Ricardo Blanco's Blog

Poems for staying at home (Day 8)

 

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Today’s poem is by the Guatemalan K’iche’ Maya poet Humberto Ak’Abal, who died unexpectedly last year, at the age of 66. I met Humberto only once, but his intelligence, courtesy and gentleness made a lasting impression. Two of his poems appear in The Other Tiger.

 

Chonimutux

The nights in Chonimutux
are thick and black.

You can pick up a little
between your hands
to seal off
small holes in the walls.

They are like inverted ravines.

If you keep looking at their depths
you will feel yourself falling headfirst

as if the earth were above you
and you were standing on the sky.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Chonimutux

Las noches en Chonimutux
son espesamente negras.

Puede llevarse
un poco entre las manos
y tapar con ella
hoyitos en las paredes.

Son como barrancos boca abajo.

Si te quedás viendo su hondura
sentís irte de cabeza

como si la tierra estuviera arriba
y uno parado en el cielo.

 

 

 

Humberto Ak’Abal was born in 1952 in Momostenango, Guatemala, of the K’iche’ Maya people. He started out as a shepherd and weaver before leaving to find work in Guatemala City as a street vendor. He wrote in Maya-k’iche and Spanish, and his work has translated into many languages, including French, English, German, Arabic and Italian. Ak’Abal published twenty books of poetry, as well as three books of short stories, and two books of essays. Ak’Abal died suddenly in January 2019.

Poems for staying at home (Day 7)

 

download

 

Today’s house is a childhood home in Santiago de Chile, revisited by the poet Verónica Zondek after years in exile, following the Pinochet dictatorship. The poem burrows and weaves its way through the dusty enclaves of the past, trying to make sense of ‘progreso’, which as well as meaning ‘progress’, is an area of Zondek’s native city.

You can listen to Verónica Zondek reading ‘Progreso’ on video below.

 

 

Progress

I know it without betrayal or evidence.
This is my house and yet it’s not.
Memories boil and bubble from step to step
and towering up to the 15th floor, get lost in the nothingness of sky
grey now and not the blue of No, I remember.
Three stairs with footprints and mud in the entrance
a cranky horseshoe on a nail in the door
and an aura that protects the family’s breath.
Yes, a chequered floor in the kitchen
a spruce chess board and Clorinda for thorough hygiene
bread that is promptly kneaded in memory
an oven that bakes the cake of childhood’s clay.
Yes, I remember the shifting shade of the shutters
and the eternal counting of lines in sleeplessness
and the voices from heaven
and also the others
those
those that reprimand
those that invade my head in supposed sleep
and make me read by the light of a torch
so that God willing panic doesn’t spread.
Yes, a grumbling staircase absorbs my school shoes
and reveals and flaunts that strident independence.
Yes, once loud and swaggering,
swelling with laughter and tears and the nerves of a beginner,
hooked, like everyone, in the eye of their own time.
So many days wandering in the desert of the home
concentrating on the alien talk of adults
filling the emptiness that occasionally swells
to later stitch together a story, only intelligible,
of course, in one formerly so sane,
and that wardrobe of surprises in the corridor
nothing less than an ancient sea in full surge
buried beneath one and seven keys of Cerberus
silence and secret seldom ajar
pirates’ chest and cave of cursed elf
wishing for illness so as to break the seal
and the shining white walls of adobe
naked and without a skin when the earth shakes
and the books that collapse on your head
and the invasion of master bonesetters
and the dust and the mess and the cornered silence
and the tremendous bother of hustle and bustle.

Vanity.
Vanity of the matter that shelters memory
like a silent treasure box surrendered to the digger.

