Alan Clark: “Guerrero and Heart’s Blood” / “Guerrero y Sangre del Corazón”

ZP_Mythic by Alan Clark

ZP_Mythic by Alan Clark_Mítico por Alan Clark

Un extracto en cinco voces – de “Guerrero y Sangre del Corazón” por Alan Clark:

.

Guerrero habla:

“Yo soy Gonzalo Guerrero, Capitán al servicio de Nachancán, Señor de Chetumal. Casado. Un padre. Cortado y cubierto de cicatrices y decorado con tintes. Un guerrero conocido entre mi gente como “hombre valiente”.

Yo no soy aquel que fui. En Palos, donde nací, mi anterior familia vive todavia, a menos que haya habido una plaga o una guerra. Mi padre y mi madre quizás vivan aún. Pero lo dudo.

Había un árbol alto junto a la vieja casa, al que mi hermano Rodrigo y yo solíamos atar una soga, que dejábamos caer al suelo, luego trepábamos hasta lo más delgado del tronco y -pas!- soltábamos la cuerda y volábamos en el cielo cálido y azul entre el estruendo de las hojas. Les hacíamos jugarretas.

A nuestras hermanas, las espíabamos cuando se bañaban, y detestábamos la escuela y al cura de la iglesia, que nos pegaba en el nombre de Dios.

Ahora estoy muy lejos de todo eso. Soy algo así como un noble, y jefe en tiempo de guerra. Ahora escucho mensajes en el humo de papeles ensangrentados que los sacerdotes encienden en la cima de los templos, papeles empapados en la sangre de sus propios miembros desgarrados. A veces la sangre es mía. Me toca oficiar cuando se hace un sacrificio, y sentir como los cielos y la tierra cambian y se estremecen y se reconstruyen a sí mismos con el advenimiento de la más suprema de las ofrendas sagradas. Como un pequeño trozo del esclavo, del niño, o del cautivo, que quizás yo mismo haya sometido con estas manos. Su terror anticipa el temblor aún mayor del mundo una vez que hayamos cortado y ofrendado y ungido. Me tomó mucho tiempo vencer mi propio terror y repulsión.

El gran Señor Nachancán, quien me tomó luego que escapé de su espantoso vecino y enemigo, vió en mi lo que quizás yo nunca hubiese visto por mi mismo. Me dijo que de una sola mirada, cuando fui llevado ante él, consumido y cubierto con mis andrajos de esclavo, supo mi lugar en los cielo, a pesar de mi apariencia. Incluyendo mi negra barba crecida y despareja.

.     .     .

Habla Nachancán:

“Ja. Las noticias sobre los extranjeros habían llegado a mí aún antes de que desembarcaran. Mis mensajeros esparcieron las nuevas. Lo recuerdo bien. Conejo Dos pidió las jaulas y los postes. Kinich Ek quería a las dos mujeres. Le dimos una. Le arrancaron el corazón antes de terminar el día, como a los otros tres. Yo tomé una, para que ayudara a mi esposa y para interrogarla. Hace ya un año que murió. Mi mujer es muy dura con sus esclavos. Pero los alimenta bien.

Eran un grupo raro. Les arrancamos sus andrajos impregnados de sal para ver si eran humanos, como nosotros. Nuestros magos y sacerdotes los atormentaban y les lanzaron hechizos de humo. Eran hombres, pero blancos y peludos. Y hablaban un idioma que no pudimos entender, y temblaban en el calor, implorándonos por señas que les diéramos agua y comida. Los pusimos en jaulas para que engordaran. No sabían mal, cocidos con chiles. Nada mal…

Sólo quise uno para mí. Fue primero con Conejo, que es cruel y estúpido, hasta que un día huyó y vino a mí. Desde el primer momento vi en él a alguien de provecho, alguien para nosotros. Mi lengua se adelantó a mi voluntad: dénmelo.

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Habla Nachancán:

Extraño pocas cosas. Mi naturaleza es afable como esta sonrisa que ven. Y la risa siempre a flor de labios – lo que a veces ha hecho pensar a mis enemigos que estoy loco…sus cabezas no sonríen desde donde nos miran, sobre los escalones del templo. Pronto sus ceños fruncidos desaparecerán. Y entonces las moscas se reirán para mí.

Cuando llegó, el extranjero Guerrero, noté que su presencia alteraba mucho a mi hija, Mucuy, que le lanzó una mirada de odio, y luego le ignoró. Cuando llegó la siguiente oportunidad de sangrarme, pedí a los dioses que me dieran su respaldo. Las serpientes no dicen más que lo necesario.

.      .      .

Aguilar habla:

¿Y dónde está la maldita gloria para el que va a morir? Esta noche se van a llevar a uno de mis pupilos a la piedra. Su nombre es Pop Che. Durante semanas he estado llevándole agua y comida. Pero no quería comer. ¿Puede alguien culparlo? Y, oh Dios, sólo es un muchachito. Un granjero que un día se puso su camisa de algodón, desenpolvó su lanza, se puso algunas plumas en el pelo –y dejó a su mujer, a sus hijos, y a su anciana madre, para ir a pelear contra Nachancán y los soldados perdidos de Guerrero. Y ahora está aquí con nosotros. Todo mi coraje es inútil. ¿Y qué han logrado todas mis plegarias por él? Le darán la bebida, lo pintarán, y…

.

Pero ¡ay!, la sangre de mi corazón se va con él. Qué puedo hacer más que seguir rezando y llevarle más agua. ¿Decirle que el dios que ni siquiera acepta lo espera en los cielos para tomarlo en sus brazos celestiales? Ya vienen. Los tambores han comenzado a sonar. Ay, ese sonido me llega como si me golpeasen a mí. Estoy asqueado y harto de todo.

.

Aguilar habla:

No es tan malo ser esclavo. No es tan malo estar vestido con harapos desechados, ser pateado e insultado y golpeado hasta morir por gente perdida en supersticiones. Y admite que hay cierto arte en lo que hacen, y a veces gran belleza en sus vestidos tejidos, y en sus vasijas de barro pintado. Inclusive en el brillante decorado de las piedras y del oro con los que se adornan, y con los que a veces se perforan grotescamente. Sus canciones y cantos, el embrujo de los tambores y las flautas, las trompetas y las caracolas. No soy ciego ni sordo a estas cosas. ¡Pero sus dioses me consternan, representan el horror del deseo de sangre del demonio, y en el momento del sacrificio quisiera aullar, conjurar la venganza de Dios para que desmenuzara hasta hacerlos polvo estos templos blanqueados de cal y manchados de sangre! Dios salve nuestras almas.

.     .     .

Alicia habla:

¡Gonzalo! ¡Gonzalo! Los viejos ojos de tu madre están puestos en ti. Dondequiera que estés, estos ojos te acompañan. Hoy me puse a quemar algunas ramas del viejo árbol que da las naranjas que tanto te gustaban. Esas ramas ya están viejas y secas porque hace ya tanto que te fuiste. ¿Para siempre? Y porque tu padre ha muerto. Murió la muerte rápida y fea de la plaga –su lengua estaba negra y gruesa, se ahogaba- y no podía decir tu nombre. Tu hermano y tus hermanas están bien. Eres tío de una horda de niños.

Gonzalo. Por el amor que te tengo, te entiendo y te veo, dondequiera que estés. En las cavernas de tu corazón, en el poder de tus brazos y de tu mente, siempre me he maravillado. Tal como ahora que sueño y te veo. Y no me preocupo, sólo te extraño. ¿Será que te has ido para siempre de tu hogar, de nosotros? En donde tu padre te engendró de la pasión por su madre, que te trajo con alegría y dolor, mi primer hijo. Mi amor por ti, buen hijo errante, jamás ha mermado, ni lo hará jamás, aún después de nuestra muerte terrenal. Y ahora, para verte, sólo me queda esperar ese día, porque estos viejos ojos ya no lo ven todo.

