Category Archives: Translation

Hispanic Poetry

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THE POETS

Pablo Neruda • *Gabriela Mistral •  Jorge Luis Borges Pedro Serrano Daniel Calabrese Mercedes CebriánJulián Cañizares MataPilar Adón  • Julio César GalánSara Herrera Peralta •  Francisco Alatorre Vieyra  • Nadia Escalante AndradeElena Medel

The Translators

Emily Bilman • David Cooke • *Randall Couch • Anna Crowe • Terence Dooley • Jack Little • Allen Prowle • Anthony Seidman

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Acknowledgement

*For permission to reprint Randall Couch’s versions of five poems by Gabriel Mistral the editors of The High Window would like to express their thanks both to the translator for his help and encouragement and to the University of Chicago Press who first published them in Madwomen: The “Locas mujeres” Poems of Gabriela Mistral, a Bilingual Edition (2008). ISBN:  978-0226531915

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Previous Translations

THW 9: March 7, 2018

THW 8: December 6, 2017       THW 7: September 10, 2017  

THW6:  June 3, 2017                  THW5: March 7, 2017                

THW4: December 6, 2016       THW3: September 1, 2016     

THW2: June 1, 2016                   THW1: March 1, 2016

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Pablo Neruda: Four Poems translated by Emily Bilman

POETRY

In this age, poetry sought me.
I do not know whether it came
from winter or a river.
I neither know how nor when,
no, no, they were not voices, they were not
words, it was not silence.
From a street or the branches
of the night it called me,
suddenly, among others,
among violent fires
or, as I was returning home alone,
it was there touching me,
faceless.

I did not know what to say,
I could not name,
my eyes were blind,
and something beat in my soul,
a fever or lost wings,
and, alone, I started
to decipher the burn,
and wrote the first vague line,
vague, ethereal, pure
absurdity,
pure wisdom
of one who knows nothing,
and suddenly, I saw
the skies unthresh,
planets,
pulsing plantations,
the pierced shadow perplexed
by arrows, fire and flowers,
the awesome night, the universe.

And I, a small being,
drunk on the immense void
of constellations,
the semblance and image
of the mystery, I became
a pure part of the abyss,
spinning with the stars,
my heart unbound in the wind.

AMOR AMERICA  (1400)

Before the wig and the strait jacket
there were rivers, arterial rivers,
upon the frayed cycles of the cordilleras
the condor and snow seemed immutable:
there was humidity and density,
the unnamed thunder, the planetary pampas.

Man was earth, a vessel, an eyelid,
trembling mud, the shape of clay,
he was a Caribbean jug, a stone from Chibcha,
an imperial cup of Araucanian silica.
He was sanguin and tender, yet,
in the wet crystal helve of his weapon,
the earth’s initials were written.

Nobody could
remember them later: the wind
forgot them, the water’s language
was buried, the keys were lost
or flooded with silence or blood.

Life was not lost, my pastoral brothers.
But like a wild rose, a red drop
fell into the thick growth and
snuffed out an earth-lamp.

I am here to tell the story.

From the buffalo’s peace
to the battered sands near
the land’s end, on the accrued
foams of the antartic light,
and through the fallen burrows
of the shady Venezuelan peace,
I searched for you, my father,
young warrior of darkness and copper,
or you, nuptial plant, invincible hair,
mother cayman, metallic dove.
I, an Incan of loam, touched
the stone and said:

Who awaits me? And I clasped my hand
around a handful of empty crystal.
But I walked among the Zapotec flowers
and the light was sweet as a deer,
and the shade was like a green eyelid.

My land without a name, without America,
equinoctial stamen, purple spear,
your aroma ascended my roots up
to the glass I drank, up to the slightest
word not yet born in my mouth.

THE EARTH (1971)

Yellow, yellow is the dog, chasing autumn,
tracing golden circles among the leaves,
barking towards unknown days.

So shall you see the unforeseen in certain situations:

together with the explorer of terrible frontiers
that are open to the infinite, here is autumn’s
favourite animal, the stray dog.
How can one shift from earth to time, from savour to starboard,
from the velocity of light to earthly circumstance?
Who, in obscurity, will surmise the seed
if, like curls of hair, the selfsame groves let
the dew fall on the same horseshoes,
on the heads united by love
on the ashes of dead hearts?

A thousand-year old carpet, this very earth
flourishes but will not accept death nor repose:
every spring, cyclical loops of fertility
are unlocked by the sun
and fruits, in cascades, resound,
the earth’s glory rises and falls in the mouth
and man is grateful for the kingdom’s goodness.

Praised be this ancient earth of egesta tint,
with her cavities, her sacrosanct ovaries,
the warehouses of wisdom that conserved
copper, oil, magnets, ironmongery, purity.

The lightning that seemed to fall from hell
was stored by the ancient mother of roots
and everyday bread was raised to greet us,
the accursed progeny that enlightens the world,
dismissing the blood and death we wear as humans.

From TWENTY LOVE POEMS AND A SONG OF DESPAIR: XV

I like your stillness because you seem absent
and you hear me from afar but my voice doesn’t touch you.
Your eyes seem to have flown away
and a kiss seems to close your mouth.

Since everything is filled with my soul,
you emerge from everything filled with my soul.
Butterfly of a dream, you resemble my soul,
and you echo the word melancholy.

I like your calmness as if you were distant.
And you seem to complain like a butterfly, like a dove’s lulleby.
And you hear me from afar but my voice doesn’t reach you:
let me be peaceful with your very silence.

Let me talk to you as well with your silence
bright as a lamp, simple as a ring.
You are like the night, calm with constellations.
Simple and remote, your silence is star-born.

I like your stillness because you seem absent.
Dolorous and distant as if you were dead.
A word from you, a smile would suffice for me, then.
And I would be blithesome that this be untrue.

