Poetry in Motion


The Grade School Angels

Rafael Alberti

None of us understood the dark secret of the blackboards
nor why the armillary sphere seemed so remote when we looked at it.
We knew only that a circumference does not have to round
and that an eclipse of the moon confuses the flowers
and speeds up the timing of birds.

None of us understood anything:
not even why our fingers were made of India ink
and the afternoon closed compasses only to have the dawn open books.
We knew only that a straight line, if it likes, can be curved or broken
and that the wandering stars are children who don't know arithmetic.

Translated by Mark Strand.

"The Grade School Angels" by Rafael Alberti, from The Owl's Insomnia, translated by Mark Strand. Reprinted by permission of Mark Strand.