Confession to Hippocrates of Kos by João Luís Barreto Guimarães, translated by Calvin Olsen

I’m reminded of that time I treated
a carpenter. On the operating table nothing
too extraordinary—
anyone who saw us working
(my colleague and myself) would say
the technical dance unfolded in perfection
(the fingers on
the sick hand so many times mistreated:
there were more of them missing than those
only halfway mowed)
never again would that stricken hand hitchhike
celebrate a victory
curse with its middle digit.
What happened however under the table
I will now convey:
her knee found its way between
my very own and (listen:)
I am certain
(I know it was just an instant but I
am almost certain) something there appeared alive
(the flame of that small instant I can still feel it today)
so many years gone lost and still its
absence burns as the young man says he feels (and
believe me I believe:)
the tips of his tattered fingers.
João Luís Barreto Guimarães was born in Porto, Portugal where he graduated in medicine. He is a breast reconstructive plastic surgeon and author of nine poetry books, including his first seven books collected in “Poesia Reunida” (“Collected Poetry”, Quetzal, Lisbon, 2011), and the subsequent “Você Está Aqui” (“You Are Here”, Quetzal, Lisbon, 2013), and “Mediterrâneo” (“Mediterranean”, Quetzal, Lisbon, 2016). He is also a chronicler and a translator, mainly for his blog “Poesia & Lda” (“Ilimited Poetry”).
Calvin Olsen holds an MFA in creative writing from Boston University, where he received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. His poetry and translations have appeared in JuxtaProse, Missouri Review Online, Lay Bare the Canvas: New England Poets on Art, The Interpreter’s House, and many others. He currently lives in Chapel Hill, NC, where he is poetry editor for The Carolina Quarterly.