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Pablo Neruda: Poem translated by David Cooke

HORSES

From my window I saw the horses
that winter in Berlin. The light
was less than light; the sky barely a sky,
the air as white as a damp loaf…
when, through glass, I saw them –
the string of horses led by a man across
that desolate space. Like a fire
they passed, self-contained and stately,
yet seemed to have taken over a world
until then abandoned. A blaze
of perfection, they were like ten gods –
their hooves polished and huge;
their manes oceanic.

Their rumps were full and round
like planets, like fruit,
the colour of honey, amber, flame;
their necks like towers
hewn from arrogant stone.
As if imprisoned, their energy glared
from impassioned eyes.

And there in the midday silence
of a foul, bedraggled winter
the power of the horses lay in blood,
in rhythm, the challenge
and treasure of life.

I looked and looked again, shaking off
my gloom, unaware at the time
I had rediscovered the source,
the golden dance, the sky,
the fire that lives in Beauty.

I have long forgotten Berlin, its dark winter,
but its lucent horses I cannot forget

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was a Chilean poet who authored more than 30 poetry books. His diplomatic career began after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) in which he sided with the Republicans. His verse is influenced by his many exiles from Chile, the local colour, ethnic identity and history of Latin America, his communism, and left-wing political commitments for individual freedom. He died in 1973 at age 69, presumably from a lethal bacterial injection administered in a hospital under the Pinochet regime. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971 and his posthumous Memoirs were published in 1974 by Mathilde Urrutia, his third wife.

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Gabriela Mistral: Five Poems translated by Randall Couch

THE OTHER

I killed a woman in me:
one I did not love.

She was the blazing flower
of the mountain cactus;
she was drought and fire,
never cooling her body.

She had stone and sky
at her feet, at her shoulders,
and she never came down
to seek the water’s eye.

Wherever she rested,
the grass would twist
from the breath of her mouth,
the live coals of her face.

Like quick-setting resin
her speech would harden,
never to fall lovely
as a captive freed.

The plant of the mountain
didn’t know how to bend
and at her side
I bent and bent . . .

I left her to die,
robbing her of my heart’s blood.
She ended like an eagle
starved of its food.

The beating wing grew still;
she bent, spent,
and her dying ember
fell into my hand . . .

Still her sisters keen,
they cry to me for her,
and the fiery clay
rakes me as I pass.

When we meet I tell them:
“Search in the ravines
and fashion from the clay
another burning eagle.

“If you can’t do it, then,
too bad! Forget her.
I killed her. You women
must kill her too!”

THE BALLERINA

Now the ballerina’s dancing
the dance of losing everything.
She lets go of all she once had,
parents and siblings, fields and gardens,
the murmur of her river, the roads,
the tale of her home, her own face
and name, the games of her childhood,
as if to let everything fall
from her neck, her breast, and her soul.

At the break of the day and the solstice
She dances, laughing perfect dispossession.
What her arms fan away is the world
that loves and detests, that smiles and kills—
the land put to a vintage of blood,
the night of the glutted who don’t sleep
and the shiver of a homeless man.

Without name, or race, or creed, stripped
of it all and of her self, she surrenders,
beautiful and pure, on flying feet.
Shaken like a tree and in the midst
of her turning, she’s turned witness.

She’s not dancing the flight of albatrosses
stippled with salt and the play of waves;
nor the uprising and defeat
of the beaten canefields.
Nor the wind, shaker of sails,
nor the smile of the tall grass.

They can’t use her baptismal name.
She broke free of her clan and her flesh,
received the chalice-song of her blood
and the ballad of her adolescence.

Unknowing we throw our lives on her
like a red envenomed robe
and so she dances, struck by snakes
that free and eager climb her,
then let her fall like a conquered flag
or a garland torn to pieces.

Sleepwalker, changed into what she hates,
she keeps dancing, not knowing herself strange,
her grimaces puffing and drawing in,
she who pants with our panting,
cutting the air that never cools her,
solitary whirlwind, vile and pure.

We are ourselves her panting breast,
her bloodless pallor, the mad shout
thrown out to the west and the east,
the red fever of her veins, the neglect
of the God of her childhood days.

THE WOMAN UNBURDENED

In the dream I had no father
or mother, joys or sorrows,
not even the treasure I have
to guard until daybreak was mine.
I bore no age or name,
neither my triumph nor my defeat.

My enemy could wound me
or my friend Peter deny me,
for I had gone so far
that no arrows reached me:
to a woman asleep
this world meant no more
than the other worlds unborn . . .

Where I was, nothing hurt:
neither seasons, sun nor moons
could sting me, neither blood
nor the verdigris of time;
no tall silos rose,
nor did hunger march around them.
And like a drunk I declared:
“My country, Fatherland, la Patria!”

But—poor woman—one
tepid thread clung to my mouth,
thistledown that came and went
with each trifling of the breath,
no more than a spider’s silk
or a tide line on the sand.

I could have not returned, and I’ve returned.
Again there’s a wall at my shoulder
and I must hear and answer
and, bawling street-cries,
be once more the peddler.

I have my block of stone
and my handful of chisels.
I gather up my will
like abandoned clothes,
shake old habits from their sleep
and once more take up the world.

But someday I will go
with no tears and no embraces,
a ship that sails by night
without the others following her,
or the red beacons eying her,
or her own shores hearing her . . .

THE SLEEPLESS WOMAN

When the night thickens
and what is upright reclines,
and what is ruined rises up,
I hear him climb the stairs.
No matter that they don’t hear him
and I’m the only one to sense it.
Why should another servant
in her vigil have to listen to it!

In one breath of mine he climbs
and I suffer until he arrives—
a mad cascade that his fate
sometimes descends and others scales
and a crazy feverish thorn
castanetting against my door—.

I don’t rise, I don’t open my eyes,
yet I follow his shape complete.
One moment, like the damned,
we have respite beneath the night;
but I hear him go down again
as on an eternal tide.

