This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Luis Chaves, translated from the Spanish by Julia Elizabeth Guez and Samantha Zighelboim. 


Clothes out to dry 
and those clouds.

There’s a new dog
who follows me everywhere 
I go. He is here now, 
under the table. When it’s storming 
out he flattens himself onto the floor 
and will not be moved.

The house is the same
except for the kitchen,
which we opened up some 
by knocking out the back wall. 
It’s more modern;
it has granite countertops 
like the ones in those magazines you sent 
back when you used to send me things.

We put small white stones in the garden,
forming a path to the door.
At dusk or before 
it rains, the smell of basil.  
This hasn’t changed either.
Year in and year out,
regardless of who’s around,
the same scent faintly
enters this part of the house
that overlooks the garden
as if it’s following the stone path.
The basil
then the rain
or the dusking.

Believe it or not
we still have the same TV.
Last night, there was this show 
on. While I was thinking about something 
else entirely, an enormous wind farm—
turbines staked into green 
fields—flickered across the screen.
They were all in a row, in formation,
the blades, enormous and slow,
harnessing electricity from the wind.
They turned out of time, 
losing synchronization.

So I forgot about whatever else I was thinking
and instead thought of this
for a while:
what it would be like to go there,
to the foot of a windmill—
a mechanical silence, perhaps.
Then I fell asleep.

Outside the clouds arranged
themselves in a kind of formation.
Like the sky’s own white stone path
in motion.

It’s going to rain
and I have clothes drying on the line.
Thunder is the sound of electricity.
I leave you with this phrase from a magazine
while the dog trembles,
flattening himself on the floor.

Maybe you live where
those windmills are.
I couldn’t understand much—
it was the German or French channel—
all sounds the same to me.
Lawn-like stretches, 
green patches
of different kinds of grasses
like seams in a slow moving river
or striations of color
in a slick of diesel
that come together 
without ever mixing. 

I wonder what your house is like—
the path leading to your front door,
clothes drying on a balcony.
On TV I watch shows about travel
like the one on last night
with people buried up to 
their knees in snow somewhere.
Then the same place without any people,
without any other sound but the internal tic-tac 
which isn’t coming from the television.

Behind a wall of electricity,
the snow on TV
makes me want to be there.
I wonder about your home, what you’re thinking
before it rains
or grows dark.
This is the sort of thing I think about 
until I fall asleep.

The dog follows me around
but stays outside
on the stoop.
He doesn’t appear in this dream 
like the gigantic blades
moving in slow motion,
the snow on the other side
of the electricity.

Smells of basil.
It’s night
or it’s going to rain.

How much does snow weigh,
I ask myself,
reaching over the balcony at your house;
how long can a snowflake last in my hands.



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).