Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Confieso que he vivido

[from Pablo Neruda's Confieso que he vivido, 1998]

"Listen," [Lorca] said to me, grabbing my arm, "do you see that window? Don't you find it chorpatélica?"

"What does chorpatélico mean?"

"I don't know either, but it's important to recognize what is & what isn't chorpatélico. Otherwise we are lost. Look at that dog, how chorpatélico it is!"

. . .

Federico had a premonition of his death. One time upon returning from a theatrical tour, he called me to relate a very strange event. With the La Barraca artists he arrived at a distant town in Castilla, & they camped on the outskirts. Tired from traveling, Federico didn't sleep. At dawn he rose & left to wander about alone. It was cold, that knife-like cold that Castille reserves for the traveler, the intruder. Fog spread in white masses & everything assumed its fantasmagorical dimension.

A great fence of rusted iron. Statues & twisted columns, fallen among the leaf spill. He stopped at the door of an old yard. It was the entrance to the extended park of a feudal farm. The abandoned place, the hour & the cold intensified the solitude. Federico suddenly felt overwhelmed by what felt like a threat, something confusing that would happen here. He sat down on a fallen steeple.

A tiny lamb appeared & grazed on grasses between the ruins, & its presence was like a small fog angel that quickly personalized the solitude, fell like a tender petal on the solitude of the place. The poet felt befriended.

Until a herd of pigs also entered the enclosure. Four or five dark beasts, black half-wild pigs with coarse hunger & stone hooves.

Federico then witnessed a fearful scene. The pigs fell upon the lamb & to the poet's horror, tore it to pieces & devoured it.

This scene of blood & solitude made Federico command his traveling circus to set out immediately.

Still racked by horror, three months before the civil war, Federico told me this terrible story.

I saw later, with more & more clarity, that the event was the anticipated view of his death, the premonition of his incredible tragedy.

Federico García Lorca was not shot; he was assassinated. Naturally no one could think that they would ever kill him. Of all the Spanish poets he was the most loved, the most wanted, the most like a child with his marvelous joy. Who could believe that there could be on earth, & in his country, the monstrous capabilities for such an inexplicable crime.

The event of that crime was for me the most grievous of a long struggle. Spain was always a country of gladiators; a much-bloodied land. The bull ring, with its sacrifice & cruel elegance, again, costumed show biz, the ancient mortal combat between shadow & light.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Confieso que he vivido

[from Pablo Neruda's Confieso que he vivido, 1998]

I examined [the toilet] with curiosity. It was a wooden box with a hole in the middle, very like the unit I was used to in my rural childhood, in my country. But ours sat over a deep pit or over a stream of running water. Here the receptable was a simple metal cube under the round hole.

The cube appeared clean every day without my knowing how the contents disappeared. One morning I rose earlier than usual. I stood astonished at what was happening.

From deep inside the house, like a dark moving statue, came the most beautiful woman I had seen up until that point in Ceylon, a Tamil, of the pariah caste. She wore a red & gold sari of the stiffest fabric. Above bare feet she wore heavy anklets. On either side of her nose shone two red studs. They must have been ordinary glass, but on her they seemed rubies.

She headed toward the privy with solemn steps, without seeing me, without giving the slightest sign of my existence, & disappeared with the sordid receptacle on top of her head, moving away at her godlike pace.

She was so beautiful that in spite of her humble task she stayed in my mind. As if she were a wild animal, arrived from the jungle, belonging to another existence, a separate world. I called to her without effect. Later I left some gift in her path, silk or fruit. She passed without hearing or looking. That miserable route had been transformed by her dark beauty into the obligatory ceremony of an indifferent queen.

One morning, totally determined, I took her tightly by the wrist & stared at her, face to face. I had no language to speak to her. Without a smile she allowed me to lead her & quickly she was nude on my bed. Her narrow waist, her full hips, the abundant swell of her breasts, made her the equal of thousands of sculptures in the south of India. The encounter was of a man with a statue. She stayed the whole time with her eyes open, passive. It made me despise myself. It did not happen again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

En su llama mortal

[from Pablo Neruda's Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada, 1924]

En su llama mortal

En su llama mortal la luz te envuelve.
                                      The light folds you in its mortal flame.
Absorta, pálida doliente, así situada
                                      Rapt, pale mourner, standing so
contra las viejas hélices del crepúsculo
                                      against the old crepuscular helices
que en torno a ti da vueltas.
                                      coiling around you.

Muda, mi amiga,
                                      Shedding your skin, my friend,
sola en lo solitario de esta hora de muertes
                                      alone in loneliness at this hour of death
y llena de las vidas del fuego,
                                      & full of the lives of fire,
pura heredera del día destruido.
                                      pure daughter of the ruined day.

Del sol cae un racimo en tu vestido oscuro.
                                      The sun’s spike falls on your dark dress.
De la noche las grandes raíces
                                      The night’s great roots
crecen de súbito desde tu alma,
                                      suddenly sprout from your soul,
y a lo exterior regresan las cosas en ti ocultas,
                                      & things secreted inside you reappear,
de modo que un pueblo pálido y azul
                                      as if a pale blue tribe
de ti recién nacido se alimenta.
                                      your newborn, suckles.

Oh grandiosa y fecunda y magnética esclava
                                      Oh great fecund attractor, slave
del círculo que en negro y dorado sucede:
                                      of the cycle passing in black & gold:
erguida, trata y logra una creación tan viva
                                      a creation stands, attempts & attains so much life
que sucumben sus flores, y llena es de tristeza.
                                      its flowers fold, it’s full of sadness.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cuerpo de mujer

[from Pablo Neruda's Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada, 1924]

Cuerpo de mujer

Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos,
                                      Body of woman, white risings, white thighs,
te pareces al mundo en tu actitud de entrega.
                                      like the world you seem to acquiesce.
Mi cuerpo de labriego salvaje te socava
                                      My rough peasant body digs at you
y hace saltar el hijo del fondo de la tierra.
                                      until a son springs from the deepest earth.

Pero cae la hora de la venganza, y te amo.
                                      But the hour of payback comes, & I love you.
Cuerpo de piel, de musgo, de leche ávida y firme.
                                      Body of skin, of moss, of keen steady milk.
Ah los vasos del pecho! Ah los ojos de ausencia!
                                      Ah your cuppable breasts! Ah your absent eyes!
Ah las rosas del pubis! Ah tu voz lenta y triste!
                                      Ah your rosy pubes! Ah your slow sad voice!

Cuerpo de mujer mía, persistiré en tu gracia.
                                      Body of my woman, I will bunker in your grace.
Mi sed, mi ansia sin límite, mi camino indeciso!
                                      My thirst, my unending throes, my uncertain road!
Oscuros cauces donde la sed eterna sigue,
                                      Dark river bottoms where eternal thirst comes,
y la fatiga sigue, y el dolor infinito.
                                      & fatigue comes, & infinite grief.