Con esta vieja mano alzo una naranja al sol, y huelo en el humo que se levanta de las viejas ramas de tu árbol favorito, el sabor de la fruta que aún perdura en él. Y con las cenizas que queden, abonaré mi jardín en tu nombre. Buen hijo.

.     .     .

Mucuy habla:

Acerca tuyo, esposo mío, déjame hablar. Tu fértil esposa ha yacido despierta junto a ti muchas noches, sintiéndose feliz y afortunada. Que al principio no podía entender. Tu eras un extraño, y –casi- parecías un animal. Tu cuerpo enfermo y pálido, tus mejillas cubiertas de pelo, y tu hablar rápido y extraño, me descorazonaba. Cuando me miraste por primera vez, me estremecí y sentí que gritaba por dentro, así que le pedí a mi madre que me explicara porque me causabas tanta confusión, que me dijera qué y quién eras, un hombre que daba tan mala impresión en todo. Si bien uno del que mi padre se expresó como si fuese su propio hijo. Pero finalmente el amor se reveló en mi corazón. Y te encontré esperándome como el sol cuando llueve, y crecí, y aprendí que nuestras caricias arrojaban una luz secreta mientras la luna aguardaba en su oscuro mundo para brillar sobre lo que surgiera. En ti encuentro, dentro de mis más ardientes deseos y mi famoso carácter, toda la suavidad y el peligro que toda mujer anhela, y escuché tus palabras que vagaban como los inseguros pasos de la niñez hacia mí, y temblé al sentir como te arrimabas a mí como las aguas del mar de Cozumel, que llegan a azotar día y noche, como el temblor de mis nervios mientras me preparo a mi festín de ti, con mis lenguas y dientes deseando tu sabor.

.

Así he llegado a conocerte, y de ello nació esta mujer fuerte, que en su pasión nutre la vida de toda su gente… porque antes sólo era buena para esperar, hasta que el mar te arrojó de quien sabe donde, más allá de donde los soles salen para alumbrar los días. Tu viniste de algún otro lugar, de donde te enviaron los dioses y las diosas.

.

Mucuy habla de su intimidad con Guerrero:

Ay, tu lengua tropezando y enredándose con la mía, pareciera haberse convertido en aquella con la que naciste. Te veo caminar entre los hombres, algunos de ellos hermanos míos, los mejores hijos de Nachancán y de la madre que tengo la bendición de poder ver

todos los días, y veo que tú eres uno de nosotros tanto como es posible, y por eso perdono tan fácilmente tus cuestionamientos, tus sueños, mi apetito nocturno, para ayudar a revelarte, mientras los años se desenredan en nuestros cuerpos acostados, o caminando entrelazados tal como nuestros espíritus lo están, y entender tus necesidades antes que tú mismo. Hemos susurrado mucho más allá del tiempo en que los pájaros se van a dormir acurrucándose en sus alas, sobre el misterio de cómo llegamos a ser uno.

.

Mucuy habla sobre la necesidad de que Guerrero participe en los sacrificios:

¿Acaso no soy, querido esposo, padre de mi hija e hijos, también tu maestra en las cosas que tanto te hacen temblar? Al fin ascenderás las escaleras del templo, y te infligirás las heridas que sangren y alimenten los fuegos de lo que verás, las cosas que ves tú mucho más claramente que yo, que te digo: mi tierno y sobrecogedor hombre –¡ve con papá Nachancán y con Pool, y los demás, esta noche, y sé un hombre! Nadie espera que puedas saber qué tanto dependen de ti este ritual y esta vida, aunque me hayas dicho que va contra tu formación. Sé valiente, mi querido esposo, y conoce la sangre que se derramará sobre ti; saboréala si puedes. El muchacho nació para esto. Su corazón fue medido desde el comienzo del mundo –para esto. El dios cuyos días han vuelto a llegar, ha hablado, y mantiene unidas las piedras sobre las que reposa –para esto. Espera que nuestros ojos se glorifiquen en estas muertes –por él. Para que nosotros en él lo veamos y honremos.

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Traducción del inglés al español:  Lisa Primus

.     .     .

Gonzalo Guerrero (1470-1536) fue un marino español y uno de los primeros europeos que vivió en el seno de una sociedad indígena.  Murió luchando contra los conquistadores españoles.  Guerrero es un personaje porfiado porque se aculturó al punto de ser un jefe maya durante la conquista de Yucatán.   En México  se refieren a él como Padre del Mestizaje.   Presentamos aquí la obra del escritor y pintor Alan Clark – “Guerrero and Heart’s Blood /Guerrero y Sangre del Corazón” (Henning Bartsch, México, D. F., 1999) con la traducción de Lisa Primus.

ZP_Blood and Stone by Alan Clark_Sangre y Piedra por Alan Clark

ZP_Blood and Stone by Alan Clark_Sangre y Piedra por Alan Clark

An excerpt in five voices – from “Guerrero and Heart’s Blood” by Alan Clark:

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Guerrero speaks:

I am Gonzalo Guerrero, Captain in the service of Nachancan, Lord of Chektumal. Married. A father. Cut and scarred and decorated with inks. A warrior, who is known among my people as a “brave man”.

.

I am no more what I used to be. In Palos, where I was born, my old family still lives. Unless there’s been a plague, or a war. My father and mother may still be alive, my brothers and sisters who I played with, and tormented. Maybe nothing has changed. Maybe everything. But I doubt that.

.

There was tall tree by our old house, my brother Rodrigo and I would tie a rope to, then pull it down to the ground, climb onto its thin trunk, and snap! Let the rope go and fly into the hot blue air in a clamor of leaves. We played tricks on our sisters, spied on them in their baths when we were all older. And hated the fathers of the church, who beat us in the name of God.

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Now I’m far away from all of that. I am a kind of lord myself, and a chief in time of war. Now I harken to the messages in the smoke of blood stained papers the priests ignite on the temple tops. Papers drenched in their own blood, from their own shredded members. Sometimes the blood is my own. I am in attendance when a sacrifice is made, and feel the earth and the skies change and quiver and recast themselves at the advent of this most supreme offering. I eat some small piece of the slave or the child or the captive I myself, with these same hands, may have subdued. Their terror anticipates the wide world’s trembling when we have cut and offered and anointed. It took a long time to get past my own terror and revulsion.

.

The great Lord Nachancan, who took me in after I had escaped from his horrific neighbor and enemy, saw in me what I had perhaps would never have seen, myself. He told me that from one look, as I was brought before him, worn out, in my slave’s rags, he knew my place in the heavens and was undeceived by my appearance otherwise. Even by my ragged, black beard.

.     .     .

Nachancan speaks:

Ha. The word about the strangers was in my ear before they landed. My messengers had run with the news. I remember it well. Two Rabbit called for the cages and the long poles. Kinich Ek wanted the two women. We gave him one. Her heart was out before the day ended. The other I took to help my wife, and to question. It was only a year ago she died. My wife works her slaves very hard. But feeds them well.

.

They were a strange crew. We stripped them of their salty rags to see if they were human, like ourselves. Our priest and magician poked them all over and spelled them with smokes. They were men, but white and hairy, and spoke in a tongue we didn’t understand. They shivered in the heat, begging us by signs for food and drink. We put them into the cages. They did not taste too bad, cooked with chilies. Not too bad…

.

Only one I wanted for myself. He went first to Rabbit, who is stupid and cruel, until the day he ran to me. From the first, I saw him as someone of use, someone for us. My tongue spoke out ahead of me: Give me him.

 .

There is little I miss. My nature is this smile you see, and the laughter that brims in my blood. Which has sometimes made my enemies think I am a fool. Their heads don’t smile from where they stare out on the temple steps. Soon enough their sagging frowns are gone, and then the buzzards make a laughing sign to me.

