Translating Poetry: a Creative Challenge
The Décima is a Spanish poem form consisting of ten rhyming lines. It is credited to Vicente Martinez de Espinel (1550-1624), who based it on the forms of mediaeval Spanish ballads. Sometimes called The Espinela, it has been popularized in Puerto Rico with a rhyme pattern of ABBAACCDDC and each line contains 8 syllables. In Puerto Rico it was often sung by singer-poets who were jíbaros (peasants).
We have translated a selection of décimas by Cuban decimeras (women who write décimas). Some of the poems are hermetic and not as straightforward as traditional décimas – yet they somehow respect the tradition as well.
There is the skill of translation – there is also the art of translation. It is easier to achieve the former than the latter This is tough stuff! Some translators that we have noticed on the Internet do work that is enthusiastic but sloppy. But translators in heavy leather-bound books may do the same. An example is Peter H. Goldsmith, who, in 1920, translated Juana Inés de la Cruz’s famous poem: “Arguye de Inconsecuentes el Gusto y la Censura de los Hombres que en las Mujeres acusan lo que causan”. Goldsmith was true to the original’s rhythm and rhyme but he was not faithful to the poet’s meaning – even the final, intense quatrain (#17) went mysteriously missing.
There is an Italian saying: “Translator…Traitor !”. While we do not agree with such an extreme statement, still it is true that it’s difficult to get a translation 100% right. Translator Myralyn F. Allgood wrote: “It has been said – obviously by a man – that translated poetry is rather like a beautiful woman: if she’s beautiful she’s not faithful, and if she’s faithful she’s not beautiful.” Yet another provocative generalization…
But when you translate a poem and you know you’ve done your best work – you’ve been faithful to the meaning, captured the spirit, and even made it sound fresh – well, there is nothing like that good feeling!
Traduciendo Poesía : Un desafío a la Creatividad
La Décima es una forma de poesía en español que consiste de diez líneas que riman. La creación de la décima se le atribuye a Vicente Martinez de Espinel (1550-1624), quien la basó en la forma de baladas españolas medievales. Algunas veces llamada La Espinela, ha sido popularizada en Puerto Rico con un patrón rítmico de ABBAACCDDC y cada línea contiene ocho sílabas. En Puerto Rico era cantada comúnmente por cantantes y poetas jíbaros (campesinos).
Nosotros hemos traducido una selección de décimas de decimeras cubanas, quienes escriben décimas, de una forma más hermética y no exactamente como la forma tradicional – y aún así de alguna manera se apegan a ella.
En la Traducción hay destreza técnica– y también existe el arte de la Traducción. Es más fácil adquir la primera que la segunda. Hemos visto el trabajo de algunos traductores en la internet que se nota están hecho con mucho entusiasmo, pero malhecho. Y traductores en libros de tapa dura de cuero pueden hacer lo mismo. Un ejemplo de esto es Peter H. Goldsmith, quien en 1920 tradujó el famoso poema de Juana Inéz de la Cruz : « Arguye de Inconsecuentes el Gusto y la Censura de los Hombres que en las Mujeres Acusan lo que Causan ». La traducción de Goldsmith es fiel al texto original en ritmo y rima pero no es fiel al significado del poema—aún el final, la cuartilla #17, ha desaparecido misteriosamente.
Hay un dicho italiano que dice : « ¡Traductor – traidor !». A pesar que no estamos de acuerdo con esta declaración tan extrema, todavía es verdad que es difícil hacer la traducción de un poema 100% exacta. La traductora Myralyn F. Allgood escribió : « Ha sido dicho – obviamente por un hombre – que la poesía traducida es como una mujer bella : si ella es bella no es fiel, y si ella es fiel no es bella. » Otra generalización que nos da en que pensar…
Pero cuando se traduce un poema y usted sabe que ha hecho el mejor trabajo posible—usted ha sido fiel al significado, ha captado el espíritu del texto y aún lo ha hecho lucir flamante—bueno, entonces ¡no hay sentimiento que se compare!