Progress
cold and beautiful like the blue ice of glaciers
that barely able and with the road’s consent
neither knows nor asks
and takes control and buries beneath the thunder of doing
the loveliest thought and chained to the fire
that already once was snatched from us.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Progreso

Lo sé sin traición ni documento.
Esta es mi casa y ya no es.
Hierven y suben los recuerdos de escalón en escalón
y altísimos hasta el piso 15 se pierden en la nada del cielo
gris ahora y no azul del no, ya recuerdo.
Tres peldaños con pisadas y barro en la entrada
una herradura quejumbrosa en un clavo de la puerta
y un aura que defiende el hálito familiar.
Sí, un piso cuadriculado en la cocina
Un pulcro tablero y una Clorinda para el buen aseo
Un pan que presto se amasa en la memoria
Un horno que cuece la torta del barro infantil.
Sí, recuerdo la sombre alternada de los postigos
y el eterno recuento de líneas en desvelo
y las voces celestiales
y también las otras
esas
las que amonestan
las que invaden mi cabeza en reposo pretendido
y obligan la lectura a la luz de una linterna
para que Dios mediante no cunda el pánico.
Sí, una quejumbrosa escalera recibe mis zapatos colegiales
y destapa y ondea esa independencia de pelo en pecho.
Sí, una entonces bravucona y vociferante
una hinchada en llanto y risa nervios de principiante
una colgada como todos en el ojo del tiempo propio.
Tantos y tantos días errantes en el desierto del hogar
concentrada en el decir aparte de los mayores
llenando el vacío que a ratos hincha
para luego hilvanar una historia en demasía propia
inteligible, por supuesto, en un otrora tan cuerdo
y ese armario con sorpresas en el pasillo
no otra cosa que un mar antañoso con su completo oleaje
encerrado bajo una y siete llaves de cancerbero
silencio y secreto pocas veces entreabierto
baúl de piratas y cueva de duende maldito
deseando la dolencia para violarle el sello
y las albas paredes de adobe
desnudas y sin cáscara en medio de las tembladeras
y los libros que derrumban sobre la cabeza
y la invasión de maestros componedore
y el polvo y el desorden y el silencio arrinconado
y la tremenda molestia del ajetreo.

Vanidad.
Vanidad de la materia que acoge el recuerdo
cual cofre silente entregado a la retroexcavadora.

Progreso
frío y bello como el hielo azul de los glaciares
que pudiendo apenas y con la venia de dónde la carretera
tampoco sabe ni pregunta
y toma la sartén por la mango y entierra bajo el trueno del hacer
el bellísimo pensar y encadenado al fuego
que una vez ya nos fue arrebatado.

 

 

Verónica Zondek was born in Santiago de Chile in 1953. She has a History of Art degree from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has published a dozen poetry collections and an anthology of Chilean poetry, Cartas al azar (1989). She is a writer of diverse interests, having compiled a major study of the Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, and a children’s book: La mission de Katalia (2002). She is a member of the editorial committee for the independent publishing house LOM Ediciones in Santiago, and has translated many poets from English – most recently, Anne Carson.

 

 

Poems for staying at home (Day 6)

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Laura Wittner

 

Today we have one of my favourite lockdown poems, ‘Plastic Moon’ by the Argentine poet Laura Wittner. As a special bonus we have a guest reader, the American poet and translator Curtis Bauer, who performs from the garden of his home in Lubbock, Texas, undeterred by either the abundant birdsong or his own wild hair. Thank you, Curtis! The poem appears in The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

Click for the video poem: https://videopress.com/v/rzV1gNFW

 

Plastic moon

We are in a dark living room
where I want everything except what I have.
Without shoes, on the floor, drinking wine
from crystal glasses, they put on loud music
and I ask myself: why do we
never play this music?
The possibility of pleasure is lifting me off the ground
and the impossibility of pleasure is making me dizzy.
I lean out of the window to take in some air,
but there’s no more here, only the tight alignment
of back patios and fire escapes,
the absence of sound sarcastically shaken
by the magical music, a darkness of the city’s suburbs
barely known. That’s why I need to go out on the street.
I put on my shoes, leave,
under the muddy light that the chequered floor sucks in like a sponge,
and in the meantime I think, I think.
Why do we never play this music?
I stop on the frozen pavement. There are no smells.
I can’t make out the window
from which I have come. A group of men in the shadows
makes me afraid again. Oh, but thanks.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

 

