Poems for staying at home (Day 2)


Jorge Teillier (1935-1996)

Today’s house poem, by the Chilean Jorge Teillier, concerns a boy looking out of the window of his parent’s home at a winter landscape. It is the melancholy lyricism of this poem that first attracted me; a mix of myth and the mundane, centring on the boy whose imaginative world is allowed free rein while, in the house, his parents hold a party. The poem concludes in an almost mystical tone, suggesting that a defining experience of childhood will mark the boy forever, and that he is, in a sense, predestined on account of it.


Winter Poem

Winter brings white horses that slide on ice.
Fires have been lighted to protect the gardens
from the frost’s white witch.
Inside a white cloud of smoke, the caretaker stirs.
From his kennel, the freezing dog threatens the drifting ice-floe
of the moon.

Tonight the boy will be forgiven for staying up late.
In the house his parents are holding a party.
But he opens the windows
to see the masked horsemen
who await him in the forest
and he knows his destiny
will be to love the modest scent of night’s pathways.

Winter brings hard liquor for machinist and for stoker.
A lost star flickers like a beacon.
Songs of drunken soldiers
returning late to barracks.

In the house the celebrations have begun.
But the boy knows the party is somewhere else
and through the window seeks out the strangers
he’ll spend his whole life trying to find.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)


Poema del invierno

El invierno trae caballos blancos que resbalan en la helada.
Han encendido fuego para defender los huertos
de la bruja blanca de la helada.
Entre la blanca humareda se agita el cuidador.
El perro entumecido amenaza desde su caseta al témpano flotante
de la luna.

Esta noche al niño se le perdonará que duerma tarde.
En la casa los padres están de fiesta.
Pero él abre las ventanas
para ver a los enmascarados jinetes
que lo esperan en el bosque
y sabe que su destino
será amar el olor humilde de los senderos nocturnos.

El invierno trae aguardiente para el maquinista y el fogonero.
Una estrella perdida tambalea como baliza.
Cantos de soldados ebrios
Que vuelven tarde a sus cuarteles.

En la casa ha empezado la fiesta.
Pero el niño sabe que la fiesta está en otra parte,
y mira por la ventana buscando a los desconocidos
que pasará toda la vida tratando de encontrar.            


Jorge Teillier (1935-96) was a Chilean poet, a key figure in the later 20th century literature of a country dominated by great poets such as Mistral, Neruda, Parra, Huidobro, de Rokha and Lihn.  Teillier offers a unique, gentle voice, with a profound sense of the lyrical, often associated with simple, everyday – and usually rural – concerns.


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