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When he came, the stranger, Guerrero, I could see the sight of him upset too much my daughter, Mucuy. She glowered and shot an arrow from her eyes, and then would look no more. When I next bled myself, I asked the gods to second me in what I’d seen. The serpent speaks no more than we can know.

.     .     .

Aguilar speaks:

And where is the glory for the one who’s going to die? They’re taking a ward of mine up to the stone tonight. His name is Pop Che. For weeks I’ve brought him his food and water. But he won’t eat. Can you blame him? And, O God, he’s only a little man, a farmer who put on his cotton shirt one day, and dusted off his spear, left his wife and his children, and old mother, to go fight against Nachancan and the lost Guerrero’s soldiers.

.

And now he’s here with us. All my raging is useless. What have my prayers for him accomplished? They’ll give him the drink, paint him and feather him, and then….

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But O! my heart’s blood goes with him. What else can I do? Tell him that the God he doesn’t even want, is waiting in heaven to hold him in his heavenly arms?

.

Here they come. The drums have started. Ah! That sound pounds into me as if it was me they were striking. I am sick and weak with everything.

.

It is not so bad, to be a slave. It is not so bad to be dressed in rags, to be kicked and insulted and worked almost to death by people lost in their superstitions. I will even admit there’s a certain art in what they do, and sometimes great beauty in their woven cloths, in their painted earthenwares. Even in the glittering ornateness of the stones and gold with which they adorn themselves. And are sometimes pierced to grotesqueness by!

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I am not blind and deaf to these things. But their gods dismay me, are the horror of the Devil’s own wish for blood. And at the moment of sacrifice, I want to howl! and call God’s vengeance down to crumble to dust these whitewashed and bloodstained temples. God save all our souls…

.     .     .

Alicia speaks:

Gonzalo. Gonzalo. Your mother’s eyes are on you. Wherever you are, these eyes are on you. Today I’m burning some branches from the old tree that bears the fruit, the oranges you love, branches old and dry now because you’ve been gone so long. Forever?

.

Your father is dead. He died the fast and ugly death of plague, and couldn’t even speak your name. Your brothers and sister are well. You are now the uncle to a horde of growing kin.

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Gonzalo. In my love for you, I understand and see you, wherever you may be. Of the passions of your heart, of the power of your arms and mind, I have always been in wonderment. This is no less so this hour I dream and see you. O, and I do not worry, but only miss you so! Forever gone from us and this, your home? Where your father seeded you in passion with his wife, who bore you happily in pain. My first born child.

 .

My love for you, good son and wanderer, has never ceased, nor will it ever, even beyond our earthly dying. And now I only wait to see you then, because these old eyes cannot see everything they wish to.

.

With this hand I lift an orange to the sun, and smell in the smoke that rises from the worn out branches of your favorite tree, the savor of the fruit that lived within. And with the ashes left, will feed my garden in your name. Good son.

.     .     .

 Mucuy speaks:

About you, my husband, let me speak. Your fertile wife has lain awake beside you many nights, and felt a wonder at her fortune. Which at first she could not feel. You were a stranger, almost, it seemed, a beast. Your body was sick and pale, your cheeks filled with hair, your strange, fast words dismaying me. When you first looked at me, I shivered and grew shrill, and asked my mother to explain the confusions you provoked, to tell me who and what you were, a man so alrogether wrong. But one of whom my father spoke as if you were a son.

.

But then my love unclouded in my heart. I found you waiting there for me like sun and summer rain. And I grew, and knew our touches cast in secret lightness while the moon was waiting in her darkest world to shine on what would be.

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I found in you, inside my fiercest wish and famous temper, all my softness, and the danger any woman wants. And listened to your words, which wandered like the hesitating steps of childhood toward me, and trembled for the way you washed against me, like the waters of the sea off Cozumel, coming in to thunder day and night, like the trembling of my nerves as I’m edging toward my feast of you, whose taste my tongues and teeth desire.

.

Like this, I’ve come to know you, and out of this become the woman who is strong, and in her passion feeds the life of all her people. Because before, I was only great in waiting – when you washed ashore from nowhere, from somewhere out beyond where all the suns rise up to gleam awake the days. From somewhere else you came, the goddesses and gods had sent you.

.

And O, your stumbling tongue in tangling with my own, has since become as if it was the one you hatched with. I watch you walk among the men, some of them my brothers, the strongest sons of Nachancan, and the mother who I live in blessedness to see each day, and know that you are one of us as much as you can be, your dreams my nightly appetite to help explain to you, as the years unravel in our bodies lying down, or walking braided as our spirits are, and understand your needs before you do yourself. We’ve whispered long past the hour the birds have gone to sleep inside their wings, about the mystery of why we came to be as one.

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Mucuy speaks about his need to attend the sacrifices:

Am I not, dear husband, father of my daughter and sons, also yet your teacher in the things that make you tremble so? At last! To climb the temple steps and prick upon yourself the wound that bleeds, and feeds the fire of what you’ll see there, the things you see so much more than I!

.

Who say to you, my tender, overwhelming man: Go to, with father Nachancan, and Pool, and the others on this night and be a man! No one expects that you can know how much this ritual, how much this life depends on you, you have told me goes against your way. Be brave, my darling husband, and know the blood that will spatter onto you, and taste it if you can. The boy is born for this. His heart is measured since the world began, for this. The God whose day has come around again, has spoken, and commands the stones themselves he rests upon, to worship him.

 .     .     .     .     .

Alan Clark writes:


Gonzalo Guerrero (1470-1536) was a sailor from Palos de la Frontera, Spain, and was shipwrecked around 1511 while sailing from Panama to Santo Domingo with a dozen or so others.  They drifted for a couple of weeks before Caribbean currents brought them to the shores of what is now the State of Quintana Roo in modern-day México where they were captured by Maya people and put into cages.  Eight years later when Hernán Córtes arrived at Kùutsmil (Cozumel ) to begin what would be the Conquest of México, there were only two from this shipwreck still alive – Guerrero, and a priest named Jerónimo de Aguilar.  Guerrero was by this time married with children, the first mestizos in México, and was a chief in time of war for the Maya lord Nachancán.  Aguilar was a slave living in another city state.
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I’ve attempted, through Guerrero’s wife, Mucuy – and through Nachancán, Aguilar, Guerrero’s mother in Spain (whom I’ve called Alicia), and of course through Guerrero himself – to give both the inner and outer picture/story of this man, a people, and the times in which they lived.
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Guerrero and Heart’s Blood was published in 1999 by Henning Bartsch, México City. Although I never had the theatre in mind when I was writing it, Guerrero has had a variety of stagings in both the U.S.A. and México.  Heart’s Blood is an accompanying story, told by Aguilar, and was performed in both Spanish and English in México as an adapted monologue by Alejandro Reza, with a score for cello by Vincent Carver Luke.  The translation into Spanish is by Lisa Primus.  My painting, on the cover of the original book, is called “Blood and Stone”.
.     .     .     .     .


Poems for Saint Patrick’s Day: favourites of “me Ma”

ZP_Eileen Thompson in 1948, not long after her arrival in Toronto from Belfast, Northern Ireland

ZP_Eileen Thompson in 1948, not long after her arrival in Toronto from Belfast, Northern Ireland_Now in her 80s she is an avid reader – still – and she has chosen the two poems we feature here.

Donal Og” / “Young Donald”

(from an old Irish Gaelic ballad, probably composed in the 10th century)

Translation by Augusta, Lady Gregory (1852-1932)

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It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.
.
You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.
.
You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.
.
You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.
.
When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.
.
It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.
.
My mother said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.
.
My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith’s forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you that put that darkness over my life.
.
You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

ZP_Irish labourer_a photograph from around 1850

ZP_Irish labourer_a photograph from around 1850

 

Eavan Boland (born 1944, Dublin)

Quarantine”

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In the worst hour of the worst season

of the worst year of a whole people

a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.

