Guitar Poems

Nacho Oliden

The Tango

by Jorge Luis Borges

Where are they? asks the elegy
Of those who no longer are, as if there was somewhere
Where the Yesterday could be the Today, the Yet, and the Still.

Where is it? (I repeat) the malevaje  
That founded dusty alleyways
Of clay, or in lost towns
The sect of knife and guts?

Where are those who passed,
Leaving an episode for the epic,
A fable for time, and who, without hate,
Lucre or passion of love, slashed each other?

I look for them in their legend, in the last    
Ember that, like a vague rose,
Holds something of that gallant rabble
Of Los Corrales and Balvanera.

Which dark alleys or wasteland
Of the other world should inhabit the hard
Shadow of he who was a dark shadow,
Muraña, that knife from Palermo?

And that fatal Iberra (on whom the Saints
Have mercy) who on a bridge over tracks,
Killed his brother, el Nato, who owed
More deaths than him, and thus evened the scores?

A mythology of daggers
Slowly voids into oblivion;
A song being distilled has been lost
Among sordid police news.

There’s another ember, another glowing rose
In the ash that fully saves them;
There they are, the arrogant cutlers
And the weight of the silent dagger.

And though the unfriendly dagger or that other dagger,
Time, lost them in the mud,
Today, beyond time and fateful
Death, those dead live in the Tango.

In the music they are, in the rigging
Of the laborious stubborn guitar,
Which weaves in the fortunate fable    
The fete and the innocence of grit.

Spinning in the round hole the yellow wheels
Of horses and lions, and I hear the eco
Of those tangos of Arolas and of Greco
That I’ve seen danced on the sidewalk,

At a moment that now emerges alone,
Without befores or afters, against oblivion,
And with the taste of what is lost,
What’s lost and what’s recovered.

In the chords are ancient things:
The other garden  and the trailing wine.
(Behind suspicious walls
The South keeps a dirk and a guitar).

That rush, the Tango, that mischief,
The swamped years defies;
Made of dust and time, man lasts
Less than the light melody,

Which is only time. The Tango creates a murky
Fantastic past which is in some way true,
The impossible memory of having died
Fighting, at the corner of a suburb.

The guitar

by Gerardo Diego

There will be a green silence
Made of unbraided guitars.

The guitar is a well
Filled not with water, but with wind.

Guitar of the Inn sounds jota today    

by Antonio Machado

Guitar of the inn, sounds a jota  today,
Tomorrow a petenera,
Depending on who comes and plays    
The dusty strings.

Guitar of the inn of the roads,
You’ve never been, nor ever will be, a poet.

You’re the soul that tells its lonely
Harmony to passing souls.

And each time a walker senses you
He dreams he is listening to an air of his land.


by Nicolás Guillen

To Francisco Guillén

Lying in the early morning,
The steady guitar awaits:
Voice of deep desperate wood.

Her resounding waist,
In which the folk sigh,
Filled with songs, stretches hard flesh.

Blazes the guitar, alone,
While the moon runs out;
It blazes freed from her slave

She left the drunkard in his car,
He left the sombre cabaret,
Where you freeze to death,
Night after night,

And she raised her fine head,
Universal and Cuban,
With no opium, nor marijuana,
Nor cocaine.

Old guitar, may she come
Again, new to the punishment
That awaits    
He who doesn’t free her!

Always tall, never fallen,
Let her bring her laugh and sorrow,
And stick asbestos nails
into life.

Pick her up, guitar player,
Wipe the rum from her mouth,
And in that guitar, play
Your song entire.

The song of ripe wanting,
Your entire song;
That of the open future,
Your entire song;
Of the foot over the wall,
Your entire song…

Pick her up, Mister,
Wipe the rum from her mouth,
And in that guitar, play
Your song entire.

Nacho Oliden

Ignacio Oliden (Buenos Aires, 1997) is a poet, translator and literary critic. He is Co-Editor in Chief of the literary magazine La Piccioletta Barca, and is a member of the editorial comittee of Buenos Aires Poetry (magazine and publishing house). He also participates as a regular critic in the Culture Supplement of the newspaper Perfil (Argentina). His work has appeared in print in newspapers, anthologies, and literary magazines in various countries, and his poetry has been translated into English, Italian and Greek. Among others, he has translated into Spanish the work of John M. Synge, Carl Sandburg, Anna de Noailles, and Marcantonio Flaminio, and he has published a book-length anthology of the poets of the Harlem Renaissance (Poetas del Renacimiento de Harlem, 2023, in collaboration with Juan Arabia). Mester de Juglaría, his first poetry compilation, will be published by Buenos Aires Poetry in 2023.

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