THREE CUBAN ” DECIMERAS ” / TRES DECIMERAS CUBANAS
Nuvia Estévez Machado (born/nace 1971)
I don’t understand
my thorny identity
sometimes I’m the morphine
of the “nutbars” I’m the thunder
weak lust the horrific
dirty water of the fish
wet earth reversals
I’m a mutilated dog
Lucifer in love
Yo ni me entiendo
esta indentidad de espina
a veces soy la morfina
de los locos soy estruendo
pobre lujuria lo horrendo
agua sucia de los peces
tierra mojada reveses
Soy un perro mutilado
Sólo a veces
sólo a veces.
Tie her up
tie up the crazy woman, come,
She undresses and bites all
who mocked the twists
of her destiny Be
her anger her pranks
Bind tight her craziness
Legs – savage beasts –
But let her waist be free.
La loca vengan
se desnuda y muerde a todos
los que burlaron los modos
de su destino Mantengan
su rabieta su diablura
Aten fuerte su locura
las rodillas las caderas
los muslos – salvajes fieras –
Pero suelten su cintura.
Who was my canary
my toy my serenity
who was blind
when I taught him the alphabet
That one who was my rosary,
he counted glory
he who rolls without memory
him of the dirty shirt
he who hates by a smile
– that one will die without history.
Que fue mi canario
mi juguete mi sosiego
a ese que cuando era ciego
enseñé el abecedario
Ese que fue mi rosario
donde contaba la gloria
el que rueda sin memoria
el de la sucia camisa
el del odio por sonrisa
ese fallecerá sin historia.
I’m the happy whore
a fearsome one, an idyllic one,
who grumbles and enjoys herself
It’s true I’m the one spits
my tongue upon your brains
drowning in excesses
she who howls
who barks at your flesh
she who tears at it
I’m the one bites your bones.
Yo soy la puta
la feliz la melancólica
la temible la bucólica
quien se lamenta y disfruta
es verdad soy la que esputa
la lengua sobre tus sesos
la que se ahoga en excesos
quien ladra sobre tu carne
la que aúlla la que escarne
Soy la que muerde tus huesos.
Requiem for the Crow
Oh death, arrive early and
bring an axe and a scythe
bring the mockery, the discord
Come my friend bring your hand
with which to break the mysterious
heart strike a wooden blow with a cross
ways of sleeping on my back
do not deceive me, come soon,
heal this orphanhood Don’t die.
Réquiem por el cuervo
Oh muerte llega temprano
trae el hacha y la guadaña
trae la burla y la cizaña
ven amiga trae la mano
con que rompes el arcano
corazón Trae de maderas
un golpe de cruz maneras
de dormir sobre mi espalda
no engañes ven pronto salda
esta orfandad No te mueras.
Elsa Burgos Alonso (born/nace 1945)
Split in two, borderless
An island in a high-tide of pain
I find no way of loving
These treacherous voices.
Homily of the beasts
That today vents forth in me
The dawn spins toward you
In a swift crystal I look for shoulders
Where one conceals the rubble
The bones and the dust I yield.
Desdoblada, sin fronteras
dolor de isla en pleamar
no encuentro forma de amar
a esas voces traicioneras.
Homilía de las fieras
que hoy se desfogan en mi
El alba gira hacia ti
en raudo cristal busco hombros
donde esconder los escombros
hueso y polvo que cedí.
Encarnación de Armas (born/nace 1933)
Amor lejano (acróstico)
Amor, no sé si de amarte
Muero a solas cada día,
O nazco por la agonía
Repetida de esperarte.
La distancia se reparte
Entre tu adiós y mi beso
Junto a la duda que expreso
A veces, cuando te evoco,
No sé si olvidarte un poco
O soñar con tu regreso.
Far-off Love (an acrostic poem)
From loving you: don’t know if that’s Love,
Alone I die each day.
Repeated agony of waiting for you –
Oh, I am born through this.
From the distance that spreads between your
Farewell and my kiss, these joined to the doubt
Left over from times when I evoke you –
Oh, I don’t know. Am I forgetting you just a
Very little bit? Or do I dream –
Even of your return?