He was walking – they were both walking – north.

.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.

He lifted her and put her on his back.

He walked like that west and west and north.

Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

.

In the morning they were both found dead.

Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.

But her feet were held against his breastbone.

The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.

There is no place here for the inexact

praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.

There is only time for this merciless inventory:

.

Their death together in the winter of 1847.

Also what they suffered. How they lived.

And what there is between a man and woman.

And in which darkness it can best be proved.

.     .     .     .     .

ZP_The Jubilant Man, a sculpture by Rowan Gillespie at Ireland Park in Toronto_The Irish Potato Famine, known as An Gorta Mór or The Great Hunger, occurred between 1845 and 1852.  30,000 forced-out or fleeing Irish arrived in Toronto during 1847 alone - their numbers being greater than the actual population of Toronto at the time.

ZP_The Jubilant Man, a sculpture by Rowan Gillespie at Ireland Park in Toronto_The Irish Potato Famine, known as An Gorta Mór or The Great Hunger, occurred between 1845 and 1852. 30,000 forced-out or fleeing Irish arrived in Toronto during 1847 alone – their numbers being greater than the actual population of Toronto at the time.


Alexander Best: “Notes on Normal”

ZP_Norval Morrisseau, 1932-2007_Conversation, a serigraph from 1978

ZP_Norval Morrisseau, 1932-2007_Conversation, a serigraph from 1978

Alexander Best

“Notes on Normal”

.

The investment advertisement spoke of “smart risk”.

The sign on the bottled-water truck read: “Taste you can trust.”

At the townhouse complex, little notices

skewered the golf-green grass. They gave the date and time of

spraying and when the lawn would be “safe” again.

.

An office worker took two puffs of her cigarette then

tossed it onto the granite slab;  it was back to the salt mines.

Two beggars stood nearby.

It didn’t get ugly over the “Hollywood butt”;

another one would be along in awhile.

 

.     .     .

 

Last night I awoke;  it was slow and easy.

Down the hall, my neighbour picked out chords on his guitar.

The sound wasn’t loud;  the house was unusually quiet.

3 a.m.  Oh, but he hit the right notes!

I lay there and listened.

Then the music stopped.

.

My mind went this way and that.  Those years returned, and

I knew there was no playing with the facts:

how ignorant I’d been — aggressive and stupid.  And hadn’t it

gone on — and on.

Sleep came again, and took me.

 

.     .     .

 

Finally, he died.

Yes, he was old, but he’d been old for two-and-a-half decades,

since the age of forty-five.

The florid beard, silver in the black, had

given him a weight;  and he’d been listened to, the difficult

so-and-so.

.

His Uncle.  The only man left of that small,

snuffed-or-petered-out generation.

And these past five years, the beard gone, his face was

crunched and unintelligible.

.

What a waste.

So much could’ve happened that didn’t.

Yet so much had happened that had to.

And though he felt regret — fibrous and stony — he felt also

the uselessness of regrets.

.

That tightly-wound, far-flung bunch, their story was told.

And the estranged pair of them — Uncle and him —

they were one and complete.

 

.     .     .

 

I told someone off the other day, really laid it on thick.

She’d been burying me in bullshit for quite some time.

Who doesn’t she despise in our society?

.

Now I’m doubtful. I feel guilt. Was I perhaps too…

no, I didn’t go far enough.

 

.     .     .

 

Oh privileged people —

when you extract head from navel, the

muffled hums and haws will become

well-spoken excuses.

.

Shut up and get on with it.

I expect more of thee!

 

.     .     .

 

Smug. It defines him.

Orthodoxy in all the obvious opinions;  a crass certitude;

Hypocrisy. 

And in one so young!

.

Facts. What he does with them is…

terrifying.

.

But now I say to myself:

Fool.  Look around.

This  is the only world he knows.

 

.     .     .

 

He was mistaken.

He’d thought it sensible to share so much — to be ‘modern’ —

with the old dear / battleaxe who’d given him Life.

But he didn’t know when to stop.

And now they are both of them

undignified.

.

How does one repair such damage?

.

Learning to be silent,

this will be hard work.

But the birds, cat and dog;  the piano.

Maybe a ginger beer — she likes that —

in the backyard, when the hot days come.

It can be enough.

 

.     .     .

 

The funeral was a brisk affair;  the woman’s decline had been

gradual, her death no surprise. Still, the hour was a solemn one.

He was the brother of someone who’d known the deceased,

a stranger in a small congregation, all of whom appeared to

be familiars.  But afterward, he observed how

people departed in two distinct groups which had little or

nothing to say to one another.

.

His sister — the “someone who’d known the deceased” — was,

in truth, a very important person — mourner — in the pews.

But only the dead woman had known that.

.

Two square-looking, thirty-something women

— they’d sat in the front row —

attempted to pick him up as he

walked away from the cut-stone chapel.

One called him “distinguished”;  the other, “hot”.

The coffin was carried down the steps, and

dayglo arrows marked the route to the grave.

It was a cold, early-spring afternoon.

 

.     .     .

 

The dream startled me awake.

I had to walk around, move myself here and there.

Downstairs, I put the kettle on.

.

First I was hunched over, then I was on the attack.

A door, off its hinges, was my shield, then my weapon.

There was no ground yet we weren’t falling.

There was no sky yet we kept breathing.

There was no room for us, in fact,

yet we had ample space for a struggle.

And who was we?

 

 

.

(2004)

.     .     .     .     .


Les Tendresses pour Yonge Street ( Tokens of Affection for Yonge Street )

ZP_Corner of Yonge and Dundas, Toronto, 1972, looking south_The buildings on the right side were all demolished to make way for construction of The Eaton Centre which opened in 1977.

ZP_Corner of Yonge and Dundas, Toronto, 1972, looking south_The buildings on the right side were all demolished to make way for construction of The Eaton Centre which opened in 1977.

Alexander Best

LES TENDRESSES POUR YONGE STREET #1

( TOKENS OF AFFECTION FOR YONGE STREET…..)

.

Playoffs had begun; things were looking up for The Leafs…

Ten young guys, walking south to Carlton Street. Jock-ish

In their jerseys, ballcaps, space-age sneakers.

Cases of beer: treasure borne on shoulders and heads.

.

The creature of them halted in front of a shop-window: leopard-bikinis and

Lacey things. Big noise from the boys, sports-monkey-like.

.

Two teenage girls appeared on the sidewalk, slowing down, unsure.

(Awkward experiment: elegant hair, in the style of Marie-Antoinette, combined

with denim ensembles, ‘racing stripes’ down the sides of their pant-legs.)

.

The guys turned from window-display toward the girls, emitting a lusty

Oh Yeah!

One of the girls (shy one) couldn’t help but grin, showing

Microchip-circuitry of railroad-tracks; her mouth was a mess. The boys

Paused — taking in this ruination of her face — glanced among themselves,

Then voiced an even huge-r Oh Yeeaahhh of instinctual approval.

.

Girl’s friend rummaged for an itzy-bitzy disposable camera, held it out, simply

Aimed it at the mass of boys, and clicked.

Females, a-giggle, clumped north in their trendy ‘big-foot’ shoes. The

Manimal continued its way down the street.

.     .     .

 

LES TENDRESSES POUR YONGE STREET  #2

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.”  /  “I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”

(Publius Terentius Afer  a.k.a. TerenceRoman playwright, 195–159 BCE)

.

I waited for the streetcar, in Monday’s midnight mist.

Cabbie pulled up, East-African guy, insisted I get in.

