The Telephone

Pedros Salinas, ‘The Telephone’ [‘El teléfono’]
(Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1989)
First published: 1931

You were very close. Only
divided by ten rivers,
three languages, two borders:
four days between you and me.
Yet you were coming close to me
—blue circus of the air—in
a white skirt,
balancing pole in hand,
smiling on the wire.
Through the wire, at night,
seeing nothing, you would get close,
in the dark, straight, right to me.
You would say: ‘I am here.

translated by Nicoletta  Asciuto

Pedro Salinas (1891-1951) is one of the finest Spanish poets of the twentieth century. He was an active member of the avant-garde circle Generación del ’27 (Generation of 1927) and an academic, holding posts at major universities in Spain, France, the UK, the USA, and Puerto Rico. Although Salinas lived in the US for a large part of his life, his work is little known and studied in Anglophone contexts today. In Spain, Salinas is still popular for his love poetry. However, the main theme in Salinas’ early poetry is technology, which features prominently in the various forms of light bulbs, cinematograph, typewriters, and so on. Much of his poetry portrays an everyday reality touched by the extraordinary power of technology. In this sense, ‘The Telephone’ is a brilliant example of Salinas marveling at the modern technologies brought about by the new century. The telephone call is not an opportunity for lamenting the separation of the two lovers, but rather an instance of a felicitous magical journey which brings lovers together. Through the telephone wires, the lover’s voice is transformed into a circus entertainer, an acrobat or a tightrope walker. The more she speaks, the more she travels towards him, bridging the distance between them until the absent woman finally completes her treacherous journey, appearing, almost physically, right here, right next to her lover.

by Nicoletta  Asciuto