Traducciones / Translations: Lidia García Garay, Alexander Best
Alfonsina Storni y Karla Báez: Buscamos Mujeres que tengan alas para volar / We seek Women with wings who just might flyPosted: May 25, 2012
Today there takes place in Toronto a loud, serious and fun march of women – and their friends – from City Hall to Queen’s Park, the provincial legislature. The march goes by the provocative name Slut Walk. The first Slut Walk took place in April 2011 – and its destination was Toronto police headquarters – after remarks made by a police constable addressing female law students at a crime prevention forum at York University. The officer said: “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” By ‘victimized’ he meant ‘raped’. The comment caused a furor in a city that wishes to see itself as progressive. It seemed the ‘same-old same-old’ sexist bullshit was alive and well. Feminism in Canada has often slipped under the popular radar in the past twenty five years – one generation – and advertisement images of women’s bodies – sometimes without heads – are used to sell everything. Everybody – and he’s often male – has got a hard opinion or a strict belief about what’s acceptable and what’s “asking for it” (“it” meaning rape) when it comes to what a woman ought to wear and how/when/why she’s walking down the street.
Like the Take Back the Night marches of the 1970s and 1980s – organized by women angered that police kept telling them to “stay inside at night so you’ll be safe” – the Slut Walk brings those same fundamental concerns into the 21st century. Though there is debate and reasoned opposition among women about the choice of name – Slut Walk – slut being a thorny word that can draw blood and may or may not be able to be “reclaimed” (queer, bitch, and nigger are three other examples) – there is also plenty of chutzpah and a healthy “Fuck you!” attitude in that name, too. Slut Walks have been organized in Argentina, India and South Africa, as well.
A placard seen at the first Slut Walk captures with simple intelligence one of the march’s aims:
“No means No, Yes means Yes – wherever we go, however we dress.”
We feature Spanish-language poems by two female poets, one from 1930s Argentina, the other from 21st-century México. The first poet, Alfonsina Storni, writes in proto-feminist fashion about the vain possessiveness of men, also about their hypocrisy (the “experienced” man wants a “pure” woman). Storni’s poem, “You want me white”, is a kind of spiritual descendant of Mexican nun Juana Inés de la Cruz’s 17-quatrain poem which begins with the phrase: “Hombres necios que acusáis a la mujer sin razón…”.
The second poet, Karla Báez, is full of passionate idealism – and energy for Change.
* * * * *
Alfonsina Storni (poetisa argentina / Argentinian poet, 1892-1938)
Hombre pequeñito, hombre pequeñito,
suelta a tu canario que quiere volar.
Yo soy el canario, hombre pequeñito,
Estuve en tu jaula, hombre pequeñito,
hombre pequeñito que jaula me das.
Digo pequeñito porque no me entiendes,
ni me entenderás.
Tampoco te entiendo, pero mientras tanto,
ábreme la jaula que quiero escapar.
Hombre pequeñito, te amé media hora,
no me pidas más.
Little wee man
Little wee man, little wee man,
Release your canary that wants to fly.
I’m that canary, you little wee man,
Let me jump.
I was in your cage, little wee man,
Little wee man who incarcerates me.
I call you “wee little” because you
don’t understand me – nor will you, ever.
Nor do I understand you…but in the meantime,
Open the cage – I want to escape.
Little wee man, I loved you a mere hour,
Ask of me no more.
Tú me quieres blanca
Tú me quieres alba,
Me quieres de espumas,
Me quieres de nácar.
Que sea azucena
Sobre todas, casta.
De perfume tenue.
Ni un rayo de luna
Filtrado me haya.
Ni una margarita
Se diga mi hermana.
Tú me quieres nívea,
Tú me quieres blanca,
Tú me quieres alba.
Tú que hubiste todas
Las copas a mano,
De frutos y mieles
Los labios morados.
Tú que en el banquete
Cubierto de pámpanos
Dejaste las carnes
Festejando a Baco.
Tú que en los jardines
Negros del Engaño
Vestido de rojo
Corriste al Estrago.
Tú que el esqueleto
No sé todavía
Por cuáles Milagros.
Me pretendes blanca
(Dios te lo perdone),
Me pretendes casta
(Dios te lo perdone),
¡Me pretendes alba!