Luna de plástico

Estamos en un living oscuro
donde quiero todo menos lo que tengo.
Sin zapatos, en el piso, tomando vino
en vasos de cristal, ponen música fuerte
y me pregunto: ¿por qué nosotros nunca
ponemos esta música?
La posibilidad del placer me está haciendo levitar
y la imposibilidad del placer me marea.
Voy a asomarme a la ventana a tomar aire,
pero no hay más, aquí, que la estrecha confluencia
de patios traseros y escaleras para incendio,
la ausencia de sonido mordazmente agitada
por la música mágica, una oscuridad de afueras de la ciudad
apenas conocida. Así que necesito ir a la calle.
Me pongo los zapatos, salgo,
bajo la luz marrón que el piso a cuadros se chupa como esponja,
y mientras tanto pienso, pienso.
¿Por qué nosotros nunca ponemos esta música?
Me paro en la vereda congelada. No hay olores.
No puedo distinguir la ventana
de donde vengo. Un grupo de hombres en la sombra
me vuelven al temor. Ay, pero, gracias.

 

Laura Wittner was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1967. She has published several poetry collections, most recently La Altura (Bajolaluna, 2016).  She is also a translator from English, and has published work by Leonard Cohen, David Markson, Anne Tyler and James Schuyler. She coordinates poetry and translation workshops and runs a poetry blog in Spanish at http://selodicononlofaccio.blogspot.com/ and she can also be found (in English) at https://intranslation.brooklynrail.org/spanish/inside-the-house/.

Poems for staying at home (Day 5)

red-island-house

 

Our house today is ‘The House in Tigre’, by Daniel Samoilovich. Tigre is a small town on the Paraná river, which, on its passage towards the ocean, is broken up by hundreds of small, wooded islands, many of them inhabited. The whole, vast area is a web of small estuaries, and the graveyard of three centuries’ worth of shipwrecks and abandoned dreams. As late as the 1870s the delta was the haunt of pirates, some of them women, including the famous Marica Rivera, who, with her band of bloodthirsty followers robbed and murdered travellers, although she also acquired the status of a kind of Robin Hood figure, occasionally distributing her booty among the needy. The people who live on these islands have a reputation for a kind of wistful lethargy, a condition known locally as ‘mal del sauce’ or ‘weeping willow sickness.’ I imagine it as the sort of listless melancholy that afflicts a person who spends too many hours gazing at the slow passage of water.

 

The House in Tigre

We have a house in South America.
Here are the dogs with no owner,
the river, palm trees, summer,
the little tangled bush
of wild roses,
slanting light in autumn.
Here’s where old clothes end up,
silence, non-matching glasses,
the most long-lived members
of different races, made siblings
by chance, by an oversight of death.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

La Casa del Tigre

Tenemos una casa en Sudamérica.
Aquí están los perros sin dueño,
el río, las palmeras, el verano,
el arbolito enmarañado
de las rosas silvestres,
las luces diagonales en otoño.
Acá vino a parar la ropa vieja, el silencio,
los vasos desparejos,
los miembros más longevos
de razas diferentes, hermanados
por el azar, por un descuido de la muerte.

 

 

Daniel Samoilovich was born in Buenos Aires in 1949. He has published a dozen collections of poetry since his first, Párpado, in 1973. A bilingual collection of his poetry has appeared in English, translated by Andrew Graham Yooll (Nottingham: Shoestring Press, 2007) and his Collected Poems, Rusia es el tema was published by Bajolaluna in 2014. He is a translator from Latin, Italian, English and French. He has translated, amongst others, the Latin poet Horace and Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Between 1986 and 2012 he directed the Buenos Aires cultural newspaper Diario de Poesía. Three of Samoilovich’s poems can be found in The Other Tiger.

Poems for staying at home (Day 4)

rómulo

 

Today’s poem on the ‘house’ theme comes from Rómulo Bustos Aguirre, whose inventive and gently humorous poetry is among my favourite of any being written today. I think of Rómulo as an exponent of ‘slow’ poetry, his characters moving with hallucinogenic grace against the backdrop of his native Caribbean, drinking the ‘red plum wine that stretches memories’, observed by guardian creatures who ‘send passers-by to sleep just by looking at them’.  Four of his poems appear in English translation in The Other Tiger, and will shortly appear in PN Review.

