Patricia Bejarano Fisher

Yvette Neisser

Maria Teresa Ogliastri

Yvette Neisser Moreno and Patricia Bejarano Fisher Translate Maria Teresa Ogliastri

The Translation Issue
Volume 16:3, Summer 2015

Outside a Frog is Croaking

In the darkness
the emperor’’s blood sizzles
he sends for the new maiden

a tremor rattles the girl’’s heart
outside a frog is croaking

they have scented the water with lilacs
peach leaves adorn her shoulders

the eunuch approaches with a paper lantern

beyond these jalousies moving shadows
reflect a battle between stags

they lock antlers and struggle
until one gives up
and surrenders

even this kind of pleasure does not move
the emperor

after untying the ribbons
a revulsion for beauty takes root


Afuera croa una rana

En la oscuridad
la sangre del emperador se inflama
ordena buscar a la nueva doncella

un temblor sacude el corazón de la niña
afuera croa una rana

han perfumado el agua con lilas
y en sus hombros reposan hojas de melocotón

el eunuco avanza con una linterna de papel encerado

detrás de las celosías sombras en movimiento
reflejan una lucha entre alces

entrelazan sus astas y forcejean
hasta que uno cede
y se entrega

ni siquiera con este deleite se conmueve
el emperador

después de desatar las cintas
brota la repugnancia por la belleza



That night we celebrated the Moon Festival
a bottle of imperial wine
served in Ming Dynasty crystal

I asked my husband again
where is my army?

working the land
they must protect the peasants
from the temptations of feudalism

but it was the rainy season
and in the mud the tractors
were frogs with severed legs



Esa noche celebramos el Festival de la Luna
una botella de vino imperial
servido en vasos de la dinastía Ming

volví a preguntar a mi esposo
¿dónde está mi ejército?

trabajando la tierra
deben proteger a los campesinos
de las tentaciones del feudalismo

pero era la estación lluviosa
y los tractores en el fango
eran ranas con las piernas cortadas


Translators’ Note: These two poems come from Del diario de la señora Mao (The Diary of Madame Mao), a collection of fictionalized diary entries written in the voice of Jiang Qing, wife of Mao Zedong, a controversial figure in China’s Cultural Revolution. For “Outside a Frog Is Croaking,” our biggest challenge was translating the title, which also had to work as the fifth line of the poem. In Spanish, the words “Afuera croa una rana” sound softer and more lyric than the literal English translation: “outside a frog croaks.” At first we came up with, “outside, the croak of a frog,” changing the syntax in order to keep the line short and avoid ending on the unpleasant sound “croaks,” and adding a comma in order to avoid any possible misreading of the line as “outside [aside from] the croak of a frog …” But in this unpunctuated poem, that one comma seemed to stand out too much. Finally we decided to go back to the Spanish syntax, retaining “croak” as a verb, but softening the sound by using the gerund “croaking.”


Patricia Bejarano Fisher, originally from Colombia, is a multidisciplinary language professional who has worked as a translator, teacher, and developer of learning materials for both government and academia. She began her poetry translation career in 2007. She is co-translator of Maria Teresa Ogliastri's South Pole/Polo Sur (Settlement House, 2011), and her work has appeared in several poetry journals.

Yvette Neisser is the author of Grip, winner of the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award. Her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri (Settlement House, 2011) and Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009). Her poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in Foreign Policy in Focus, Virginia Quarterly Review, the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, and Split This Rock's The Quarry. She is a founding Board Member of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT) and has taught writing at George Washington University and The Writer's Center. By day, she is a writer for international development programs. To read more by this author: Four poems, Vol. 12:2, Spring 2011 Langston Hughes Tribute Issue, Vol. 12:1, Winter 2011 Audio Issue, Vol. 9:4, Fall 2008 DC Places Issue, Vol. 7:3, Summer 2006

Maria Teresa Ogliastri was born in Los Teques, Venezuela, and lives in Caracas. She is the author of five collections of poems and has been featured at poetry festivals throughout Latin America. Her poems appear in several anthologies of contemporary Venezuelan poetry.