All night he comes and goes—
absurd gift, given and returned,
a medusa lifted on the waves
that you see when you get close.
From my bed I help him
with what breath is left me
so that he won’t hunt groping
and hurt himself in the darkness.

The stairtreads of mute wood
ring out to me like crystal.
I know which ones he rests on,
and questions himself, and answers.
I hear where the faithful boards,
like my soul, complain to him,
and I know the ripe and final step,
about to land, that never does . . .

My house endures his body
like a flame that twists around it.
I feel the heat from his face
—a glowing brick—against my door.
I taste a bliss I never knew:
I suffer from living, I die of watching,
and at this tormented moment
my strength departs with his!

The next day I rehearse in vain
with my cheeks and my tongue,
tracing the blanket of haze
on the mirror in the stairwell.
And it calms my soul a few hours
until blind night falls.

The vagabond who meets him
makes the tale into a fable.
He scarcely carries flesh,
is hardly what he was,
and a look from his eyes
freezes some and others burns.

Let none question him who meet him;
just tell him not to return,
tell his memory not to climb
so he can sleep and I can sleep.
Destroy the name that storms
like a whirlwind in its path,
and let him not see my door,
tall and red as a bonfire!

THE HAPPY WOMAN
For Paulita Brook

We have each other by the grace
of having abandoned everything;
now we live free from
the time of jealous eyes;
and in the light we seem
cotton of the same spinning.

We trade the universe
for a wall and a conversation.
We had a country and people
and a few heavy treasures,
and love, crazy and drunk
with plunder, gave it all away.

Love loved solitudes
like the silent wolf.
He came to dig his house
in the narrowest valley
and we followed his track
without asking to return . . .

To be precise and exact
as the sip fits the glass,
and not rob him of the moment,
and not waste his breath,
I lost myself in your house
like a sword in its sheath.

We don’t need all the things
that used to give us pleasure:
the grainfields, the shores,
the wide dunes of samphire.
The wonder of love
has banished wonders.

Our happiness is like
the honeycomb that hides its gold;
the honey with its heady weight
weighs on my breast,
and I go giddy, or grave,
I know and I don’t know myself.

I no longer recall how it was
when I lived with the others.
I burned all my memory
like a hungry fireplace.
If I go back, I don’t know
the tile roofs of my village,
and my foster brother
doesn’t recognize me either.

And I don’t want them to find me
where I’ve hidden from them all;
let them first find in the ice
the bear’s escape hole.
The wall is black with time,
the lichen on the threshold, deaf,
and anyone who calls us
by our name soon tires.

In death I will cross
the court of creeping fungus.
He will bear me in his arms
like a felled, stripped poplar.
Still I will look upon
the crown of his shoulders.
The village that didn’t see me
will see me pass faceless
and only the flying dust
will have me, who is no husband.

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) was the pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga. She was born in Vicuña, Chile. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous.  The love poems in memory of the dead, Sonetos de la muerte (1914), made her known throughout Latin America, but her first great collection of poems, Desolación [Despair], was not published until 1922. In 1924 appeared Ternura [Tenderness], a volume of poetry dominated by the theme of childhood. The same theme, linked with that of maternity, plays a significant role in Tala, poems published in 1938. In 1945, Mistral became the first Latin American, and only fifth woman, to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. She died on January 10, 1957.  Her complete poetry was published in 1958.

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Jorge Luis Borges: Four Poems translated by Allen Prowle

ONE OF URBINA’S SOLDIERS

Whether he could ever be as brave again
as he had been at sea, this soldier had his doubts,
and so, resigning himself to menial tasks,
wandered alone in his hard land of Spain.
Seeking to shun the world’s brutality,
or soften it, he went in search of the sublime,
finding the magic of an ancient time
in the heroic tales of Roland and of Britanny.
Each day he gazed about the open land
bathed in the sinking sun’s relentless copper
glare, and thought himself undone, alone and poor.
Quite unaware of music that awaited his command,
he moved through some deep dream, entranced,
seeing Don Quixote and Sancho ride out upon their quest.

TWO A SAXON POET

In the snow your footprints’ trail Northumbria
has often seen, and now it has forgotten,
numberless the sunsets which have been
between us, my grey brother.
Slow, in the slow shadows, you would fashion
those metaphors of swords crossed on high seas,
of the horror at home among pine trees,
of the solitude the days bring in.
Where can one look now for your features and your name?
These an already ancient darkness
hides. So I can never know just how things
were when on this earth you were a man.
You journeyed along roads of exile,
now you live only in your poems of iron.

LINES COMPOSED AND WRITTEN IN AN EDITION OF THE SAGA OF BEOWULF

Sometimes I wonder what compels me,
without the slightest hope now, as my darkness falls,
of accuracy, to grind on with this study
of the language of those flinty Saxons.
Worn down by time, my memory
fumbles with words which, time and again,
I have repeated, and, in this way, is so much like my life,
which spins and then unspins its flagging story.
And then I tell myself that it will be
because the soul knows, in its secret, arrogant way,
it is immortal, that its huge, determined
circle can embrace and can accomplish everything.
So far beyond this yearning and my verse,
waiting for me, inexhaustible, is the universe.

CAMDEN 1892

The smell of the coffee and of the papers,
Sunday and its tedium. Morning,
and on a glimpsed page some allegories
in verse, the self-preening publication
of a lucky poet whom he knew. He lies, an old man,
prostrate and pale, in his respectable
poor person’s dwelling, holding the reflection
in the dulling mirror of his feeble stare.
He knows, without surprise now, this face is what he is.
His mind elsewhere, his hand touches
the unkempt beard, the paralysed mouth.
The end is near. I am almost not, his voice declares.
But through my poems drums the pulse
of Life in all its splendour. I was Walt Whitman once.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). Perhaps better known to Anglophone readers as a postmodern fabulist, the Argentinian writer is also considered in Latin America to be one of its major poets. He mastered several languages and his reading of their literatures permeates his own writing. As his sight failed, he turned more and more to poetry, as he found it easier to memorise during the process of composition. He wrote some 140 sonnets; they are among the most classical and European of his works and demonstrate the remarkable extent of his erudition.

