Goodbye, Charlie

Rage. Bullets fly, blood,
Precious blood, flows unstinted.
Twelve people lie dead,
Bereft of all but meaning,

And the bells of Notre Dame peal fiercely,
Clouds part and the gates of heaven
Swing ponderously open.
“Sweet Jesus,” says St. Peter, eyes rolling, “here they come!”

This poem was inspired by a cartoon by Tommy Dessine.

 

The guitar, by Federico García Lorca

I have written about the difficulty of translating poetry elsewhere; I have been struggling with this well known poem of García Lorca seemingly forever. Last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep (of course!), it all came together. It is not a faithful, verbatim translation, but it is what I think works.  Here it is, first in the original Spanish, then my translation.  See what you think:

La guitarra

Empieza el llanto
de la guitarra.
Se rompen las copas
de la madrugada.
Empieza el llanto
de la guitarra.
Es inútil
callarla.
Es imposible
callarla.
Llora monótona
como llora el agua,
como llora el viento
sobre la nevada.
Es imposible
callarla.
Llora por cosas
lejanas.
Arena del Sur caliente
que pide camelias blancas.
Llora flecha sin blanco,
la tarde sin mañana,
y el primer pájaro muerto
sobre la rama.
¡Oh guitarra!
Corazón malherido
por cinco espadas.

The guitar

Suddenly, the guitar
And the cups of dawn lie shattered.
Suddenly, the guitar,
Useless to silence,
Impossible to silence,
Weeping relentlessly,
Like water,
Like snow-bound wind,
Impossible to silence.
It weeps for distant things,
Sands of the searing south
Begging for white camellias.
It weeps for the arrow with no target,
The evening with no tomorrow,
And the first dead bird of winter.
Oh, guitar!
These five swords
Are piercing your heart!

Paris, 15:42

Stuck.
A small desire
(coffee, maybe pastry)
A Herculean labor.
Such histrionics,
A drama worthy of greatness,
And I, jet-lagged, ordinary at best,
Blindly stabbing.

Yet, it arrives:
Mousse au chocolat
Crème brûlée
Je n’sais quoi

And coffee,
A small, unassuming demi-tasse,
Ordnance as yet
Unexploded.

I spoke in riddles

I spoke in riddles
Indecipherable even to myself
Especially myself

All these words made real
Made manifest

In the beginning
–It said —
Was the word

Indefinable useless
A meaningless jumble of
Sound unless

That hunger not yours but mine
Is the meaning of all of it
Or the infinite cosmos
Of conscious beings

Until the face in the mirror
Sweeps past me into the distance
Unable at last
To recognize the original

I always thought I was some kind of Gypsy
Racing from edge to edge
Never stopping never asking
Weariness my goad and my goal

All will good or bad
Known and unknown
As deep and suspicious
As an autumn breeze in April

Where is it exactly you want to go?
Don’t you know all places are the same?
All contain your ghosts
The dead can’t help you
Any more than the living
You are yours alone

I lived riddles
Myself indecipherable
Especially myself

Physics

Light streams in, cold as stars
At midnight
You feel the deepest humming
Of the universe
The unguessed throb of its
Unraveling

A star collapses
A photon flies into a black hole
A moon pulls itself apart
Planets spin and collide

And our lives stream outward
To unknown ends