Saturday, December 31, 2011

Juan Manuel Roca / Two Poems

By Juan Manuel Roca
Translated by Nicolás Suescún

Biography of Nobody
Nobody’s glory is remarkable: he had no ancestors under the sun, under the rain, he has no roots in the East or in the West. He is son of Nobody, grandson of Nobody, father of Nobody, small consul of oblivion.
Do you see an empty spot in the family photo, a hole, a space between the respectable relations? It is Nobody, without traces and without descent. The glory of Nobody is remarkable before the first morning of history, forerunner of men who today are grass, of fathers of other fathers that are candles with no wick.
Let us celebrate Nobody who allows us to presume we are Somebody.
Has devoured my face
As Saturn his sons.
Maybe my deafness was a gift,
The way to damp down
The nocturnal scream from the shootings,
The fierce song of madness.
I come with news of the shadows,
The dream of reason
That gallops its turbulent horses
In my bedroom.

Juan Manuel Roca was born in Medellín in 1946. Poet, narrator, essayist and Colombian journalist. Published books: Memoria del agua, 1973; Luna de ciegos, 1975, Premio Nacional de Poesía Eduardo Cote Lamus; Los ladrones nocturnos 1977; Señal de cuervos, 1979, National Poetry Prize Universidad de Antioquia; Fabulario real, 1980; País secreto, 1987; Ciudadano de la noche, 1989; Pavana con el diablo, 1990; Memoria de encuentros, 1995. Recently he was awarded with The National Poetry Prize from The Ministry of Culture of Colombia, for the work: Las hipótesis de nadie. During 10 years he directed the Magazin Dominical a weekly publication that comes out weekly with the newspaper El Espectador.

Friday, December 30, 2011

W. H. Auden / Funeral blues

Four Weedings and A Funeral

by W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chirag Bangdel / Papa

Chirag Bangdel and his father

by Chirag Bangdel

(one of my oldest poems, written for my late father.)

your slippers
were always too big for me.
They still don’t fit me
though now I wear your shirts
and your responsibilities.

I remember
my tiny hands
groping for yours
in the confusion
of a street crossing.
My hands have grown
and your have faded to the skies above.

The difficult Maths problems
you helped me with every night
are so easy now.
But life is heavier
than my school bag to school
and more noisome
than the dangling water tumbler.

I try to shave
and dab the aftershave
every morning
like you did.
But I’ll never be you.

Your slippers are too big.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mirta Rosenberg / Portrait Ended

Paco Dalmau

By Mirta Rosenberg
Translated by Julie Ward

It is a way of saying
I want to be left without words,
to lose without comment.

How long am I going to talk
about what no longer is.

About her, who no longer is
seeing me write about her.
And with those eyes!

I too open them at night
and look at the silence
in the dark
where the portrait ends
without her getting to see it

and I think
and I think
and I think

about things like you
that appear to have
no date of expiration,

about your wanting to get home:
with the key prepared,
clinging to the taxi door,
letting yourself fall through your door
almost with the unsteady will
of an autumn leaf,

this kind of expiration,

and these eyes to golden tending
the ones you said in descriptions
were green. To look
at every occasion with kindly eyes
that no longer look at me,
though I remember them.

And now
I want to be left
without words. To know how to lose
what is being lost.

Or so it seems.

It seems that we both
are of a mother bereft:
me without you
you without her,

and on and on it goes,
like links that are lost
and found for a while
with our parents,

but this is another story
that is better told
in the wedding photo
for which words
I never had,

as though it were a foretaste
of my own expiration.

Speaking of parents you said
your father had green eyes,
like you, your grandson Juan,
and nobody had them wholly
though they deserved to have them:
your way
of embellishing the portrait
was your way of seeing it.

Of her you said, however,
after her death, no I wasn’t the same,
and that perhaps would be your way
of not letting the portrait be ended.

The word no.

I too say so.

Although it might also be called an occasion
that is somewhat vulgar: in general,
all of us are left without her,
and this absence of light seems
to give rest to the eyes
without draining them. It livens them,

or turns them back to the dark,
which is where the portrait ends.

