Garcia Lorca

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

I sat
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)

Acceptance

It was only to be expected, I guess.  When I was young, I felt affronted by the prospect of death; as I age, death seems , while still frightening, increasingly natural.

Death’s Blue-Eyed Boy

My father was certain
What would happen.”Like snuffing out a candle,” he’d say.
“Like turning out all the lights in the world at once.”

I have a different take on death:
I think I’ll pass
Into an alternate universe
Where I’ll get another chance
To do it right.

 

The Cage

The following verse is from 1969.  As is the case with many of the pieces I wrote at that time, I have no memory of composing it.   It seemed to spring, fully-written, into my mind.   I think is is a reflection of my state of mind at that time, which was that the loneliness I felt was a hopeless condition.

 

The Cage

The floor is made of matted straw —
Enough to make his blisters raw,
Enough to make a catch-as-can
Pallet for a weary man.
At each new  dimming of the light,
Begins a wakeful-watching night.
He gazes at the distant stars,
Checkered through the criss-cross bars.
His face seems old, or maybe tired,
The spark of youth long since expired.
He’s dressed in ragged, khaki shorts —
Large holes expose his nether parts.

Tonight, a woman with a pin
Tries to pick-lock her way in.
From her, a sharp, triumphant shout —
And, suddenly the gate swings out
The man runs out, and pulls up short,
A sudden wrenching at his heart,
He’d better take it stage-by-stage,
His only home has been a cage.

He squints at his new and larger room,
And makes out nothing in the gloom,
Nothing but a dreary night,
Somehow the outside isn’t right.
Is he free?  Or trapped? Or who can tell?
He looks back at  his former cell,
And slowly, seeming satisfied,
The woman locks herself inside.

 

The Next Phase of My Life

I’m in the mood for a short poem today:

The Next Phase of my Life
a haiku

My body feels like a sponge;
Void of all content,
Alert, and primed to absorb.

Why I Love Darkness

A short while ago,  I promised deeper poems.  What follows is a second poem about my mother and what it was like when alcohol took over her life.   It is also about my relationship with my father, but more on that later…

 

Why I Love Darkness

Memories
Are not backlit;
Like fretful flies,
They dodge and flit,
Before they settle in the mind.

Memories
Are not a choice;
Like poetry,
They give a voice
To wounds that fester and endure.

1960:
Standing on the lawn that morning,
The grass I mowed and left behind,
The little swathes I failed to cut.

Our living room:
My father sleeping by the fire.
Ten o’clock, a ringing phone,
Stunned surprise.

The kitchen, by the phone:
My father’s eyes,
Beggar’s eyes.
Get dressed, he says;
Just go next door.

Our neighbor’s house:
My mother, barely clothed,
Sitting on the neighbor’s chair,
Chatting like a party host.

Our front lawn:
Supporting her,
Her feet as useless
As her brain.
Falling halfway,
Coming up covered
With brownish blades.

In the hallway:
My father standing silently,
My mother comatose,
My sister crying softly.

Our living room:
The dirty rug.
The dying fire.
The ashtray with its sickly smell.
I stand alone.
After a while,
I go round
And pull down every shade.

My First Double Dactyls

In the past, I have posted about double dactyls here and here.

In 1966, or 1967, When Hecht and Hollander published their book of Double Dactyls, Esquire magazine held a competition where readers could submit their own double dactyls.   I wrote the three that follow, but I didn’t have the courage to submit them.

Jiggery-Pokery!
Wilt-the-Stilt Chamberlain
In real life is really
About five foot two.
He dunks ’em because of his
Superplasticity,
So eat all your spinach,
It could happen to you.

Higgledy-Piggledy!
Romeo Montague
Parting with Juliet
Did, in a word,
Call it “sweet sorrow” so
Oximoronicly,
Thunderous silence was
All that was heard.

Higgledy-Piggledy!
Andrès Segovia
Told a young student
To pick out a tune.
After a bar, he cried:
“Misericordia!
“And Madre de Dios!”,
I should play the bassoon!”

 

NOTES:

Wilt Chanberlain (known as “Wilt the Stilt”) was the greatest basketball player of that (and probably any) era.
Andrès Segovia was a famous Spanish classical guitarist.
Superplasticity means extraordinary ability to stretch.
Misericordia is the Latin for Mercy.