 

Ballad of the House

You will find a house with a strange name
that you will attempt in vain to decipher
and walls the colour of good dreams
but you will not see that colour
nor will you drink the red plum wine
that stretches memories

On the gate
sits a child with a half-open book
Ask him the way to the big trees
whose fruits are guarded by an animal
that sends passers-by to sleep just by looking at them

And he will answer while conversing
with a green-winged angel
(as if it were another child playing at being an angel
with wide banana leaves stuck to his back)
barely moving his lips in a gentle spell
“The cockerel’s song isn’t blue but a sleepy pink
like the first light of day”

And you will not understand. Nevertheless
you will find an immense hallway
where hangs the portrait of a lord,
shimmering slightly, his heart in his hand
and at the back, right at the back
the soul of the house seated in a rocking chair, singing
but you will not heed her

Because in that instant
a distant sound shall crease the horizon
and the child will have finished the last page

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

 

Balada de la casa

Hallarás una casa con un nombre extraño
que intentarás descifrar en vano
y muros del color de los buenos sueños
pero tú no verás ese color
tampoco beberás el vino rojo de los ciruelos
     que ensancha los recuerdos

En la verja
un niño con un libro entreabierto
Pregúntale por el camino de los grandes árboles
cuyos frutos guarda un animal
que adormece a los andantes con sólo mirarlos

Y él contestará mientras conversa
con un ángel de alas verdes
(como si fuera otro niño que juega al ángel
y se hubiera colocado anchas hojas de plátano a la espalda)
moviendo apenas los labios en un leve conjuro
“El canto del gallo no es azul sino de un rosa dormido
como el primer claro del día”

Y tú no entenderás. Y sin embargo
hallarás un zaguán que yo recorrí inmenso
donde cuelga el retrato de un señor que resplandece
levemente, con el corazón en la mano
y al fondo, muy al fondo
el alma de la casa sentada en una mecedora, cantando
pero tú no la escucharás

Pues, en ese instante
un sonido lejano ajará el horizonte
y el niño habrá pasado la última de las páginas

 

Rómulo Bustos Aguirre was born in 1954 in Santa Catalina de Alejandría, Colombia. His poetry is inspired by the landscape and characters of his native Caribbean. A professor of literature at the University of Cartagena, he won the Blas de Otero Prize from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in 2010 and was awarded Colombia’s National Poetry Prize in 2019.

Poems for staying at home (Day 3)

Atira CUR looking down

 

Today’s poem for staying at home is ‘Time of Crisis’, by the Mexican poet Fabio Morábito. Morabito’s poetry, infused with a wry and occasionally coruscating humour, is especially suited to the weird times we live in. This translation, along with the Spanish original, can be found in The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

If your device allows you access to Instagram, you can listen to Idoia Elola reading the poem in Spanish and English by following the link below:

https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_fuimWB5f2/?igshid=hvvb3bbjlvgb

 

Time of Crisis

This building
has hollow bricks,
you get to know everything
about the others,
learn to distinguish
the voices and the couplings.
Some learn to pretend
that they are happy,
others that they are deep.
At times a kiss
from the upper floors
gets lost in the lower
apartments,
you have to go down and fetch it:
“My kiss please,
if you would be so kind.”
“I kept it wrapped in a newspaper.”
A building has
its golden age,
the years and fatigue
wear it thin,
so that it resembles
the life that passes by.
The architecture loses weight
and habit gains ground,
propriety gains ground.
The hierarchy of the walls
dissolves,
the roof, the floor, everything
turns concave,
this is when the young people flee,
travel the world.
They want to live
in virgin buildings,
they want a roof for a roof
and walls for walls,
they don’t want
another kind of space.
This building doesn’t satisfy
anyone,
it is in its time of crisis,
to knock it down you’d have
to knock it down right now,
later it’s going to be difficult.

Translated by Richard Gwyn

 

Época de Crisis

Este edificio tiene
los ladrillos huecos,
se llega a saber todo
de los otros,
se aprende a distinguir
las voces y los coitos.
Unos aprenden a fingir
que son felices,
otros que son profundos.
A veces algún beso
de los pisos altos
se pierde en los departamentos
inferiores,
hay que bajar a recogerlo:
“Mi beso, por favor,
si es tan amable.”
“Se lo guardé en papel periódico.”
Un edificio tiene
su época de oro,
los años y el desgaste
lo adelgazan,
le dan un parecido
con la vida que transcurre.
La arquitectura pierde peso
y gana la costumbre,
gana el decoro.
La jerarquía de las paredes
se disuelve,
el techo, el piso, todo
se hace cóncavo,
es cuando huyen los jóvenes,
le dan vuelta al mundo.
Quieren vivir en edificios
vírgenes,
quieren por techo el techo
y por paredes las paredes,
no quieren otra índole
de espacio.
Este edificio no contenta
a nadie,
está en su época de crisis,
de derrumbarlo habría
que derrumbarlo ahora,
después va a ser difícil.