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Pedro Serrano: Poem translated by Anna Crowe

CLINAMEN

In the vaulted roof of Norwich cathedral,
soaring up into the infinite,
one curve lifts another that lifts another
in an ungovernable surge,
volute upon volute.
And in the sky of heaven the clouds,
cherubim and ears and feet
with eyes and the body and the angels
convulsively revolving.
I don’t know just when we begin to be
part of it nor whether the surging wave
will swerve with no one to follow it.
But here we go,
my brother at one wing tip
and I at the other like a great rejoicing,
wind astern, sniffing
that beach of leeches and furnaces
where we used to swim.
And my sister María flies as well,
there in the distance,
in the wheel of fortune on which we travel,
because today is her birthday.
Because today there come together in a single arris
all those curves and timber flutings,
and they multiply upwards in folds and columns,
and rise in waves, revolving, pirouetting,
shooting up into the roof, shedding light on us.
And time remains firm upon its own weight,
adapting itself to the stone that holds it
and everything returns to its usual groove
in a slow, illumined clinamen.
Shooting away in all directions
from that apex high above.

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Pedro Serrano: from Tales for Telling translated by Anna Crowe

Don’t be sad, dear heart,
for the waves of this sea
are not the same as those
that made us grieve.

*

Tell me how I may come
to the flower of paradise.
In your hand lies the charm
that may let me rise.

*

If everything were
as it ought to be
your eyes would be
wings and delight.

*

You want me, I touch you,
you reach me, I have you,
once again, and with no bother,
I believe we are together.

*

The afternoon is slipping,
vexations split it open,
the water is polluting
words the swan has written.

*

Between the earth and the sky
two things hurtle.
One of them a dove,
the other trouble.

*
Ivy takes root
in the shade,
not because it’s easy
but because it will thrive.

*

Like weathervanes,
the very last,
trees are wearing
their cast-off leaves.

*
I don’t take away what’s real
from the inconstant
nor do I make what’s unconscious
less real.

*

Whoever wins and whoever loses
don’t play on level ground,
whoever loses bears in his heart
the whole burden.

Pedro Serrano was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1957, Pedro Serrano teaches at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. His five poetry collections include Desplazamientos (Editorial Candaya, Barcelona 2006) and Cuentas Claras. He co-edited La Generación del Cordero (Trilce 2000), an anthology of 30 contemporary British poets. His poetry has been widely anthologised and translated, notably in Peatlands (Arc, 2014), and Mexican Poetry Today – 20/20 Voices, edited by Brandel France de Bravo (Shearsman 2010) and Modern Poetry in Translation. His study of T.S. Eliot and Octavio Paz, La Construcción del Poeta Moderno, was published in 2011.

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Daniel Calabrese: Poem translated by Anthony Seidman

PRODIGY
For Alfonso Mallo

Today’s task consists
in carrying a stone from here to over there.
It’s a heavy one,
weighs more than an ox,
more than a bag brimming over with rain.
It’s a prehistoric hole,
a black mirror
about to devour the world.

Today’s task:
lifting that stone with one’s gaze and gracefully
placing it in the middle of the road
so the cyclists stop pedaling,
so the background muzak ceases,
and Route Two halts,
emergency lights flashing.

And when everything’s stalled,
cars having braked suddenly because of the stone,
the illustrious and pious generations detained,
the love between natural things detained,
as well as protest marches,
the task will then
consist in picking it up from that spot,
raising the stone once again with a tired gaze,
and burying it over there, into nothingness,
that lake sealed by indifference
where bed-springs squeak, the television crackles,
the motors shine,
wine-glasses fall beneath the light,
memory and sad conversations rot,
then sink, with the stone,
into the most absolute of extinctions.

Daniel Calabrese (1962, Argentina) has resided in Chile for the majority of his life. He is a poet and editor responsible for the legendary journal Aerea published in Chile. As a poet, he is the author of numerous collections, including his recent title Ruta 2, which won the 2013 prize for best poetry collection given by El Mercurio.

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Mercedes Cebrián: Four Poems translated by Terence Dooley

BALLS OF WOOL

Wool is surplus to our requirements now
in some countries, but necessary still
in others.
Wool is antique, and therefore
prestigious. I can hear sheep bleat
even here at my desk: look at them
ruminating, sometimes
they lift up their heads
and they seem uncertain
as to how the day will pan out.

Any shop-window
with kilts and plaid skirts in
clearly pays homage
to those rude forefathers
who came over in boats, and named
towns and villages in their oldworld
tongue. Wool and that turkey
browning in the oven
are what remains of them – I still
have bits of them stuck in my teeth
from dinner last night.

Their living-rooms are unbearably bright
already
xxxxxxx(why don’t these people
draw their curtains?) Out here
on the pavement I can even see
if they have a first edition of Walden
or a row of self-help paperbacks.
On Walden Pond the wearing of woollen
garments is inadvisable. If they get wet
you’ll be chilled to the bone. Wool is for town

or campus, that’s why academic couples
wear it ad infinitum, each desk linked
to the next by tangled balls of wool.

And when they drop in each other’s name
at the end of their papers, the throb
of their first kisses returns to them,
soaked into the pulp of those final
pages. Meanwhile,
wool is the norm
and they take it for granted.

PYJAMAS

Since I moved here, the distinction
between streetwear and pyjamas
doesn’t exist for me: flannel
and tartan no longer mean
what I learnt in El Corte Inglés.
Because, anything is possible
where you’re invisible: the idea of freedom
flourishes inside the polyester
lining of a coat.

Passport control is taken very seriously here,
but where clothing is concerned
all frontiers are abolished. Clothes are named
for the activity they represent: sportswear,
sleepwear, loungewear. The guardian
angel of sleep is very loose clothing
that long ago lost its shape.
This is how we dress for sleep;
sleep frees us all from our personal
soliloquies. There’s no turning back
from too much comfort: if the elastic fails
the trousers fall down, it’s inevitable. (So what
if they do fall down: we’re ready for any
catastrophe.)