No money, I told him.  Shift was over, he said.  “You and I, we go in the

Same direction,” he assured me. Small as a boy, he was confident like a man.

.

Inside the car, passing the famous hockey-arena…

Do you know this is a ‘gay area’ where you are standing on the corner?”

Oh, really?” my mild response.

.

Left hand on the steering-wheel, he extended his right and placed the tips of his

Slim fingers on the vulnerable spot where my neck joins my breastbone.

Let me see you” — his tone was oddly reverential.

.

I unbuttoned my shirt. He ran his hand over my chest and stomach.

Ah,” he said gravely, “I am touching you, beautiful forest!”

The car skirted a grove of highrise apartment blocks, swinging onto the bridge that

Leads to a more sky-wide part of the city.

.

He patted my zipper: “Show me this one.”

He held my sex; it changed size. Chain of lights moved north, another south, on the

Riverside-highway below us. He considered me, in the palm of his hand:

Alabaster plus two jewels,” he said. “ — but not so hard!” he added, joy flashing in his

Eyes. Our road lay arrow-straight, and luck – the traffic was serene.

.

I began to touch him, at the navel-gap in his shirt.

No.  This cannot. I am married.” — he spoke in a hush.

Maybe I’m married, too,” I said. “You are wearing no ring,” he observed.

True.” And I touched him again.

.

Please do not,” he said firmly. Then, with a radiant smile showing teeth of

Stained ivory: “You will make us an accident…We must not have such a

Tragic romance!”

He refreshed me with these words. The car smelled of fake pine; radio-voice

Rhapsodized about a computer.

.

He caressed my thigh with his free hand. I told him my name; he, his; the

Bible came into it. When I was let out, he tapped a

Farewell-flourish on the car-horn.

.

A poet wrote: “It is only the sacred things that are worth touching.”

Thank you, stranger of the City, for revealing my body as sacred again.

In touching it you touched my soul.

ZP_Xaviera Hollander, the so-called Happy Hooker_She lived in Toronto during the mid-1970s and her liberated, guilt-free approach to sex was exactly what Toronto the Good needed_The Yonge Street Strip, mainly between Gerrard and Dundas, was the most honest zone in the city - a place of risqué fun and sleaze.  Some of those qualities of random adventure and weird spontaneity still existed on the Yonge Street of the late 1990s - and the poet hopes he has captured a little of that in these three poems...

ZP_Xaviera Hollander, the so-called Happy Hooker_She lived in Toronto during the mid-1970s and her liberated, guilt-free approach to sex was exactly what Toronto the Good needed_The Yonge Street Strip, mainly between Gerrard and Dundas, was the most honest zone in the city – a place of risqué fun and sleaze. Some of those qualities of random adventure and weird spontaneity still existed on the Yonge Street of the late 1990s – and the poet hopes he has captured a little of that in these three poems…

LES TENDRESSES POUR YONGE STREET  #3

.

It was along by the Zanzibar Tavern…

Delivery van struck a man. Soft-hard sound, and he

Flipped through the air as if juggled.

.

Magnificent. People spun ’round.

He wasn’t out-cold; dusted himself off, embarrassed.

He began to walk; straightaway teetered, fell

Crumpled against a newspaper box.

Blood on his neck; humanity gawked.

.

An efficient person called the hospital on his pocket-phone.

The van-driver was sorry, impatient.  

.

An old man and woman — he reedy, she petite — approached the  

Injured one: “What is your name, dear?” said the woman, bending.

What is my name? — What is my name?!?”

Don’t, now…you’ve had a shock,” she said.

.

The man’s accent was distinctive; words in the shape of fear.

He’d’ve hailed from a dozen lands — to be precise.

.

The woman gestured for her mate to lean down with his good ear:

He can stay with us…The children are gone — they needn’t know.”

Her husband’s eyebrows went up; held themselves aloft; settled down.

Yes…I don’t see why not.”

 .

The nameless fellow was arranged into the ambulance by two delicate,

Burly attendants. The couple was helped in next; one guy taking the

Old lady’s patent-leather handbag, the other the

Old gentleman’s cane.

.

(1999 – 2000)

ZP_Yonge Street, Toronto, in the 21st century_Looking south from the corner of Yonge and Gerrard

ZP_Yonge Street, Toronto, in the 21st century_Looking south from the corner of Yonge and Gerrard


Alexander Best: “The Soul in darkness”: 12 poems

Sherbourne Street vacant lot 1Sherbourne Street vacant lot 2Vacant lot, Sherbourne Street vacant lot 3

Alexander Best

“The Soul in darkness”

.

He’s destroyed his health — that much is plain.

A cough that never really leaves,

those hollows under his eyes.

Oh, it wasn’t any one thing he did…

but it all adds up.

.

Many of his habits were simple.

Taking his tea and a smoke by the window

while the sun rose, after a night of prowling.

He’d bring coffee to homeless guys with

winning, tooth-fractured smiles.

He’d talk to cats in the laneways;  crouched down,

scratched them under their chins.

When money was scarce, still he managed

to buy drinks for charming strangers whose charm vanished

once they asked if he could lend them sixty bucks…

.

It was no one thing, true,

yet it all added up.

Life diminished him,

no matter what.

 

.     .     .

 

Each day brought some small joy or other.

What people called boredom

he called freedom to roam.

He listened to the water rush along the gutter toward the grate

— it was full of energy and romance.

At night when it rained,

he heard the wet wheels of traffic going this way or that

while he lay in his bed.

The city-hall tower was many blocks away,

but once in a while he heard the bell striking the hour,

and it pleased him.

He thought to himself:

this must be what it’s like to live forever.

 

.     .     .

 

They started out as friends.

Nearly always, it was good times.

Each trusted him whom he didn’t know.

By the end, they’d hurt one another a lot.

Accidental hurts? It was hard to tell

— but they hit their mark.

By the time it was really over, they’d become strangers

of the type that make up the faceless throng.

 

.     .     .

 

The number of times I’ve looked on people with desire.

Turning a corner. In a streetcar, an elevator.

At the cinema, courthouse.

In a glance, I’ve given myself to hundreds, and

I’ve taken thousands.

 

.     .     .

 

A beggar asked for change. I rummaged in my pockets.

He took a good look at me, in my old wool greatcoat;

declared:  A blank cheque’ll do.

I smiled, gave him a two-dollar coin.

Noisily my awful boots squish-squished as I

strode up the street.

We both chuckled.

 

.     .     .

 

Nothing is clear to me.

Even the cloudless sky.

Every wall is a mirror.

So many years have passed that

some things are easier — time is thoughtful.

But nothing is clear.

 

.     .     .

 

The thought of living without him was unbearable.

And yet, that’s just what they’d been doing, for years.

Out of solitude came a knowledge he felt with his whole body:

their love was for all time.

Everywhere he went, he walked with a light step.

 

.     .     .

 

I waited.  On the bench

by the massive oak tree.

Noone came.

I stayed too long,

my feet were like lead going home.

But memory calls.

I must go back.

 

.     .     .

 

The one dearest to him was ill.

Said his head throbbed, like it was his heart

— a loud beating,

outside his body.

He knew what that was like.

 

.     .     .

 

He went out on a limb — the old oak tree.

He sighed. Looked at the rope held coiled in his hand.

A nighthawk squawked.

That’s the wisdom I needed, he whispered aloud.

He lowered himself to the ground, with care

— didn’t want to sprain an ankle.

 

.     .     .

 

In the darkness of his room,

one after another, he strikes wooden matches,

leans each one against the inside of a small copper pot.

They spark, then swell to a crisp.  And he says to himself:

Lovely they are, their whole life long.

 

.     .     .

 

Meal done, now’s the hour;  some light in the sky still,

and man-made glows begin to warm each room.

Ahh,

spirit’s gone to my belly

— words don’t come…and that’s that.

.

