Jorge Ortega: Two poems

/ Translated from Spanish by Anthony Seidman. 

Read the poems in Spanish here. /


Durability of Materials


L’Art est long et le Temps est court.

—Charles Baudelaire


The stone was here

before my birth, before

the birth of my father

and his father, my grandfather

and ten generations preceding,

and all the living beings

that people this planet

until this closing moment.


I can only kneel,

venerate the moisture

growing stronger as I sniff

its odor: a chunk of forest,

that ancient moisture

emanating from caves

sunken deep in time.


We will depart

                         and the stone

will remain in the plaza, erect,

atop the pile of its own bones

which do not crumble

with haste

                  unlike our

body parts.


Consistence of the world:

regard the mute corrosion

of flesh, so unlike the solidity

of millennia-laden textures; look,

the wasting envelopment,

the brittle bones sustaining

a tattered coat;

the stem which we ultimately are,

unlike the quarry or basalt

chilled by the alchemy of centuries.


Man is not older than stone,

nor does he reach as far

                                       or outlive

what he has erected with his living pulse.


He endures less than his creations.



Biology Lesson


The bird is lighter

       than the branch

in the garden of fragility.


Detaching, sliding

down, a drop

                      of water,



the vertical weight of

its glass bead

on the leaf-veins.



the bird

perches among the cornices

like a marionette tugged by rain-strings.


We, on the other hand,

never cease


just as the sky shatters

beneath the axe of thunder. 


Earthlings, the ground demand us.


And thus, the only thing left

to us is to attack the flood´s inertia

and the bird´s ascent,


from a point of view which only

emphasizes the inability

                                       of our life-form.



Jorge Ortega (b. 1972, Mexicali) is one of Mexico’s most celebrated contemporary poets. He studied Hispanic Philology at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, where he earned his doctorate. His recent collection, Devoción por la piedra (Mantis, México, 2016), won Mexico’s highly coveted poetry prize named in honor of Jaime Sabines, the Premio Internacional de Poesía Jaime Sabines of 2010. Other titles include Ajedrez de polvo (tsé-tsé, Buenos Aires, 2003), Estado del tiempo (Hiperión, Madrid, 2005) and Guía de forasteros (Bonobos, México, 2014). His work has been included in numerous anthologies in Mexico and the United States, including Across the Line. The Poetry of Baja California (Junction Press, San Diego, 2002). His poetry and translations of such poets as Hart Crane have appeared in such journals as Crítica, Letras Libres, Revista de Occidente, The Bitter OleanderThe Black Herald ReviewStructo, World Literature Today, International Poetry Review and Poetry International.


About the Translator:

Anthony Seidman is a poet and translator residing in Los Angeles, California. His work has been included in such journals as Chiron ReviewNimrodWorld Literature TodayThe Black Herald ReviewAmbitCardinal Points, among other publications. He has a new collection of poetry entitled A Sleepless Man Sits Up In Bed (Eyewear, 2016). With David Shook, he is the co-translator of Confetti-Ash: Selected Poems by Salvador Novo (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2015).


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