 

From De lunes todo el año, 1992

 

Fabio Morábito was born in Alexandria in 1955 and has lived in Mexico City since the age of fifteen. His award-winning poetry, short stories and essays have established him as one of Mexico’s best-known writers over the past 25 years. He is also a translator from Italian. Much of his work has appeared in translation, to growing international acclaim.

Poems for staying at home (Day 2)

Teillier

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.

 

Poems for staying at home (Day 1)

 

Leonora

 

As most of us are staying at home far more than we usually do, I thought I might post a series of poems — or rather, translations of poems — regarding houses. Most of these will be from my anthology The Other Tiger (Seren, 2016), but — who knows? — some might be from other places.

Today’s poem is by the Ecuadorian poet Siomara España, and is titled ‘The Empty House’. The translation is followed by the original Spanish.

 

The Empty House

Invite no one
into our house,
for they will notice
the doors, walls, staircase
and windows,
they will see the moths
in the corners,
the rusty locks,
the blind, ruined lamps.
Don’t bring anyone to our house
for they will only be distressed
by your table,
your bed, the tablecloth,
the furniture, laugh pityingly
at the cups, pretend to
be nostalgic for my name,
make fun, what is more, of our hammock.
Don’t bring anyone to our house any more
for they will write you songs,
excite your soul,
whisper mischievously,
plant a flower at your window.

That’s why – I beg you – you must
not bring people to our house,
for they will turn pink,
greenish, reddish, bluish,
on discovering broken walls
and withered plants.
They will want to sweep out the corners
they will want to open our blinds
and find, tucked away among my books
the depraved excuses they were searching for.

Don’t bring anyone to our house any more,
for they will discover our absurdities,
will carry you off to faraway beaches
tell you tales of shipwrecks,
drag you from our house.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

La casa vacía


No invites a nadie
a nuestra casa,
pues repararán en
puertas, paredes, escaleras
y ventanas,
mirarán la polilla en
los rincones,
los cerrojos oxidados,
las lámparas ciegas, arruinadas.
No traigas a nadie a nuestra casa
pues no tendrán más
que angustia de tu mesa,
de tu cama, del mantel,
del mobiliario se reirán
de pena por las tazas, fingirán
nostalgia de mi nombre,
y reirán también de nuestra hamaca.
No traigas más gente a nuestra casa
pues te escribirán canciones,
te entusiasmarán el alma,
te susurrarán traviesos,
sembrarán una flor en tu ventana.

Por eso no debes, te lo ruego,
traer más gente a nuestra casa
pues se pondrán rosados,
verdosos, rojizos o azulados,
al descubrir paredes rotas
las plantas marchitadas.
Querrán barrer en los rincones
querrán abrir nuestras persianas
y encontrarán seguro entre mis libros
las excusas perversas que buscaban.

No traigas más nadie a nuestra casa,
así descubrirán nuestros absurdos
te llevarán lejos a otras playas
te contarán historias de naufragios
te sacarán a rastras de esta casa.

 

Siomara España was born in Manabí, Ecuador, in 1976. She is a poet and professor at Guayaquil University; cultural editor of the newspaper El Emigrante and departmental editor of the Casa de la Cultura, Guayaquil. Her publications include: Concupiscencia, Alivio demente, De cara al fuego, Contraluz and Jardines en el aire. She has been included in several international anthologies, including Tapestry of the Sun: an anthology of Ecuadorian poetry (San Francisco: Coimbra, 2010).

Ernesto Cardenal (1925-2020): two poems in translation

1555774595_576493_1555774776_noticia_normal

 

Ernesto Cardenal died on Sunday, March 1st, Saint David’s Day.  Born into a privileged Nicaraguan family, Cardenal resisted tyrants and dictatorships throughout his life. He died bitterly opposed to the Ortega government in Nicaragua, that betrayal of the revolution which he had once fought for, acting as Minister of Culture in the first Sandinista government (1979-87).