Poem, shall we lie down, you and I?

And write ourselves tomorrow?

 

.     .     .

The poet in 2008

The poet in 2008

Editor’s note:

I wrote these poems in 2003 during the years when I went from one temporary job to the next and was numb from emotional distress in my personal life.  I seemed only to “camp” wherever I was living;  I moved seven times between 1999 to 2009.   Putting furniture out on the street I would find what I needed for my next room on another curb.  Everyone has crises in his or her life and we respond variously – with adequate action or with the inertia and blah mechanisms of Depression.  I believe that this sequence of poems reflects – in its pensive, wistful, and “world-weary” tone – the influence of Constantine Cavafy (Konstantin Kavafis) whose poems in translation I was discovering at the time.  These poems wrote themselves;  my pen moved across the page of its own accord.   The gift of composing Poetry has meant my survival;  I am most grateful for that.

.     .     .     .     .


Poemas para El Día Internacional de la Mujer: una poetisa anishinaabe que deseamos honrar: Joanna Shawana / Poems for International Women’s Day: an Anishinaabe poet we wish to honour: Joanna Shawana

ZP_Manitoulin Island artist Daphne Odjig_Echoes of the Past_Daphne Odjig_Pintora indígena de la Isla de Manitoulin_Ecos del Pasado

ZP_Manitoulin Island artist Daphne Odjig_Echoes of the Past_Daphne Odjig_Pintora indígena de la Isla de Manitoulin_Ecos del Pasado

Joanna Shawana / Niimkiigiihikgad-Kwe

(Anishinaabe poet from Wikwemikong, of the Ojibwe-Odawa First Nations Peoples, Mnidoo Mnis/Manitoulin Island, Ontario)

Grandmother Moon”

.

During this cold dark night

Grandmother Moon sits high

Above the sky

.

Our Grandmother

Surrounded with stars

Emphasizing the life of the universe

.

As the night comes to end

Our Grandmother Moon slowly fades

Over the horizon

.

To greet Grandfather Sun

To greet him

As the new day begins

.

Grandmother Moon will rise again

She will shine and guide me on my path

As I walk on this journey.

 

.     .     .

 

Joanna Shawana / Niimkiigiihikgad-Kwe

(Poetisa anishinaabe de Wikwemikong, Mnidoo Mnis/Isla de Manitoulin, Ontario, Canadá)

La Luna – Mi Abuela”

.

Durante esta noche fría y oscura

La Luna Mi Abuela se sienta

Alta en el cielo

.

Nuestra Abuela

Está rodeada de estrellas

Que hacen hincapié en la vida del universo

.

Como cierra la noche

Lentamente Nuestra Abuela La Luna destiñe

Encima del horizonte

.

Para dar la bienvenida al Abuelo El Sol

Para saludarle

Como comienza el nuevo día

.

Ella saldrá de nuevo, La Luna-Abuela,

Brillará y me guiará en mi camino

Como ando en este paso.

 

.     .     .

 

All I Ask”

.

My fellow woman

My sisters

I am weak

I am hurt

All I ask of you is

Please

Hear what I have to say

Hear what I have to share

I am not here

To be looked down

I am not here

To be judged

For what had happened to me

All I ask of you is

Please

Hear what I have to share

My fellow women

My sisters

Listen to my words

See the pain in my eyes

All I ask of you is

Please

Hear what I have to say

Hear what I have to share

Help me

To get through my pain

Help me

To understand what is happening

Help me

To be a better person

So please

Hear what I have to say

Hear what I have to share.

 

.     .     .

 

Todo lo que te pido…”

.

Mi compañera

Mis hermanas

Soy débil

Estoy dolida

Todo lo que te pido es

Por favor, escucha lo que tengo que decir

Escucha lo que tengo que compartirte

No estoy aquí

Para ser mirada por ustedes por encima del hombro

No estoy aquí

Para ser juzgada de

Lo que me había pasado

Todo lo que les pido es

Por favor, escuchen lo que tengo que compartirles,

Mis compañeras, mis hermanas,

Escuchen mis palabras

Vean el dolor en mis ojos

Todo lo que les pido es

Por favor,

Escuchen lo que tengo que decir

Escuchen lo que tengo que compartirles

Ayúdame a

Superar mi sufrimiento

Ayúdenme a

Comprender lo que pasa

Ayúdenme a

Ser una mejor persona

– Entonces,

Por favor,

Escucha lo que tengo que decirte,

Escuchen lo que tengo que compartir con ustedes…

 

.     .     .

 

“Hidden”

.

Hidden secrets

Hidden feelings

Hidden thoughts

.

Why do people need to hide

Their secrets

Their feelings and thoughts?

.

What are people afraid of?

Afraid of their own secrets

Afraid of their own feelings and thoughts

.

How can one person reveal?

To reveal their secrets

To reveal their feelings and thoughts

.

There is no reason to hide their secrets

There is no reason to hide their feelings

There is no reason to hide their thoughts.

 

.     .     .

 

“Escondido”

.

Secretos escondidos

Sentimientos escondidos

Pensamientos escondidos

.

¿Por qué la gente necesita ocultar algo?

Ocultar sus secretos, sus sentimientos y sus pensamientos

.

¿De qué tiene miedo la gente?

Tiene miedo de sus propios secretos,

Tiene miedo de sus corazonadas y sus ideas

.

¿Cómo revele una persona?

A revelar sus secretos

A revelar sus pensamientos

.

No hay razón para ser una tumba

No hay razón para engañarse a sí mismo sus sentimientos

No hay razón para esconder sus pensamientos.

 

.     .     .

 

“Wandering Spirit”

.

This wandering spirit of mine

Wanders off to the world of the unknown

The unknown of today and tomorrow

.

This wandering spirit of mine

Waits to hear your voice

Waits to listen for what will be said

.

This wandering spirit of mine

– Help me to discover the unknown

– Help me to understand

What the unknown needs to offer

.

Help this wandering spirit

That wanders off to the world of the unknown

That wonders what the future holds

.

This wandering spirit of mine

– Help me find peace and harmony

– Help me find tranquillity in life.

 

.     .     .

 

“Espíritu vagabundo”

.

Mi espíritu vagabundo

Se aleja al mundo de lo desconocido

Lo desconocido de hoy, de mañana

.

Este espíritu mío errante

Está aguardando tu voz

Está aguardando por lo que diremos

.

Espíritu mío, espíritu vagabundo

– Ayúdame a descubrir lo desconocido

– Ayúdame a entender

Lo que lo desconocido necesita ofrecerme

.

Ayúda a este espíritu errante

Que se aleja al mundo de lo desconocido

Y que se pregunta lo que va a contener el futuro

.

Este espíritu mío, mi espíritu andante

– Ayúdame a encontrar la paz y la armonía

– Ayúdame a encontrar la tranquilidad en la vida.

ZP_Tree of Life by Manitoulin Island artist Blake Debassige

ZP_Tree of Life by Manitoulin Island artist Blake Debassige_El Árbol de la Vida_por el pintor indígeno Blake Debassige de la Isla de Manitoulin

 

Walk with Me”

.

Come and walk with me

On this path

Which I am walking on

.

We might slip and fall

To the cycle

That we once lived in

.

Let us

Help each other to understand

What we have been through

.

Let us walk together

Come and hold my hand

Hold it tight and never let go

.

Come and walk with me

Let us find what our future holds for us

Let us walk together on this path.

 

.     .     .

 

Camina conmigo”

.

Ven – camina conmigo

A lo largo de este camino

Donde estoy caminando

.

Resbalemos y caigamos

Al ciclo

Que estaba nuestra vida

.

Ayudémonos a comprender,

La una a la otra,

Lo que salimos adelante, lo que sobrevivimos

.

Caminemos juntos,

Ven – toma mi mano –

Agárrate bien – nunca suéltame la mano

.