Huye hacia los bosques,
Vete a la montaña;
Límpiate la boca;
Vive en las cabañas;
Toca con las manos
La tierra mojada;
Alimenta el cuerpo
Con raíz amarga;
Bebe de las rocas;
Duerme sobre escarcha;
Con salitre y agua;
Habla con los pájaros
Y lévate al alba.
Y cuando las carnes
Te sean tornadas,
Y cuando hayas puesto
En ellas el alma
Que por las alcobas
Se quedó enredad…
– entonces, buen hombre,
You want me white
You want me to be the dawn
You want me made of seaspray
Made of mother-of-pearl
That I be a lily
Chaste above all others
Of tenuous perfume
A blossom closed
That not even a moonbeam
Might have touched me
Nor a daisy
Call herself my sister
You want me like snow
You want me white
You want me to be the dawn
You who had all
The cups before you
Of fruit and honey
Lips dyed purple
You who in the banquet
Covered in grapevines
Let your flesh go
You who in the dark
Gardens of Deceit
Dressed in red
Ran towards Destruction
You who maintain
Your bones intact
Only by some miracle
Of which I know not
You ask that I be white
(May God forgive you)
You ask that I be chaste
(May God forgive you)
You ask that I be the dawn!
Flee towards the forest
Go to the mountains
Clean your mouth
Live in a hut
Touch with your hands
The damp earth
On bitter roots
Drink from the rocks
Sleep on the frosty ground
Clean your clothes
With saltpeter and water
Talk with the birds
And set sail at dawn
And when your flesh
Has returned to you
And when you have put
Into it the soul
That via bedrooms
Became twisted and tangled…
– then, good man,
Ask that I be white
Ask that I be like snow
Ask that I be chaste.
Karla Báez (nace/born 1977, México, D.F./ México City)
Llamada de Auxilio
Cruza la noche
un grito desgarrado,
…duele más el silencio,
ante la voz de la ira…
No me volverás a tocar,
ni con golpes ni palabras.
¿Duele verdad? Lo sé,
yo también fui tu víctima.
A Call for Help
Crisscrossing the night,
A piercing cry.
Silence hurts more,
before the voice of rage…
You will not touch me again,
Neither with punches nor with words.
Does the truth hurt? I know it;
I too was your victim.
que sean sensibles ante la injusticia,
que luchen por sus ideales.
que se harten de las mentiras,
de los golpes, de la violencia.
que no sean indiferentes
al dolor de la gente.
que tengan alas para volar.
I seek Women
I seek Women,
who can be aware of injustice,
I seek Women,
who can struggle for their ideals.
I seek Women,
who are fed up with all the lies,
the blows – the violence.
I seek Women
who cannot be indifferent
to people suffering.
I seek Women
who might have wings – women who will fly.
Traducción del español al inglés / Translations from Spanish into English
(“Little wee man”, “A Cry for Help”, “I seek Women”): Alexander Best
Si J’étais Blanche (1932)
Je voudrais être blanche
Pour moi quel bonheur
Si mes seins et mes hanches
Changent de couleur
Les Parisiens à Juan-les-Pins
Se faisaient gloire
Au soleil d’exposer leurs reins
Pour être Noires
Moi pour être blanche
J’allais me roulant
Parmi les avalanches
En haut du Mont Blanc
Donne un petit rigole
J’avais l’air dans la crème
D’un petit pruneau
Étant petite, avec chagrin,
J’admirais dans les magasins
La teinte pâle de poupées blondes
J’aurais voulu leur ressembler
Et je disais à l’air accablé
Me croyant toute seule brune au monde
Moi, si j’étais Blanche
Sachez que mon bonheur
Qui près de vous s’épanche
Garderait sa couleur
Au soleil c’est par l’extérieur
Que l’on se dore
Moi c’est la flamme de mon cœur
Qui me colore
Et si ma figure
Mon corps sont brunis
C’est parce que la nature
Me voulait ainsi
Mais je suis franche,
Faut-il que je sois Blanche
Pour vous plaire mieux ?