Though I live alone,
before I go into the bathroom
I knock
in case anyone is in there.
That’s where the tartan trousers live;
that’s where they campaign
against arranged marriages.

INCLEMENT WEATHER

We don’t love the people, we love
their winter: their rugs, their flannel
blankets, their impeccably bled radiators.
And outside, the unbeatably
yellow storm.
( It sounds like trumpeting
elephants, and in fact
it’s the wind, the Noah’s Ark
soundscape).

If you so much as mention the rainbow
I’ll get my coat. As a visual effect
it couldn’t be tackier, even if it’s a sign
the deluge is over.

Storm or tempest: no other metaphors exist
for human conflict,
only weather will do.

(Thanks to the rainbow, to the idea
of consumption it enshrines,
we learnt how to get full use
of our box of crayons:
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxto colour it in
two or three were never sufficient,
you had to have seven at least,
including indigo).

BREXIT

From the plane window I see where you begin.
Arrival is more vivid
in the case of islands, the sea ends,
and there you are. It’s that simple
from the height we’re flying at
as announced by the pilot.

Meanwhile, down there,
the count is taking place.

After all (who was going to be
the one to tell us?) came the day
for everything to split in two, despite
there being traffic
and the traffic meaningful,
even if it was the opposite,
never two-way, if it was the difference
between mutual and reciprocal.

There was always that distance between us
we never grasped.

Let’s keep on talking about
the grey skies
hanging over you. And about
the gaps in your teeth too,
the bicuspids,
always the first to go.

Were it relevant, I’d recant on oath
what we said about your weather.

You saw me live and stumble in your tongue;
you comforted me
much as an electric blanket comforts. (In exchange,
Spain traded you its summer.) Please tell me now
what to do with my adaptors, tea-cosies,
and box-set of Fawlty Towers.

England, you’ll be the one strung-up
if you can’t lay your hands on a hangman.

(Previously published in Long Poem Magazine)

Mercedes Cebrián is a unique voice in Spanish poetry: humorous, satirical, political, deeply concerned about the future of our consumerist democracies, and also deeply personal. Her first book Affordable Angst consisted of short fictions linked by poems, and was chosen as one of the fifty best books in Spanish since 1950. She publishes novels and non-fiction as well as poetry. Her most recent book, Burp, self-illustrated, is a satire on our foodie obsession. Her two books of poetry are Floating Population (2006) and Squandering (2016).

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Julián Cañizares Mata: Two Poems translated by Terence Dooley

DUCKS

One day my father took me to see the ducks in the park.
The ducks were sunning themselves in a concrete pond.
My father pointed to them one by one, big duck, small duck.
Some were in the water, and the others on dry land.
When you’re only a baby, ducks mean a lot to you:
they’re like your brothers and they want you to be happy.
Then my father indicated one that lay very still
and his voice faltered and he didn’t say anything at all.
The duck lay awkwardly, unlike a living thing,
floppy. My father told me about ducks and dying.
And my father said don’t worry they’ll get another one
and put it in its place, and tomorrow we’ll come back
and see a live one swimming round the pond.
But I wept inconsolably in a world unlike this world.

WOOD

I rarely stay out of a wood
if I want to go into a wood.
I fill the empty place, and go in since I can.
Outside the wood is an empty place where I was,
sometimes, a little, when I think of it.
I lean on a tree, if there are trees in the wood,
I watch birds, if there are birds in the wood,
I paddle in the river, if there is a river in the wood.
There isn’t always a wood in the wood,
but I’ve made up my mind to go into the wood,
so this time it exists, as I remember it,
what remains of it. This much emerges
from one’s wrestling with the void day by day.
Outside the wood other people think of me,
and there are also other woods, but I sigh in this one.
Unlike a skein of smoke, the wood won’t disappear.
I’m in a real wood, which is something.
I rarely stay out of a wood
if I want to go into a wood.

Julián Cañizares Mata lives in Córdoba, where he teaches History. His most recent poetry books, published by La Isla de Siltolá, are “La Lealtadmantenimiento/ Keepingfaith”, and “Navajazo/ Knife-thrust”. The poens in this supplement come from SustituirEstar/Being and Replacing His poetry seeks to represent consciousness in time, and the secret language of daily life, the poetic aspects of our surroundings. He also runs a writing workshop and a fanzine, Guitarrazo, dedicated to sppeed writing, the poem as an unmediated event. He continues to write.

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Pilar Adón: Poem translated by Terence Dooley

STIGMA

I never saw her cry, my grandmother.
Her womb came out of her vagina,
she healed herself with lemon
because lemon was her cure-all. And saliva,
mud, water, fire.
Damp handkerchiefs in her dressing-gown pocket.
Cotton stockings. Holes in her grey grandma skirt.
In the faded cloth shawls
she wore to trap the warmth.

Never asking. Never knowing.
She stuck her thumb in the earth, it came out black.
Dry crumbs of mud. Brick chips from under the plants.
Bits of food stuck to the tines of the fork.

She raised the knife above her shoulders
and sunk it into the wood.
She cut the nails of newborn girls
so they’d sing true like her.
Voices of offering. Easter voices.

Not me, I was all
scabbed knees, wasp-stings,
a runaway from insects, runaway from play,
organic being growing, growing,
mute in the knowledge of who I was.
Wrapped in my arms, head on my knees,
or arms folded
walking to the bridge,
teetering in high boots on the edge of the dam.
Refusing abandonment and rules,
the anger at belonging to the tribe.
The balm of distant smoke, the warmth and shelter
of the house. Up the road.
The fear and trembling no-one
would come to look for me.
Chocolate round my mouth. Tears
as the car pulled away.

