombra.
Demasiado tiempo desgastando,
de a poco, lo eterno
y de cada hora, el afán del cursor
como ojo de animal
que se encamina, sin pausa, hacia el Diluvio.
Rasga el cielo. Precede al ruido del trueno.
El mal futuro ya orbita el presente.
Dirán, en otra parte,
que todavía queda una instancia
para la gracia, el ramaje, el espesor.
Aquí, detrás de la ventana,
sigue temblando un niño
aunque la razón del miedo pareciera haber cesado.


The moment becomes flesh

The moment becomes flesh in a child
at a window, who shudders
before the flash of lightning.  What is
that cold and fleeting light,
gleam and dragon at once?
There was neither foresight nor warning;
too wide the wasted span of boredom,
the dumb abiding of dust.
Too much time wearing
off eternity
and the hours, the rush of the clock hand
like a beast’s eye
headed straight to the Flood.
It rips the sky.  Announces thunder.
Future calamity orbits the now.
Somewhere they’ll say
there’s still a chance
for grace, foliage and cover.
Here, behind the window,
a child still shudders
though the reason for the fear seems to be gone.



“psychês peírata iòn ouk àn exeúroio, pâsan epiporeuómenos hodón: oúto bathùn lógon échei.”  The lógos of the psyché is said to be so deep that were you to follow all roads, you would never be able to find its limits. Heraclitus, Fragment B45.

“The bottom of my soul has such depth; / neither joy nor the waves of sorrow can reach it.”  Nishida Kitarō.  


No duerme; el mundo le es ajeno…

No duerme; el mundo le es ajeno,
acechante. En la palma de una mano,
un laico estigma; en la palma
de la otra mano, una piedra pómez,
único residuo de un antiguo,
inexplicado desastre. En oscuridad,
cada pregunta vale menos
que un montón de ceniza;
si hubiese ahora carne
de otro cuerpo junto a la carne de su cuerpo,
si ese cuerpo fuera como una extensión
del suyo, ¿arrimaría calma
la labor del arduo obrero nocturno,
el que golpea con su pico
la dura piedra de lo más profundo?


He doesn’t sleep; the world out there…

He doesn’t sleep, oblivious to the world,
lurking out there.  A secular stigma
on the palm of one hand; on the other
palm a pumice stone,
single remain of some ancient,
absurd catastrophe.  In the dark,
each question counts for less
than a pail of ash;
if another’s flesh
lay now along his,
if the other body were like an extension of
his own, would peace follow
the work of the night digger,
who breaks with his pickaxe
the deepest rock?

Carlos Barbarito is a poet and artist living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His new book, Cenizas del Mediodía is available at

Ricardo Nirenberg is the editor of Offcourse

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