Ven – camina conmigo

Busquemos lo que habrá para nosotros en el futuro

Caminemos juntos en este camino.

 

 

.     .     .

Joanna Shawana moved down to Toronto in 1988.  She began writing in 1994.  A single parent, and now a grandmother, she has worked for an agency providing services to Native people in the city – Anishnawbe Health Toronto.  Her bio. from her book of poems Voice of an Eagle states:  A Catholic upbringing clashed with Native heritage teachings, which confused her path.  However, through the years she gained more knowledge from her Native elders and began to clearly understand what it meant to be Nishnawbe Kwe (Native Woman).  Thus, her journey in stabilizing her identity began…   Joanna writes:  ” When I look back and see what I have left behind, inside I cry for the little girl who witnessed that life, the teenager who was abused, and the woman who almost gave in, but I know now that my inner strength will never allow me to leave my path.  Healing is a continuous part of life and it will be so until the day comes that the Creators call me.  So as you travel along your path,  remember – do not give in or give up! ”

.

Joanna Shawana fue víctima de mucho maltrato durante su juventud, también como una mujer joven.  Desde 1988 ha vivido en la ciudad de Toronto donde trabaja con la agencia indígena Fortaleza de Anishnawbe Toronto.  Dice:  ” La curación es una parte continua de la vida y ésa será hasta que el día que me llamarán los Creadores.  Entonces, mientras viajas en tu camino, recuerda –  ¡no te des por vencido y no dejes de intentar! ”

.

Translations into Spanish / Traducciones en español:   Alexander Best

.     .     .     .     .


कबीर “The Songs of Kabir”: translations by Rabindranath Tagore and Robert Bly

February Still Life 1February Still Life 2

Naturaleza muerta del invierno, febrero de 2013, Toronto_Winter still life, February 2013, Toronto

Naturaleza muerta del invierno, febrero de 2013, Toronto_Winter still life, February 2013, Toronto

 

“The Kabir Book:  Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir” (1977) – versions by Robert Bly, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Songs of Kabir” (1915).

.

“The Songs of Kabir” (published in 1915) translated by Rabindranath Tagore, assisted by Evelyn Underhill, from Bengali versions of the original Kabir Hindi-language poems.

.

In the selection that follows, Bly’s versions of Kabir are first, followed by Tagore’s.  The first-verse quotations – which appear between the Bly and the Tagore – and each with a Roman numeral then a number, refer to Tagore’s source for his Kabir poems – that is, Santiniketana: Kabir by Sri Kshitimohan Sen, in 4 parts, Brahmacharyasrama, Bolpur, published in 1910-1911.

.     .     .

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.

Jump into experience while you are alive.

Think…and think…while you are alive.

What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.

.

If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,

do you think

ghosts will do it after?

.

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic

just because the body is rotten –

that is all fantasy.

What is found now is found then.

If you find nothing now,

you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.

If you make love with the divine now, in the next life

you will have the face of satisfied desire.

.

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,

believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this:

When the Guest is being searched for,

it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that

does all the work.

Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

.

I. 57. sâdho bhâî, jîval hî karo âs’â

.

O Friend! hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live,

understand whilst you live: for in life deliverance abides.

If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?

It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him

because it has passed from the body:

If He is found now, He is found then,

If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.

If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.

Bathe in the truth, know the true Guru, have faith in the true Name!

Kabîr says: “It is the Spirit of the quest which helps;

I am the slave of this Spirit of the quest.”

.     .     .

Friend, please tell me what I can do about this world I hold to,

and keep spinning out!

I gave up sewn clothes, and wore a robe,

but I noticed one day the cloth was well woven.

So I bought some burlap, but I still

throw it elegantly over my shoulder.

I pulled back my sexual longings,

and now I discover that I’m angry a lot.

I gave up rage, and now I notice

that I am greedy all day.

I worked hard at dissolving my greed,

and now I am proud of myself.

When the mind wants to break its link with the world

it still holds on to one thing.

Kabir says:

Listen, my friend,

there are very few that find the path!

.

I. 63. avadhû, mâyâ tajî na jây

.

Tell me, Brother, how can I renounce Maya?

When I gave up the tying of ribbons, still I tied my garment about me:

When I gave up tying my garment, still I covered my body in its folds.

So, when I give up passion, I see that anger remains;

And when I renounce anger, greed is with me still;

And when greed is vanquished, pride and vainglory remain;

When the mind is detached and casts Maya away, still it clings to the letter.

Kabîr says,

“Listen to me, dear Sadhu! the true path is rarely found.”

.     .     .

I played for ten years with the girls my own age,

but now I am suddenly in fear.

I am on the way up some stairs – they are high.

Yet I have to give up my fears

if I want to take part in this love.

.

I have to let go the protective clothes

and meet him with the whole length of my body.

My eyes will have to be the love-candles this time.

Kabir says:

Men and women in love will understand this poem.

If what you feel for the Holy One is not desire,

then what’s the use of dressing with such care,

and spending so much time making your eyelids dark?

.

I. 131. nis’ din khelat rahî sakhiyân sang

.

I played day and night with my comrades, and now I am greatly afraid.

So high is my Lord’s palace, my heart trembles to mount its stairs:

yet I must not be shy, if I would enjoy His love.

My heart must cleave to my Lover; I must withdraw my veil,

and meet Him with all my body:

Mine eyes must perform the ceremony of the lamps of love.

Kabîr says:

“Listen to me, friend: he understands who loves.

If you feel not love’s longing for your Beloved One,

it is vain to adorn your body, vain to put unguent on your eyelids.”

.     .     .

I have been thinking of the difference

between water

and the waves on it.

Rising, water’s still water, falling back,

it is water, will you give me a hint

how to tell them apart?

.

Because someone has made up the word

“wave”, do I have to distinguish it

from water?

.

There is a Secret One inside us;

the planets in all the galaxies

pass through his hands like beads.

.

That is a string of beads one should look at with

luminous eyes.

.

II. 56. dariyâ kî lahar dariyâo hai jî

.

The river and its waves are one

surf: where is the difference between the river and its waves?

When the wave rises, it is the water; and when it falls, it is the same water again.

Tell me, Sir, where is the distinction?

Because it has been named as wave, shall it no longer be considered as water?

.

Within the Supreme Brahma, the worlds are being told like beads:

Look upon that rosary with the eyes of wisdom.

.     .     .

What has death and a thick body dances before

what has no thick body and no death.

The trumpet says:  “I am you.”

The spiritual master arrives and bows down to the

beginning student.

Try to live to see this!

.

II. 85. nirgun âge sargun nâcai

.

Before the Unconditioned, the Conditioned dances:

“Thou and I are one!” this trumpet proclaims.

The Guru comes, and bows down before the disciple:

This is the greatest of wonders.

.     .     .

Why should I flail about with words, when love

has made the space inside me full of light?

I know the diamond is wrapped in this cloth, so why

should I open it all the time and look?

When the pan was empty, it flew up;  now that it’s

full, why bother weighing it?

.

The swan has flown to the mountain lake!

Why bother with ditches and holes anymore?

The Holy One lives inside you –

why open your other eyes at all?

.

Kabir will tell you the truth:  Listen, brother!

The Guest, who makes my eyes so bright,

has made love with me.

.

II. 105. man mast huâ tab kyon bole

.

Where is the need of words, when love has made drunken the heart?

I have wrapped the diamond in my cloak; why open it again and again?

When its load was light, the pan of the balance went up: now it is full,

where is the need for weighing?

The swan has taken its flight to the lake beyond the mountains;

why should it search for the pools and ditches anymore?

Your Lord dwells within you: why need your outward eyes be opened?

Kabîr says: “Listen, my brother! my Lord, who ravishes my eyes,

has united Himself with me.”