Such betrayal. Such reverence.
Her drawer lined with paper smooth as stone.
Scorched tea-cloths. Dirty glasses.

She lost a son and a husband.
She went blind; we tied her to a chair
so she wouldn’t throw herself on the floor and crawl
outside, away from the old people lying on tables,
with only old-age in common.
Lounging on fake sofas, swaddled
in ersatz blankets, and false smiles,
with nails like claws, mouths shut like traps,
surrounded by blue and sugary familiar voices
bringing breakfast in the morning.

Her skin a grey capsule each touch indents,
the rust and smell of bleach.

The girl must be Julia.
Can you see that bike out there?

She loved her house, my grandma.
It’s yours for 30,000 euros.

Who will care for me

WHO WILL CARE FOR ME

I don’t neglect my writing,
I neglect myself.
Ingeborg Bachmann

Who will care for me when I am old?
Who will await me, glad to see me?
Tangled hair. With no-one to brush it.
Silver combs and mirrors.
Alone in my armchair. Sick and tired of sermons.
With no children to bathe me
or cook beef and mash for me,
bring me loose-fitting jumpers,
wash my feet and underarms,
when there’s no reason now to go on living.
Overcome by the thought
that what you sow you reap.
Celebrations, birthdays, saints’ days
spent alone.
Who will come and see me
at the week-end?
If I am nobody’s mother.
If I live without acknowledging devotion, help,
tenderness. Visits to friends in pain.
Surrounded by excuses, paper, books,
unempathetic, distant.
Avoiding the urgent summons.
Not knowing dedication,
or pity, what the fragility
of children photocopies. Their sweet
and easy disposition, like slices
of baked apple, or packets
of Haribo bears.

Who will take me in their arms when I am old.
When I’m alone, with no-one to talk to.
And the curtains catch fire
and flames lick the ceiling. And no-one
can reach
the telephone. To call those
who put out fires.

Pilar Adón was born in Madrid in 1971. She is a writer, publisher ( of Impedimenta Books) and translator. Her most recent novel, Las efímeras /The Mayflies was judged one of the best ten novels of 2015. Last year she published her 3rd story collection La vida sumergida/ Life Underwater. Her latest book of poems, Las Órdenes/ Orders came out this March. Her stories and poems have appeared in anthologies, and in many magazines and literary supplements (Babelia-El País, ABC, Eñe…)

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Julio César Galán: Three Poems translated by Terence Dooley

A WELCOMING OF WINGS

A vigil for your body:
flowers shed
their petals.
Spiders weave on the lawn
tangible signals
of day.

You are the latest news
from the world to me
in the guest-room
of your coming.

Awaiting you, swifts swoop
earthward: it will rain.

LUCIDITY OF CHAINS

The night contains its truth.
The night disturbs
the silverwork of hours,
the adventure on its page.
But light still threads
its glimmers through it.
It is still the pebble dropped
in the fountain and the ripples.

Lucidity goes unrewarded.
The opinion laid down by footsteps:
the chronic continual sense
of unreality.
The rooms, the weariness, the stars
are palpable and real:
the needle and the pupils stain.
It’s a problem and it’s company
being human.

The night contains its truth.
Dogs bark in its mind
and the streets seem to stretch away
from here, like a bright cancer.

THE ANTIQUITY OF CLOUD-SEEDING

I never played these words.
I never played them
but they are ancient,
unwearied and ancient.

I made the waters speak
that bore your name.

I made the trees speak:
from the heartwood they forked
in beaks and leaves and noon
and flourished in the wind.

They told me I had never
played these words: it took me
epochs to open their doors
because I had to savour
nettles and dive down to the coral
that once was my hair.

And I learnt to create distance,
forget myself, not to walk
into walls. Pain educates.
Blood educates, transmits.
Clouds inhabit us
and educate.
I never played these words
but they are clear and firm
as skin
I play until
my hands enter in,
and they are ancient
and clear,
though they emerge
from a nest of worms.

Julio César Galán teaches at the University of Extremadura. He is a prize-winning poet and essayist who publishes lyric, complex poetry which tries to convey the different lives of a poem through many notes, crossings-out, typographical experiments and rewritings. He often publishes under heteronyms (like Fernando Pessoa.)
Recent poetry books include Tres Veces Luz/Three Times Light, Márgenes/Margins, El Primer Día/Day One. He has also written the plays Eureka and The Paradisal Age. His Selected Poems are in preparation in a bilingual edition.

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Sara Herrera Peralta: Poem translated by Terence Dooley

BAD TIMING

Though the parting shot rings out
and you gaze at me
and you ring back,
our time is over.

Despite our wishes
and beginnings
we didn’t have the chance
to talk things over
nor to get used to
sleeping together
in the same sheets
at the same time
to drink coffee together
and burn the toast
and take out the dog
and buy the paper.

Despite the days
and streets we walked down,
and our plans and calendars,
it’s too late now
for explanations,
to say, look
I’ve changed my mind,
if we do it this way
we won’t be hurt
or deaden the blows
or heal the wound.

Though we were the ones
writing the story,
improvising
with talent,
though everyone hopes
we’ll go off together
on that damn plane,
and it won’t be him
leaving with me,
though they all hope
I think its best
once again to place myself
out of danger,
prices are high,
wages come late,
unemployment is up,
I think it’s best
though it’s so sad
to picture the end
with tinned partridges,
though really
I was expecting it.

Despite the days,
though the parting shot rings out,
though you gaze at me
and you ring back,
don’t be romantic or modern,
don’t tell me we’ll go on
loving each other in the void,
as if the world were
huge and certain.

Though days go by and love goes by,
and they tell us it heals, don’t fall for it,
you mustn’t fall for it.

Those others,
the fakers,
are part of our story.

Love is wrapped in shredding
cellophane.
In wartime
we fear
as teenagers fear.
Though the parting shot rings out,
though you gaze at me
and call me back,
don’t be romantic or modern
because it’s a bad time
in the void.
Though days go by and love goes by
don’t be romantic or modern,
you mustn’t be,
not you.

