Fourteen Poems of Love and Death

 

 

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Translated by A. S. Kline © 2007 All Rights Reserved

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Contents

 

Ballad of the Small Plaza.

Song of the Rider

It’s True.

Song of the Barren Orange Tree.

The Moon Wakes.

Farewell

Romance de la Luna, Luna

Romance Sonámbulo

The Unfaithful Wife

Gacela of Unexpected Love

Casida de la Rosa

Casida of the Dark Doves

‘Ay voz secreta del amor oscuro!’

Every Song

 

Index by First Line




 

                    Ballad of the Small Plaza

 

                    Singing of children

                    in the night silence:

                    Light of the stream, and

                    calm of the fountain!

 

                             THE CHILDREN

 

                    What does your heart hold,

                    divine in its gladness?

 

                             MYSELF

         

                    A peal from the belltower,

                    lost in the dimness.

 

                             THE CHILDREN

 

                    You leave us singing

                    in the small plaza.

                    Light of the stream, and

                    calm of the fountain!

 

                    What do you hold in

                    your hands of springtime?

 

                             MYSELF

 

                    A rose of blood, and

                    a lily of whiteness.


 

                             THE CHILDREN

 

                    Dip them in water

                    of the song of the ages.

                    Light of the stream, and

                    calm of the fountain!

 

                    What does your tongue feel,

                    scarlet and thirsting?

 

                             MYSELF

                   

                    A taste of the bones

                    of my giant forehead.

 

                             THE CHILDREN

 

                    Drink the still water

                    of the song of the ages.

                    Light of the stream, and

                    calm of the fountain!

 

                    Why do you roam far

                    from the small plaza?

 

                             MYSELF

 

                    I go to find Mages         

                    and find princesses.

 

                             THE CHILDREN

 

                    Who showed you the road there,

                    the road of the poets?

 

                             MYSELF

 

                    The fount and the stream of

                    the song of the ages.

 

                             THE CHILDREN

                   

                    Do you go far from

                    the earth and the ocean?

 

                             MYSELF

 

                    It’s filled with light, is

                    my heart of silk, and

                    with bells that are lost,

                    with bees and with lilies,

                    and I will go far off,

                    behind those hills there,

                    close to the starlight,

                    to ask of the Christ there

                    Lord, to return me

                    my child’s soul, ancient,

                    ripened with legends,

                    with a cap of feathers,

                    and a sword of wood.

 

                             THE CHILDREN

 

                    You leave us singing

                    in the small plaza.

                    Light of the stream, and

                    calm of the fountain!

 

                    Enormous pupils

                    of the parched palm fronds

                    hurt by the wind, they

                    weep their dead leaves.

 

                                                 

                             

 

 


                    Song of the Rider

 

                    Córdoba.

                    Far away, and lonely.

 

                    Full moon, black pony,

                    olives against my saddle.

                    Though I know all the roadways

                    I’ll never get to Córdoba.

 

                    Through the breezes, through the valley,

                    red moon, black pony.

                    Death is looking at me

                    from the towers of Córdoba.

 

                    Ay, how long the road is!

                    Ay, my brave pony!

                    Ay, death is waiting for me,

                    before I get to Córdoba.

 

                    Córdoba.

                    Far away, and lonely.

 


                    It’s True

 

                    Ay, the pain it costs me

                    to love you as I love you!

 

                    For love of you, the air, it hurts,

                    and my heart,

                    and my hat, they hurt me.

 

                    Who would buy it from me,

                    this ribbon I am holding,

                    and this sadness of cotton,

                    white, for making handkerchiefs with?

 

                    Ay, the pain it costs me

                    to love you as I love you!

 

                   


 

                    Song of the Barren Orange Tree

 

                    Woodcutter.

                    Cut out my shadow.

                    Free me from the torture

                    of seeing myself fruitless.

 

                    Why was I born among mirrors?

                    The daylight revolves around me.

                    And the night herself repeats me

                    in all her constellations.

 

                    I want to live not seeing self.

                    I shall dream the husks and insects

                    change inside my dreaming

                    into my birds and foliage.

 

                    Woodcutter.

                    Cut out my shadow.

                    Free me from the torture

                    of seeing myself fruitless.

                   

                             

       


                    The Moon Wakes

 

                    When the moon sails out

                    the bells fade into stillness

                    and there emerge the pathways

                    that can’t be penetrated.

 

                    When the moon sails out

                    the water hides earth’s surface,

                    the heart feels like an island

                    in the infinite silence.

 

                    Nobody eats an orange

                    under the moon’s fullness.

                    It is correct to eat, then,

                    green and icy fruit.

 

                    When the moon sails out

                    with a hundred identical faces,

                    the coins made of silver

                    sob in your pocket.

                   


                    Farewell

 

                    If I am dying,

                    leave the balcony open.

                   

                    The child is eating an orange.

                    (From my balcony, I see him.)

 

                    The reaper is reaping the barley.