Cuando se forman carámbanos en el tejaroz llega pronto la Primavera.  When icicles form at the eaves Spring can't be far off...Toronto, February 28th, 2013

Cuando se forman carámbanos en el tejaroz llega pronto la Primavera. When icicles form at the eaves Spring can’t be far off…Toronto, February 28th, 2013

Friend, wake up!

Why do you go on sleeping?

The night is over – do you want to lose the day the same way?

Other women who managed to get up early have

already found an elephant or a jewel…

So much was lost already while you slept…

And that was so unnecessary!

.

The one who loves you understood, but you did not.

You forgot to make a place in your bed next to you.

Instead you spent your life playing.

In your twenties you did not grow

because you did not know who your Lord was.

Wake up!  Wake up!

There’s no-one in your bed –

He left you during the long night.

.

Kabir says:   The only woman awake is the woman who has heard the flute!

.

II. 126. jâg piyârî, ab kân sowai

.

O Friend, awake, and sleep no more!

The night is over and gone, would you lose your day also?

Others, who have wakened, have received jewels;

O foolish woman! you have lost all whilst you slept.

Your lover is wise, and you are foolish, O woman!

You never prepared the bed of your husband:

O mad one! you passed your time in silly play.

Your youth was passed in vain, for you did not know your Lord;

Wake, wake! See! your bed is empty: He left you in the night.

Kabîr says:

“Only she wakes, whose heart is pierced with the arrow of His music.”

.     .     .

Knowing nothing shuts the iron gates;  the new love opens them.

The sound of the gates opening wakes the beautiful woman asleep.

Kabir says:

Fantastic!  Don’t let a chance like this go by!

.

I. 50. bhram kâ tâlâ lagâ mahal re

.

The lock of error shuts the gate, open it with the key of love:

Thus, by opening the door, thou shalt wake the Belovéd.

Kabîr says:

“O brother! do not pass by such good fortune as this.”

.     .     .

There is nothing but water in the holy pools.

I know – I have been swimming in them.

All the gods sculpted of wood or ivory can’t say a word.

I know – I have been crying out to them.

The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words.

I looked through their covers one day sideways.

What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through.

If you have not lived through something – it is not true.

.

I. 79. tîrath men to sab pânî hai

.

There is nothing but water at the holy bathing places;

and I know that they are useless,

for I have bathed in them.

The images are all lifeless, they cannot speak; I know,

for I have cried aloud to them.

The Purana and the Koran are mere words;

lifting up the curtain, I have seen.

Kabîr gives utterance to the words of experience;

and he knows very well that all other things are untrue.

.     .     .

When my friend is away from me, I am depressed;

nothing in the daylight delights me,

sleep at night gives no rest –

who can I tell about this?

.

The night is dark, and long…hours go by…

because I am alone, I sit up suddenly,

fear goes through me…

.

Kabir says:

Listen, my friend,

there is one thing in the world that satisfies,

and that is a meeting with the Guest.

.

I. 130. sâîn vin dard kareje hoy

.

When I am parted from my Belovéd, my heart is full of misery:

I have no comfort in the day, I have no sleep in the night.

To whom shall I tell my sorrow?

The night is dark; the hours slip by.

Because my Lord is absent, I start up and tremble with fear.

Kabîr says: “Listen, my friend! there is no other satisfaction,

save in the encounter with the Belovéd.”

.     .     .

The spiritual athlete often changes the colour of his clothes,

and his mind remains grey and loveless.

.

He sits inside a shrine room all day,

so that the Guest has to go outdoors and praise the rocks.

.

Or he drills holes in his ears, his beard grows enormous and matted –

people mistake him for a goat…

He goes out into wilderness areas, strangles his impulses,

and makes himself neither male nor female…

.

He shaves his skull, puts his robe in an orange vat,

reads the Bhagavad-Gita –

and becomes a terrific talker.

.

Kabir says:

Actually, you are going in a hearse to the country of death –

bound hand and foot!

.

I. 20. man na rangâye

.

The Yogi dyes his garments, instead of dyeing his mind in the colours of love:

He sits within the temple of the Lord, leaving Brahma to worship a stone.

He pierces holes in his ears, he has a great beard and matted locks, he looks like a goat:

He goes forth into the wilderness, killing all his desires, and turns himself into an eunuch:

He shaves his head and dyes his garments; he reads the Gîtâ and becomes a mighty talker.

Kabîr says: “You are going to the doors of death, bound hand and foot!”

.     .     .

I don’t know what sort of a God we have been talking about.

.

The caller calls in a loud voice to the Holy One at dusk.

Why?  Surely the Holy One is not deaf.

He hears the delicate anklets that ring on the feet of

an insect as it walks.

.

Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on your forehead,

wear your hair matted, long, and ostentatious,

but when deep inside you there is a loaded gun,

how can you have God?

.

I. 9. nâ jâne sâhab kaisâ hai

.

I do not know what manner of God is mine.

The Mullah cries aloud to Him: and why?  Is your Lord deaf?  The

subtle anklets that ring on the feet of an insect when it moves

are heard of Him.

Tell your beads, paint your forehead with the mark of your God,

and wear matted locks long and showy: but a deadly weapon is in

your heart, and how shall you have God?

.     .     .

The Holy One disguised as an old person in a cheap hotel

goes out to ask for carfare.

But I never seem to catch sight of him.

If I did, what would I ask him for?

He has already experienced what is missing in my life.

Kabir says:

I belong to this old person.

Now let the events about to come – come!

.

III. 89. mor phakîrwâ mângi jây

.

The Beggar goes a-begging, but

I could not even catch sight of Him:

And what shall I beg of the Beggar He gives without my asking.

Kabîr says: “I am His own: now let that befall which may befall!”

.     .     .

The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;

you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.

We are all struggling;  none of us has gone far.

Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

.

The blue sky opens out farther and farther,

the daily sense of failure goes away,

the damage I have done to myself fades,

a million suns come forward with light,

when I sit firmly in that world.

.

I hear bells ringing that no-one has shaken,

inside “love” there is more joy than we know of,

rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,

there are whole rivers of light.

The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.

how hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!

.

Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.

The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.

With the word “reason” you already feel miles away.

.

How lucky Kabir is, that surrounded by all this joy

he sings inside his own little boat.

His poems amount to one soul meeting another.

These songs are about forgetting dying and loss.

They rise above both coming in and going out.

.

II. 90. sâhab ham men, sâhab tum men

.

The Lord is in me, the Lord is in you, as life is in every seed.

O servant!  put false pride away, and seek for Him within you.

A million suns are ablaze with light,

The sea of blue spreads in the sky,

The fever of life is stilled, and all stains are washed away;

when I sit in the midst of that world.

Hark to the unstruck bells and drums!  Take your delight in love!

Rains pour down without water, and the rivers are streams of light.

One Love it is that pervades the whole world, few there are who

know it fully:

They are blind who hope to see it by the light of reason, that

reason which is the cause of separation–

The House of Reason is very far away!

How blessed is Kabîr, that amidst this great joy he sings within

his own vessel.

It is the music of the meeting of soul with soul;

It is the music of the forgetting of sorrows;

It is the music that transcends all coming in and all going

forth.

.     .     .

The small ruby everyone wants has fallen out on the road.

Some think it is east of us, others – west of us.

Some say, “among primitive earth rocks:, others – “in the deep waters.”

Kabir’s instinct told him it was inside, and what it was worth,

And he wrapped it up carefully in his heart cloth.

.

III. 26. tor hîrâ hirâilwâ kîcad men

.

The jewel is lost in the mud, and all are seeking for it;

Some look for it in the east, and some in the west;

some in the water and some amongst stones.

But the servant Kabîr has appraised it at its true value,

and has wrapped it with care in the end of the mantle of his heart.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


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