My father said of his:
I was born with her and now
I am going to have to die
alone. And then
he did.

My teacher said of his:
I spent all my life to have
the handwriting of my mum. And then
he had it.

It was perfect pain:
speaking of her,
they spoke of themselves.

Or so it seems.

It seems that to lose
is not a difficult art:
one’s truly dead
are beloved victims of the living.

 Of what every one of them said.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mirta Rosenberg / Intimate Bestiary

Intimate Bestiary
By Mirta Rosenberg
Translated by Julie Wark

If someone wanted to be a tortoise
it would be me:
to fashion from a conical section
the prehistoric hub of my election
lodged in the dorsal spine.

Being a tortoise
has something ideal:
it sports wrinkles from its youth
and in a sense literally real
grows bigger with the years
– more years
more bulk.
without family ties
once its eggs are laid
like each and every woman
naturally daughter of the moon,
not a single schism
between her and her hearth gods lies.

With all these lows and highs,
for me
who is in me
– without balm pure pressure to go –
it matters little that her progress
on the surface is slow:
would give endurance to me
making me able to enter the sea
– that covers two thirds of the world’s ground –
knowing that if I go down
I gain velocity.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mirta Rosenberg / Ethereal Material

Joscat, 2009
By Mirta Rosenberg
Translated by Julie Wark

My children are by far my greatest revolution.

Twice I orbited complete
like a gravid planet
around the sun. I wrote new names
in the celestial script, with disquiet,
alarm, sedition.

I toasted them with other women,
with whisky and with beer,
in the planet where we women drink a toast
to things that grow, and despite them.

Happy and ill-fated, I made of my revolution
a conquest, and an open wound
of those times when I orbited complete.

I keep it fresh to let enter me
a certain unrecognisable family air
that now my children exhale
as naturally as can be.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mirta Rosenberg / An Elegy

Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1905

By Mirta Rosenberg
Translated by Julie Ward

An Elegy
In my mother’s day
women were provable.
My mother sat next to my grandmother
and both were completely of flesh and bone.

I am barely a stable outcome
of that surplus of reality.

And in the anxiety of the indefinite past,
in the durative aspect of electing,
I write now: an elegy.

In my mother’s day
women were abiding,
completely bone and flesh.
My mother put on the necklace
of silver and turquoise stones
my father had brought her from Sweden
and sat at the table like some exotic spices,
so that everything would become larger than life
and any fiction possible.

In my mother’s day, women
were a crux: my mother told
my brother and me: ‘when I came out of school,
I went to where my father worked,
in Santa Fe, and his workmates told him she’s a biscuit,
your daughter’s a biscuit, and I never knew what they meant,
saying I was a biscuit’, a sponge cake when she was very sick,
exquisite porcelain for us still,
and my brother pressing her for more: ‘And?’

I don’t know what a biscuit is. Some exotic spice,
something, in any case, special? Perhaps
she roamed delicately round the house, brushing her eighties
as one brushes a wound
with a bit of gauze.

In my mother’s day
women were very visible.
My mother looked at herself in mirrors
and I never managed to take in
her image with my eyes. She was beyond me
and I intuited her from afar like something yearned for.

Like now,
an elegy.

To the adorable little girl
fixed in the remoteness of the photo,
who at eight already seemed
larger than life: I miss you,
although I did not know you. That was before
you gave me life
in a barely natural size.

All the same,
an elegy.

And to the other one of the photo that I hope
to conserve, the beautiful woman who holds
the book before her daughter aged one year
in the sham of reading:
I love you for what lasts, and it is sufficient
to read in the present, although your star’s
gone out.

For her,
an elegy.