THE SECRET GARDEN

Part of my childhood hangs
in the photographs on the wall
my mother still looks at.

There are endless winter afternoons
when time runs away
while grandma
looks out the window.

Her eyes are
afraid of life.

They don’t know
I lie when I kiss kiss
into the telephone and say
yes I’m fine, no news.

No-one knows
that my mother’s hand sprout
branches and prayers
with beautiful petals, and, painfully,

a secret garden grows.

Sara Herrera Peralta was born in Jerez de la Frontera in 1980 and now lives in France where she works as a graphic designer. She has published 10 books of poetry, 3 of them prize-winning: the most recent are Provocatio (2017) and Hombres que cantan nanas al amanecer y comen cebolla/ Men who sing lullabies at dawn and eat onions (2016.). Her novel, Arroz Montevideo/Montevideo Rice came out in 2016. Her poems have been widely translated, including into Esperanto. saraherreraperalta.com

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Francisco Alatorre Vieyra: Poem translated by Anthony Seidman

PLASTIC BAG

Black
blue
white
transparent
meshed in the chains of a bicycle
or floating from South Africa by way of an Atlantic current

A light plastic bag
fit for carrying fruit
bringing bread home
or asphyxiating a Pakistani in a dark room

Martijin de Gruijter used them to shape
a unique origami
the plastic bag turned into
xxxxxxxxwater-proof boots
xxxxxxxxa television which can’t be turned on
xxxxxxxxwrinkled puppets
the bag on a museum pedestal
lit skull in the museum

A forest filled with plastic leaves
Duchamp in the center
seated
playing chess
or igniting a bonfire of black smoke

Around a Buddhist Stupa
near Kathmandu
I saw
two children play with one
as if it were a kite

In a kitchen there was
another one
with trash filled to the brim
hanging from a door for days
something animal-like
like that of an old man weighed down and about to collapse
from carrying so many strangers’ belongings

The plastic bag
could also be
a yellow ball
one of those which Saer insists
that wild plaza birds
roll over and lunge at
with an odd obsession
as if they were made
from the same matter
of their Gods.

Francisco Alatorre Vieyra (1982) is a contemporary poet from Mexico. His collection entitled Ladakh won the national prize for poetry named after Efrain Huerta in 2014. He has published extensively in journals. From the years of 2002 to 2013, he lived abroad in various countries, including Japan, Israel, India, and Spain, peregrinations which no doubt have influenced his work.

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Nadia Escalante Andrade: Excerpt from Within the silence does not open translated by Jack Little

this place seems familiar to me

they lie me in a bed that grinds, the serum trembles within the plastic fluid bag. the tiny crabs flee with dread, it’s coming. it is here, the sea seeps into the catheter, the seaweed tangles in my veins, the little fish get snarled up: my right arm swallows the ocean, the amputated waves, the pus from the foam, the subaquatic ulcers, the synovial tears of coral: I will descend in my submarine to the children’s stories of the bottom of the sea. to breathe is something else, the frog in my chest is suffocating because this is not her pond. gills emerge from me like the fast mouths of the hake. I am not inside, it is the sea that turns with sadness in my kidneys, it is my chest that absorbs the numb water of my legs, it is the sea that crosses my body like a thick and cold spear. the plastic tube empties into me, heaving the depths of the ocean.

this place seems unfamiliar to me.

Nadia Escalante Andrade (Mérida, 1982) is a Mexican poet. She has published the books ‘Adentro no se abre el silencio’ (FETA, colección La Ceibita, 2010) and ‘Octubre’ as well as ‘Hay un cielo que baja y es el cielo’ (Textofilia, 2014).

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Elena Medel: Four Poems translated by Terence Dooley

HYDRANGEA ON OUR TERRACE: MOVING IN

Purple or violet or, better, dirty blue: hydrangea
in a black plastic pot, balanced
on our balcony. The cost of living
was eighteen euros and there was nothing
to fear. To keep it alive I bought
a gardening manual and noted down
when to re-pot it in ceramic,
when to check for aphids,
when to take cuttings.

Because every woman
marries her house,
from the terrace
my living-room in its Sunday best:
the table as centrepiece, with its white cloth,
and many heaped
plates,
my love, my serene
happiness,
and in the foreground of the photograph
a hydrangea,
purple or violet or, better, dirty blue,
in a black pot balanced on the balcony.

In their proper place the white-goods sing,
the knives and forks for two at every meal, just two –
him and me: the plants don’t count –
sitting down to lunch,
all the usual plans – love at first sight,
boyfriend/girlfriend, coupledom, moving
in together: later-on marriage, children, new
volumes in the album of their homes – still
sitting down to lunch. Everything in its right
place.
Meanwhile in the house, the man is sleeping.
The woman stays
awake.

HYDRANGEA ON OUR TERRACE: APHID

A flower sets sail from Brazil to France
and with its symbolism condemns
the woman who waters it
in its black plastic pot
balanced on the balcony.

If I’d bought a begonia or jasmine
for the terrace of our rented flat,
if I’d listened to the florist
–they’ve torn it from its habitat:
however well you care for it,
nothing survives
in an alien climate –
where would I be living now
and who with.

But the hydrangea is only a flower
and the traces of damage on its skin
leave traces of damage on the hands
of the woman who tends it
though the hydrangea is only a flower.

Because when everything goes well
it leaves a stain.

So, yes, this is disaster: a tiny black speck
on the skin,
more like a streak of soot,
imprinted when the finger-tip
xxxxxxxxpresses too hard
and sticks instead of wiping it away,
more like a streak of soot
than a beauty spot,
the manual was silent on this point,
more stain than streak, than soot, than beauty spot,,
a good deal more.

Meanwhile, in the house, the man is sleeping.
The woman stays
awake.