The last time Cardenal crossed my thoughts was after reading an interview of sorts in the Spanish Newspaper El País, in April last year, in which he claimed that he was unable even to comment on Nicaraguan politics: ‘No hay libertad para que yo diga algo, estamos en una dictadura.’ ‘I don’t have the liberty to say anything, we are in a dictatorship’.

The interviewer then asks Cardenal: What, for you, in the current state of affairs, is a revolution? To which he replies, unobligingly:  ‘Why are you asking me? Go look in a dictionary. I’ve already written about it in The Lost Revolution. Why repeat things, I have nothing to say, I don’t want to . . ‘

I met Cardenal a couple of times, in Nicaragua, and translated a few of his poems for the magazine Poetry Wales. He was a man who didn’t seem to much care for all the attention he received. He was mentored by the English mystic Thomas Merton as a young man, in the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, and he might well have preferred the quiet life of the literary monk to that of the famous revolutionary priest that he became.

One of the poems I translated for Poetry Wales is available on Ricardo Blanco’s Blog here. I translated the following two poems a decade ago, but haven’t published them before now.

 

LIKE EMPTY BEER CANS

My days have been like empty beer cans
and stubbed-out cigarette ends.
My life has passed me by like the figures who appear
and disappear on a television screen.
Like cars passing by at speed along the roads
with girls laughing and music from the radio . . .
And beauty was as transient as the models of those cars
and the fleeting hits that blasted from the radios
and were forgotten.

And nothing is left of those days,
nothing, besides the empty cans and stubbed-out dog-ends,
smiles on washed-out photos, torn coupons,
and the sawdust with which, at dawn,
they swept out the bars.

 

OUR POEMS

Our poems still cannot
be published

they circulate from hand to hand
as manuscripts
or photocopies for a day

the name of the dictator
against whom they were written
will be forgotten

and they will continue to be read.

 

 

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Ernesto Cardenal with Blanco. Granada, Nicaragua, February 2012.

 

 

 

A tsunami of starlings

I have written about this before. Driving from Palau to Castelló, across the Aiguamolls, a tsunami of starlings unfurls in the sky, and I am encompassed by their path. They wheel and return, settle in a paddock behind me, where there are horses. I park the car at the side of the road and film them on my phone. I have accepted the notion that they swarm in these glorious, rhythmically unfolding patterns out of sheer exuberance, and whenever I witness their aerial displays I am overwhelmed by a subtly swerving joy, and I understand a little better the urge to dance . . .

 

 

Damnable Brexit

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“This may be the last stage of imperialism – having appropriated everything else from its colonies, the dead empire appropriates the pain of those it has oppressed.”

Fintan O’Toole, Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain

Ricardo Blanco’s Blog is not, as a rule, a place in which I vent my political views or biases, but today I will make an exception. As a Welshman and a European, I need to express my rage and grief at what is being foisted on us.

To all those who wallow in the Imperial dream and who seek to re-float that pompous and grandiose vessel and bathe in the simulated splendour of an odious nationalism, and all the rascally villains whose pockets are so well-lined that crashing out of Europe will not harm them, and the sorry and misled millions whose poverty and ignorance led them to vote for damnable Brexit, and all the hatred and racism and violence that has been and will be unleashed by it, I dedicate this day my profoundest contempt and sorrow.

 

 

 

Oaxaca

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What does Oaxaca hold in store for me? According to Mesoamerican tradition, which pays homage to Ometeotl, God of Duality, paradise has already been granted to the human race, but to accede to it personal effort is required. Sometimes, one is already predisposed towards duality: this sense of doubleness, or having always had another, an other, a doppelganger of sorts, is described by countless writers; to give just one example, Orhan Pamuk, who wrote in Istanbul of his certainty, while growing up, that another identical Orhan lived behind the closed door of one of the houses that he passed on visits to relatives in another part of the city. Do I share this conviction? I think not. However, I feel a compulsion to discover places like Oaxaca, because I like hearing that paradise has already been granted us, and only a little effort is required in order to dwell in it.