Now I am the photograph
and you the developing fluid. Your death
turns me into myself: like an applied science,
I am cause and effect,
trial and error, this void
of nothingness that beats against the heart
like an empty husk.
An elegy,
more and more right each time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Piedad Bonnett / Something Beautiful Ends

Something Beautiful Ends

By Piedad Bonnett
Translated by Nicolás Suescún

Every day of the world
something beautiful ends.
Jaroslav Seifert

as if you were an old, tired star,
light has left you. And the creature
you lighted
(and who lighted
your eyes, blind to the world's
trivial things)
is now mortal again.
Everything recovers
its density, its weight, its volume,
the poor balance that supports
your new winter. Be glad.
Your entrails are now again your entrails
and not coarse food of anxiety.
You're no longer that drunk and uncertain god
that you turned out to be. Bite
the bone they give you,
down to the marrow,
pick up the crumbs memory leaves behind.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Piedad Bonnett / From Time to Time

By Piedad Bonnett

Translated by Nicolás Suescún

My mother likes to go to this café with sober lamps,
to order vanilla cookies,
drink unhurriedly two cups of black tea
as in a ceremonial act.
I have brought her here, then, giving up my laborious afternoon to this filial gesture.
Through the enormous windows we see life pressing on outside
while we talk about bygone days
And the lukewarm ambiance of the place suggests that happiness is no more than this.
Suddenly, as if recovering words from a dream
she says: “It’s a pity everything has an end.”
She says it with a slight smile, because she knows
that being solemn does not go well with the afternoon.
(My mother is already seventy-four years old
and she was at some time beautiful.)
In the bottom of the cups the tea paints its signs.
I don’t know what to say.
We look at the avenue, the blurred faces of the passers-by,
the trees that keep silent.
Night is falling.

Gustavo Caillebotte
Calle de París en un día de lluvia, 1877
Art Institute of Chicago
Piedad Bonnett

A mi madre le gusta ir a ese café de sobrias lámparas,
pedir galletas de vainilla,
tomar dos tazas de té negro con parsimonia
como un acto ceremonial.
Hoy la he traído, pues, cediendo al gesto filial mi tarde laboriosa.
Tras los enormes ventanales vemos correr la vida afuera
mientras hablamos de otros días
y la tibieza del lugar sugiere que la felicidad no es más que esto.
De repente
como recuperando las palabras de un sueño
ella dice: “Qué lástima que todo se termina”.
Lo dice con sonrisa liviana, pues sabe
que ser trascendental no conviene a la tarde.
(Mi madre cumplió setenta y cuatro años
y alguna vez fue bella)
Al fondo de las tazas el té pinta sus signos.
Yo no sé qué decir.
Miramos la avenida, las caras planas de los transeúntes,
los árboles que callan. Anochece.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Piedad Bonnett / Prayer

Woman at Prayer, 1917
by Ivan Mestrovik
By Piedad Bonnett
Translated by Nicolás Suescún

For my days I ask,
Lord of shipwrecks,
not for water for my thirst, but thirst,
not for dreams,
but for the desire to dream.
For the nights,
all the darkness that will be needed
to drown my own darkness.

Moonlight Prayer
by Michael Chamel
Piedad Bonnett

Para mis días pido,
Señor de los naufragios,
no agua para la sed, sino la sed,
no sueños
sino ganas de soñar.
Para las noches,
toda la oscuridad que sea necesaria
para ahogar mi propia oscuridad.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gustavo Adolfo Garcés / Fortress

By Gustavo Adolfo Garcés
Translated by Nicolás Suescún

To stop you from passing
I would have to raise
the drawbridge

if of course
the excavation was deep
and surrounded the fortress

but what to do without a moat
without a bridge
without a castle

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gustavo Adolfo Garcés / Childhood

Ilustración de Paco Martos

By Gustavo Adolfo Garcés
Translated by Nicolás Suescún

comes back silently

I feel my father’s hands
holding me tight

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gustavo Adolfo Garcés / A Fable


  By Gustavo Adolfo Garcés
Translated by Nicolás Suescún

It is the rainy season
and the music of water
makes me think
that the poem should give cause
to a composition for orchestra
to elevate the soul a little

no poetic licenses at all
but some subtle verses
to recount a certain captivity
a certain resistance
a certain striving

something biographical
worthy of memory
but through a small fable
that would also be
the natural history of plants