                    (From my balcony, I hear him.)

 

                    If I am dying,

                    leave the balcony open.


                    Romance de la Luna, Luna

 

                    The moon comes to the forge,

                    in her creamy-white petticoat.

                    The child stares, stares.

                    The child is staring at her.

                    In the breeze, stirred,

                    the moon stirs her arms

                    shows, pure, voluptuous,

                    her breasts of hard tin.

 

                    - ‘Away, luna, luna, luna.

                    If the gypsies come here,

                    they’ll take your heart for

                    necklaces and white rings.’

                    - ‘Child, let me dance now.

                    When the gypsies come here,

                    they’ll find you on the anvil,

                    with your little eyes closed.’

                    - ‘Away, luna, luna, luna,

                    because I hear their horses.’

                    - ‘Child, go, but do not tread

                    on my starched whiteness.’

 

                    The riders are coming nearer

                    beating on the plain, drumming.

                    Inside the forge, the child

                    has both his eyes closed.

 

                    Through the olive trees they come,

                    bronze, and dream, the gypsies,

                    their heads held upright,

                    their eyes half-open.


 

                    How the owl is calling.

                    Ay, it calls in the branches!

                    Through the sky goes the moon,

                    gripping a child’s fingers.

 

                    In the forge the gypsies

                    are shouting and weeping.

                    The breeze guards, guards.

                    The breeze guards it.

 

 

                   


 

                    Romance Sonámbulo

 

                    Green, as I love you, greenly.

                    Green the wind, and green the branches.

                    The dark ship on the sea

                    and the horse on the mountain.

                    With her waist that’s made of shadow

                    dreaming on the high veranda,

                    green the flesh, and green the tresses,

                    with eyes of frozen silver.

                    Green, as I love you, greenly.

                    Beneath the moon of the gypsies

                    silent things are looking at her

                    things she cannot see.

 

                    Green, as I love you, greenly.

                    Great stars of white hoarfrost

                    come with the fish of shadow

                    opening the road of morning.

                    The fig tree’s rubbing on the dawn wind

                    with the rasping of its branches,

                    and the mountain thieving-cat-like

                    bristles with its sour agaves.

                    Who is coming? And from where...?

                    She waits on the high veranda,

                    green the flesh and green the tresses,

                    dreaming of the bitter ocean.

 

                    - ‘Brother, friend, I want to barter

                    your house for my stallion,

                    sell my saddle for your mirror,

                    change my dagger for your blanket.

                    Brother mine, I come here bleeding

                    from the mountain pass of Cabra.’

                    - ‘If I could, my young friend,

                    then maybe we’d strike a bargain,

                    but I am no longer I,

                    nor is this house, of mine, mine.’

                    - ‘Brother, friend, I want to die now,

                    in the fitness of my own bed,

                    made of iron, if it can be,

                    with its sheets of finest cambric.

                    Can you see the wound I carry

                    from my throat to my heart?’

                    - ‘Three hundred red roses

                    your white shirt now carries.

                    Your blood stinks and oozes,

                    all around your scarlet sashes.

                    But I am no longer I,

                    nor is this house of mine, mine.’

                    - ‘Let me then, at least, climb up there,

                    up towards the high verandas.

                    Let me climb, let me climb there,

                    up towards the green verandas.

                    High verandas of the moonlight,

                    where I hear the sound of waters.’

 

                    Now they climb, the two companions,

                    up there to the high veranda,

                    letting fall a trail of blood drops,

                    letting fall a trail of tears.

                    On the morning rooftops,

                    trembled, the small tin lanterns.

                    A thousand tambourines of crystal

                    wounded the light of daybreak.

 

                    Green, as I love you, greenly.

                    Green the wind, and green the branches.

                    They climbed up, the two companions.

                    In the mouth, the dark breezes

                    left there a strange flavour,

                    of gall, and mint, and sweet-basil.

                    - ‘Brother, friend! Where is she, tell me,

                    where is she, your bitter beauty?

                    How often, she waited for you!

                    How often, she would have waited,

                    cool the face, and dark the tresses,

                    on this green veranda!’

 

                    Over the cistern’s surface

                    the gypsy girl was rocking.

                    Green the flesh is, green the tresses,

                    with eyes of frozen silver.

                    An ice-ray made of moonlight

                    holding her above the water.

                    How intimate the night became,

                    like a little, hidden plaza.

                    Drunken Civil Guards were beating,

                    beating, beating on the door frame.

                    Green, as I love you, greenly.

                    Green the wind, and green the branches.

                    The dark ship on the sea,

                    and the horse on the mountain.

 

Note: Cabra is south-east of Córdoba, and north of Málaga, in the mountains of Andalusia.

Lorca said ‘If you ask me why I wrote “A thousand tambourines of crystal, wounded the light of daybreak –Mil panderos di cristal, herían la madruga,” I will tell you that I saw them in the hands of trees and angels, but I cannot say more: I cannot explain their meaning. And that is how it should be. Through poetry a man more quickly reaches the cutting edge that the philosopher and the mathematician silently turn away from.’