HYDRANGEA ON OUR TERRACE: FREE FALL

Loyal to the tradition of the omniscient
narrator, who read the minds of every
character, I tried
to make it work for me:
a balconyful of plants,
cultivating their own dialect.

In it
xxxxxxto it
xxxxxxxxxxxxxI spoke. I paid
no mind to telephone advice; I ignored
the warnings in the gardening manuals.

Despite the genes displaying my good will
faced with a dying hydrangea,
all I get is black plastic arms
and breasts like purple,
violet or dirty blue hydrangeas
whenever I lie and pretend
anything is going well.

No woman
marries her plants.

Only two cures for aphids:
throw out the plant
or give it to your parents,
In a case like this –
too late now for insecticide –
mother knows best.

Meanwhile, in the house, the woman is sleeping,
the man
gone.

Jericho

When the door slammed
(…)

our house fell down.

You were suddenly
in three suitcases:
yours, mine, another little
useless one –up till then
shared between us –
to balance them.

Our two-bedroom rented flat
a hospital of tubes and pipes.

Outsize trousers:
calendar month.

When the door opened
the pillow lost its dent:
at the halfway point, the empty
wardrobe.

Stay, oh stay
my two-bedroom rented flat
now a museum
of surgical paraphernalia.

The two of us suddenly
in three suitcases:
had it ever crossed your mind?

A two-bedroom rented flat
is the belly of a whale.

After I have grown
my hearth
I’ll raise it above
the ruins.

Elena Medel was born Córdoba in 1985, although she lives in Madrid. She is the author of three poetry books, collected in Un día negro en una casa de mentira (Visor, 2015). She has also published two book of essays: El mundo mago. Cómo vivir con Antonio Machado (Ariel, 2015) and Todo lo que hay que saber sobre poesía (Ariel, 2018). Her first book was translated into English by Lizzie Davis (My First Bikini, Jai Alai Books, 2015). She is the director of the poetry press La Bella Varsovia, and coordinates Cien de cien, a project for making visible the work of the Spanish female poets during the 20th century. Among other awards, she has won the Loewe Prize for Young Poets and the Princess of Girona Foundation Arts and Literature Prize. http://www.elenamedel.com

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The Translators

Dr. Emily Bilman is London Poetry Society’s Stanza representative in Geneva where she lives and teaches. Her dissertation entitled, The Psychodynamics of Poetry, was published by Lambert Academic in 2010 and Modern Ekphrasis in 2013 by Peter Lang, Resilience and A Woman By A Well by Matador UK in 2015. Her poems and essays were published in The Battersea Review, Hunger Mountain, The High Window, The Journal of Poetics Research, Offshoots, The London Magazine. « The Tear-Catcher » won the first prize for depth poetry in The New York Literary Magazine. Thresholds will be published in September. She blogs on http://www.emiliebilman.wix.com/emily-bilman

David Cooke is co-editor of The High Window.

Randall Couch’s  most recent book is Peal (Coracle Press, 2017). He edited and translated Madwomen: The Locas mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral (University of Chicago Press, 2008), which won the Poetry Society’s biennial Popescu Prize for Poetry Translation, was one of two finalists for the PEN American Award for Poetry in Translation, and was chosen by the London Review Bookshop as one of ten poetry books of the decade. He is an administrator at the University of Pennsylvania and teaches poetry writing and poetics at Arcadia University.

Anna Crowe is  co-founder and former Artistic Director of StAnza, Scotland’s Poetry Festival. Her work has been translated into several languages, and includes two Peterloo collections and three Mariscat chapbooks. Awards: Peterloo Poetry Prize; Travelling Scholarship from the Society of Authors; Callum Macdonald Memorial Award; two PBS Choices. Translations: Six Catalan Poets; Peatlands, by Mexican poet, Pedro Serrano; Lunarium, by Mallorcan poet, Josep Lluís Aguiló (all Arc); Tugs in the fog; Strangely happy; Love is a Place: poems by Catalan poet, Joan Margarit (all Bloodaxe).

Terence Dooley has published poems and translations in Ambit, Acumen, Agenda, The Compass, Envoi, The London Magazine, Long Poem Magazine, Poetry London, New Walk, POEM, Brittle Star, Envoi, MPT,  Shearsman, Tears in the Fence, Dream Catcher, Ink Sweat & Tears, and in el cuaderno and Quimera (Spain). A pamphlet of his poems is to be published by Argent press, and his translation of Eduardo Moga’s Selected Poems has just been published by Shearsman. he is currently translating the Selected Poems of Julio César Galán .

Jack Little (London, 1987) is a British-Mexican poet, editor, teacher and translator based in Mexico City. He is the author of ‘Elsewhere’ (Eyewear, 2015) and is the founding editor of The Ofi Press: http://www.ofipress.com He was the poet in residence at The Heinrich Böll Cottage on Achill Island in the west of Ireland in July 2016. His work has been published widely in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Ireland and Mexico.

Allen Prowle’s verersion of Machado’s Civil War sonnet,‘Dawn in Valencia’, was runner-up in MPT’s Poetry Translation competition 2011. His co-translation with Caroline Maldonado of ‘Mistress of the House’ by the Honduran poet, Mayra Oyuela, commissioned by South Bank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus, which brought together poets from nations competing in the London Olympics, was published in ‘The World Record’ (Bloodaxe, 2012.) Some versions of Rocco Scotellaro were included in ‘Centres of Cataclysm’ (Bloodaxe, 2016), an anthology celebrating fifty years of ‘Modern Poetry in Translation’.

Anthony Seidman is a poet translator from Los Angeles. His collections include A Sleepless Man Sits Up In Bed (Eyewear Publishing), Confetti Ash: Sele cted Poems of Salvador Novo (The Bitter Oleander), and Smooth Talking Dog: Selected Poems of Roberto Castillo Udiarte (Phoneme Media). He has recently published translations and poetry in Modern Poetry In Translation, Poetry International, Ambit, Cardinal Points, and Nimrod, among others.

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