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Juan Manuel Roca / A Letter Heading for Wales

Juan Manuel Roca

Me pregunta usted dulce  señora
Qué veo en estos días a este lado del mar.
Me habitan las calles de este país
Para usted desconocido,
Estas calles donde pasear es hacer un
Largo viaje por la llaga,
Donde ir a limpia luz
Es llenarse los ojos de vendas y murmullos.
Me pregunta
Qué siento en estos días a este lado del mar.
Un alfileteo en el cuerpo,
La luz de un frenocomio
Que llega serena a entibiar
Las más profundas heridas
Nacidas de un poblado de días incoloros.

¿Y el sol?
El sol, un viejo drogo que ha lamido esas heridas.
Porque sabe usted, dulce señora,
Es este país una confusión de calles y de heridas.

La entero a usted:
Aquí hay palmeras cantoras
Pero también hay hombres torturados.
Aquí hay cielos absolutamente desnudos
Y mujeres encorvadas al pedal de la singer
Que hubieran podido llegar en su loco pedaleo
Hasta Java y Burdeos,
Hasta el Nepal y su pueblito de Gales,
Donde supongo que bebía sombras su querido Dylan Thomas.
Las mujeres de este país son capaces
De coserle un botón al viento,
De vestirlo de organista.

Aquí crecen la rabia y las orquídeas por parejo,
No sospecha usted lo que es un país
Como un viejo animal conservado
En los más variados alcoholes,
No sospecha usted lo que es vivir
Entre lunas de ayer, muertos y despojos.

By Juan Manuel Roca
Translated by Raúl Jaime Gaviria

You ask me sweet lady
What do I see in these days at this side of the sea.
They inhabit me the streets of this country
Which for you is unknown,
These streets where going for a walk is
Taking a long journey through the sore,
Where going by the clean light
Is filling up your eyes with bandages and mutterings.

You ask me
What do I feel in these days at this side of the sea.
A pinning in the body,
The light of  a madhouse
That comes serenely to temper
The most profound wounds
Born from a village of colorless days.

And the sun?
The sun, an old druggy that has licked those wounds.
Because you know, sweet lady,
That this country is a mingling of streets and wounds.

I introduce you:
Here there are singing palms
But also there are tortured men.
Here there are fully naked skies
And woman bended by the Singer’s treadle
Whom in their mad pedaling could have reached
Java or Bordeaux,
Nepal and your little town in Wales,
Where I suppose, your beloved Dylan Thomas drank shades.
The woman of this country
Are able to sew a button onto the wind,
To dress it up as an organ player.

Here they grow beside the rage and the orchids,
You don’t even suspect what it is a country
Like an old animal
Preserved in the most diverse alcohols,
You don’t even suspect what it is to live
Among the moons of yesterday, the dead and the ruins.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Juan Manuel Roca / Days As Needles

Juan Manuel Roca

Estoy tan solo, amor, que a mi cuarto
Sólo sube, peldaño tras peldaño,
La vieja escalera que traquea.

By Juan Manuel Roca
Translated by Raúl Jaime Gaviria

I’m so lonely, love, that to my room
Only the old creaking stairs
Head up, step after step.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Juan Manuel Roca / Epigram of Power

Photo by Chema Madoz
Juan Manuel Roca

Con coronas de nieve bajo el sol
Cruzan los reyes.

By Juan Manuel Roca
Translated by Raúl Jaime Gaviria

With crowns of snow under the sun
The Kings go across.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Anne Sexton / Song for a Lady

By Anne Sexton
On the day of breasts and small hips
the window pocked with bad rain,
rain coming on like a minister,
we coupled, so sane and insane.
We lay like spoons while the sinister
rain dropped like flies on our lips
and our glad eyes and our small hips.
«The room is so cold with ram,» you said
and you, feminine you, with your fiower
said novenas to my ankles and elbows.
You are a national product and power.
Oh my swan, my drudge, my dear wooly rose,
even a notary would notarize our bed
as you knead me and I rise like bread.

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