                    The Unfaithful Wife

 

                    So I took her to the river

                    thinking she was virgin,

                    but it seems she had a husband.

                    It was the night of Saint Iago,

                    and it almost was a duty.

                    The lamps went out,

                    the crickets lit up.

                    By the last street corners

                    I touched her sleeping breasts,

                    and they suddenly had opened

                    like the hyacinth petals.

                    The starch

                    of her slip crackled

                    in my ears like silk fragments

                    ripped apart by ten daggers.

                    The tree crowns

                    free of silver light are larger,

                    and a horizon, of dogs, howls

                    far away from the river.

 

                    Past the hawthorns,

                    the reeds, and the brambles,

                    below her dome of hair

                    I made a hollow in the sand.

                    I took off my tie.

                    She took of a garment.

                    I my belt with my revolver.

                    She four bodices.

                    Creamy tuberoses

                    or shells are not as smooth as

                    her skin was, or, in the moonlight,

                    crystals shining brilliantly.

 

                    Her thighs slipped from me

                    like fish that are startled,

                    one half full of fire,

                    one half full of coldness.

                    That night I galloped

                    on the best of roadways,

                    on a mare of nacre,

                    without stirrups, without bridle.

                    As a man I cannot tell you

                    the things she said to me.

                    The light of understanding

                    has made me most discreet.

                    Smeared with sand and kisses,

                    I took her from the river.

                    The blades of the lilies

                    were fighting with the air.

 

                    I behaved as what I am,

                    as a true gypsy.

                    I gave her a sewing basket,

                    big, with straw-coloured satin.

                    I did not want to love her,

                    for though she had a husband,

                    she said she was a virgin

                    when I took her to the river.

 


                    Gacela of Unexpected Love

 

                    No one understood the perfume

                    of the shadow magnolia of your belly.

                    No one knew you crushed completely

                    a humming-bird of love between your teeth.

 

                    There slept a thousand little persian horses

                    in the moonlight plaza of your forehead,

                    while, for four nights, I embraced there

                    your waist, the enemy of snowfall.

 

                    Between the plaster and the jasmines,

                    your gaze was a pale branch, seeding.

                    I tried to give you, in my breastbone,

                    the ivory letters that say ever.

 

                    Ever, ever: garden of my torture,

                    your body, flies from me forever,

                    the blood of your veins is in my mouth now,

                    already light-free for my death.

 

 


                    Casida de la Rosa

 

                    The rose was

                    not looking for the morning:

                    on its branch, almost immortal,

                    it looked for something other.

 

                    The rose was

                    not looking for wisdom, or for shadow:

                    the edge of flesh and dreaming,

                    it looked for something other.

 

                    The rose was

                    not looking for the rose, was

                    unmoving in the heavens:

                    it looked for something other.

 


                    Casida of the Dark Doves

 

                    Through the laurel branches

                    I saw two doves of darkness.

                    The one it was the sun,

                    the other one was lunar.

                    I said: ‘Little neighbours

                    where is my tombstone?’

                    ‘In my tail-feathers,’ the sun said.

                    ‘In my throat,’ said the lunar.

                    And I who was out walking

                    with the earth wrapped round me,

                    saw two eagles made of white snow,

                    and a girl who was naked.

                    And the one was the other,

                    and the girl, she was neither.

                    I said: ‘Little eagles,

                    where is my tombstone?’

                    ‘In my tail-feathers,’ the sun said.

                    ‘In my throat,’ said the lunar.

                    Through the branches of laurel,

                    I saw two doves, both naked.

                    And the one was the other,

                    and the two of them were neither.

                   

                    


 

                    ‘Ay voz secreta del amor oscuro!’

 

                    O secret voice of hidden love!

                    O bleating without wool! O wound!

                    O dry camellia, bitter needle!

                    O sea-less current, wall-less city!

 

                    O night immense with sharpened profile,

                    heavenly mountain, narrow valley!

                    O dog inside the heart, voice going,

                    endless silence, full-blown iris!

 

                    Let me be, hot voice of icebergs,

                    and do not ask me to vanish

                    in weeds, where sky and flesh are fruitless.

 

                    Leave my hard ivory skull forever,

                    have pity on me. Stop the torture!

                    O I am love, O I am nature!


                    Every Song

 

                    Every song

                    is the remains

                    of love.

 

                    Every light

                    the remains

                    of time.

                    A knot

                    of time.

 

                    And every sigh

                    the remains

                    of a cry.


Index by First Line

 

Singing of children.

Córdoba.

Ay, the pain it costs me.

Woodcutter.

When the moon sails out

If I am dying,

The moon comes to the forge,

Green, as I love you, greenly.

So I took her to the river

No one understood the perfume.

The rose was.

Through the laurel branches.

O secret voice of hidden love!

Every song.