If I were White (1932)
I’d like to be White
What a joy it would be
If my breasts and my thighs
Changed colour for me
The Parisians at * Juan-les-Pins
Grant themselves glory,
Get sun on their backs
So they can be Blacks
To make myself White
I went to the Alps
And rolled in an avalanche
At the peak of ** Mont Blanc
Played a joke on me
– I seemed like a prune
In a blanket of cream
As a little girl I looked with ‘chagrin’
At the blonde dolls in stores
With their pale skin
I’d’ve liked to look like them,
And I’d say, overwhelmed:
I believe I’m the only brown girl in the world.
Me, if I were White,
Know that my happiness,
Which next to you flows,
Would keep its hue
Others by the sun
Get their golden glow
But the flame in my heart
Is what colours me so
And if my shape
And my figure are “bronze”
It’s because Nature
Wanted me this way
But, gentleman, tell me,
I’m going to be frank:
To please you all better
– Must I be White?
* Juan-les-Pins – resort town with beaches in the south of France; during the 1920s the “place-to-be” for the brand-new “fad” of suntanning – popularized by wealthy Europeans and Americans
* * Mont Blanc (literally, White Mountain) is snow-capped, and is the highest mountain in Europe
Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was born in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. She started out in near-poverty and at 12 years old she was dancing on street corners and living the life of a street child. Her birth coincided with the era of Ragtime and the evolution of Jazz – those first popular, native American musics that came out of Black-American life.
By the age of 16 – in 1921 – she’d made her way to New York City where the Harlem Renaissance was gathering steam. She worked as a dancer and chorus girl in Broadway revues. In 1925 she set out for Paris, where she became a sensation in an all-Black spectacle, La Revue Nègre. Her athletic style of dancing, her modern sexiness and humorous facial gestures were something the French had never experienced; she was a complete original.
There was a rage for all things “African” – mostly inaccurate – artifice for “exotic” effect – and impresarios tried to fit Baker into this mold. But she had so much natural joie-de-vivre, so much energy and inventiveness that she was up for all of it, and she subverted many ideas about race, gender and culture. She titillated audiences with her nudity and did the same when she wore a tuxedo and tophat with pomaded hair. Described by literary-‘macho’ Ernest Hemingway as “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw”, Baker also had love affairs with women such as Colette and Frida Kahlo. Biographer Bennetta Jules-Rosette writes: “Sidestepping the imprisonment by colonialist categories of Race through her performances, Baker transformed Race into a series of costume changes that foreshadowed the desire to be postmodern.”
She was a cheeky prankster and a clever self-promoter, using the gimmick of her pet cheetah, Chiquita – who wore a diamond collar – to enhance her “exoticism”; Baker would release the animal – an alter-ego of sorts ! – from the stage so it could go a-prowling in the orchestra pit and slinking through the theatre.
Yet the Black-American experience of her childhood – St. Louis, like many U.S. cities, was rife with segregation, Whites-Only “laws” – placed a fierceness at the core of her exuberance. Happily she became a French citizen in 1937, spied for France in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II ( – Hitler’s belief in his “Master Race” included the exclusion of Blacks as well as Jews, and Baker’s husband during the 1940s was Jewish – ), receiving the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest honour. She adopted 12 children of different races and birth-nationalities, calling them “my Rainbow Tribe”, and raised them in a fantasy-château, realizing – in France, of all places – an oh-so-American Dream of wealth and celebrity.
Baker became fluent in her adopted country’s language, but sang also in English. We feature here one of her French “chansons” – “Si J’étais Blanche” (If I were White), from 1932 – which Baker performed in “white face”, wearing a blonde wig – an act of sophisticated minstrelsy that held up a double-mirror to the audience.
French-to-English translation: Alexander Best
The rootcellar lay below my room; I’m behind that door
Where steps reached down. Dark darkened there; cool was cooler.
Second door, kitchen’s; always open, and I
Made hillocks on a saucer, of milk powder poured from a
Very large box; I licked my hand and dipped it.
Third door faced foot of the bed. It led out to
Great skies and fields with feeling-of-cliffs for corners.
The ‘dump’ that burned once also was there; the
Hawk; and the weasel, who stole under the mattress.
Were walls of loose stones: a ruined enclosure.
Gasoline drums; weird liquid spilling over many surfaces.
A giant bush / hands-and-knees tunnel;
Amidst everything, hidden — the centre.
Edible pebbles, pepperdirt pies, green blades. Poison.
