Feeling foolish, imbecilic,
Clutching flowers in his hand,
He somehow marshals, like a brave boy,
All the courage at his command.
Knocks quite softly, taps the doorbell,
Dreads the moment she appears
If he leaves now, before she answers,
He won’t confront his deepest fears.
The door is open, she regards him
With a pleasant, puzzled air.
He thrusts the flowers out before him
As if to show why he is there.
Then from within him, he is saying
The words he tried so long to hide,
Words he’d practiced, nine times over,
Until they could not stay inside:
“I love you madly, I will love you
Until all life is at an end.”
With a smile, she passes sentence:
“I shall want you for a friend.”
Look for much more on this blog in the coming weeks – politics and essays will be added in the near future. Meanwhile, here is a rewritten version of a poem that I posted some time ago.
They say the spirit lingers after death,
Or so I hope; there’s so much more to say.
They say that with your final, fleeting breath
You see your life, but distant, like a play.
If so, I’ll see you once and once again
I’ll see your eyes when first we kissed.
I’ll see your face at just the moment when…
But I must not think of all that we have missed.
I must stop now, such visions drive me wild.
At least you live in happiness apart,
And as for me, I am now reconciled,
I live alone, alone without my heart.
And when you die, I’ll find you. You will know
I’m there. I’ll linger in your afterglow.
For this translation of Borges, I decided to start with the fact that the original poem (Un Ciego) is a classical Shakespearian sonnet. The decision to respect the form of the original poem when translating leads to a new poem that, while preserving the essential themes and sense of the original, adds and subtracts details for the sake of the form. I call this kind of translating “interpreting” to emphasize that a poem arises from the process that is both the original poem and a new poem in and of itself.
The Blind Man
Jorge Luis Borges
(interpreted by Guy Conner)
I try imagining my face
Reflected in that mirror there.
Would I see an old man with a trace
Of weary rage, or perhaps despair?
Slowly does my hand explore
My features – not so old in fact.
The vision comes to me once more
Of you as I knew you in our youth.
I agree with Milton when he says
That blindness is a state of mind.
Vision deals with surfaces,
I see images of a deeper kind.
But still, if I could see my face,
I’d know myself and knowing, know my place.
For a change of pace, how about a little Borges?
Jorge Luis Borges
(trans. Guy Conner)
I dream of an ancient king,
His crown of iron, his look of death,
There are no faces like that nowadays,
You sense his firm blade will obey him, loyal, like a dog
I do not from where he comes – Northumbria or Norway;
I only know that he comes to us from the North,
Close cut red whiskers everywhere;
Never have I seen the like;
Such empty eyes.
From what strange looking-glass,
From what wild sea-faring adventure,
Has this man, this gray and grizzled man,
Burst forth to oppress me with his bitterness?
I know that was a dream, and I treat it as a dream.
Day becomes Night;
I don’t know where it has been.
I chose Garcia Lorca for my first Spanish translation attempts, because of the many short poems in his oeuvre. Short poems, I thought, wouldn’t take long to translate and that would give me a sense of accomplishment. In fact, reading the poem and understanding the words has not been the problem, the difficulty has been to achieve a coherent poem in English without losing the flavor of Gracia Lorca’s exotic style. Here’s my latest attempt:
The flower of dawn is open…
Do you remember yesterday?
The moon is spouting cold dead oil…
Think back, think back to August.
I had expected to return to this blog with a number of essays on politics, but so far, I’m having trouble finishing the ones I have started. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I am trying my hand at translation again, this time of Spanish poetry. I began by reading through the Complete Works of Federico Garcia Lorca, whom I admired greatly when I first read him in college (in English). It quickly became clear that, in order to understand many of the poems, I need to brush up on the history of his time (1898 – 1935) in Spain. Most of his poems are rooted in his historical moment (he was a major political activist) and can’t be fully understood out of context. I did find one short abstract poem (Claro de Reloj) that I felt I could do a sort of justice to, as I learned this new craft.
Hanging Out with Time
In Time’s green glade,
A haven of silence,
Of pure, white silence,
An amazing ring
In which the stars collide
With twelve black numbers.
What do you think, my Spanish-speaking friends? (Yes, I know that “Claro de Reloj” doesn’t mean “Hanging Out With Time”- it is not a literal translation)