Black-silk dog, growing glow-bulb mushrooms;
Stiffening; “Lady”, caught in her
Leap through shed window slamming.
And wild onions blooming…at
Brink of the forest, the tumbling path, and
Quiet and busy, the river.
Time’s grit-polished the bone of it; and
Time’s encrusted its core, like a little ‘geode’ cave.
Skeletalphabet. Hidden stratagem. Both
Are the poem. And it? What’s it?
I am grateful now, not anxious about you, Time.
Not only sad, your passing.
The house (long, narrow, one-storey’d) was like segments of a warped
Hickory train, boxcars off the rails, though
Solid in some permanent aftermath.
Caboose was “the wreck room”. We kids inscribed that name
On its door: the
End of the dim corridor, where light startled.
Room’s air was bright; on warm
Days, an excellent afternoon place; magnetic / ignored.
An atmosphere also of
Cold storage there; of business interrupted, left at that.
( black-and-red ribbon spooled off, on, in raggéd use);
Onionskin-carbonsheets, dwindled paper; brittle pencil leads. And
Me up on the shelves: files, farm / trade journals, and a
Upright piano, painted bandage colour, stood somewhere…
Did we carve the entire alphabet on its
And we lifted “the lid”, strummed harp wires with
Knives, and a rusty letter opener got
“The wreck room” had an outside door; its stone stoop
Jumping-off point for hundred-acre adventures in world-wide
Solitude. Society was: voices in our heads.
My sisters, mute; my brother, whereabouts uncertain; my father?
A Christmas tree that refused to stand / the telephone high
Upon the wall I couldn’t grasp in time; my mother?
“The wreck room” contained a ‘picture window’…
Picture was jumble of trees obscurrying on a drop-off
Edge of the land. Once, an owl (size of a man’s fist but fluffier)
Flew into the frame, stunning itself on the glass.
And then…sunned itself on the grass. Even that night.
Flowers in a whollywaterless vase.
Highborn, persistent, the sun performs its task.
Two flies frustrate themselves (sun’s a trap, between the storms);
Resolve to keep still.
Vase / its clutches of straw, scuncheoned there.
Dry-dry vase: slipped the mind’s ledge.
Boy: crept from his bed.
V ( April 1968 )
A television set has four feet, like “cattles” do; also,
Horns on it — sticks standing straight and bendy.
A television set is a radio you can see;
Sounds-box with a ‘picture window’.
Picture is jumble: something obscurrying — and no colours. A
’merican minister got murdered by a gun because he was
King of Memphis.
( Egypt is where we began, even God, and all the children
Lived under triangles. Facts are in giant books Dad left
That time he came to visit. )
Something happened with no colours: the lady crying, the
Man very tired and wet; black water came out of his body, like the
Buried spring that growed in the woods. Other
People were running, in every direction.
Department-store mannequin had no arms, no legs. It was
Tied with ropes, to the lamp-post; at the top was
I carried a small metal box: my “lunchpail”.
Sugar-butter sandwich, and in my sister’s,
By the wide gravel road
Yellow schoolbus noised over to us.
Cedar swamps: a
Fairyland we passed through, where the
Strangled girl was stored, with the chipmunks;
On our way to Grade One.
Winter, the snowplough made big banks;
I stood upon them, waiting; I was
‘Acajou’ and ‘Architek’ were “cattles”; had
Their own square of earth by the shed where
Heavy bags of nugget-dogfood were kept.
Bulls were big-boned, had more
Grit than polish. And they were important;
Their liquid-gem stash was to
Purchase a future — Dad’s idea — and
The fence around them fell apart when I played on it
— ‘Acajou’ and ‘Architek’ were not pets.
Mum and Us were Dad’s chattels, but he threw himself out,
Left us lying around all over his property.
In meatier days there’d been livestock on the farm,
hogs and piglets everywhichway.
And field-armies of lilies, staked-alive, for export.
Bulb Lilies, ancientest of flowers, are
Really something when their blooms open. And for
Awhile after, too. The best part is: when they die,
They still come back, if you care for their odd-
Potato-radish ‘bodies’; let them have their quiet in
A cool, dry, dark place.
Soup bones get jelly, when you put them in the fridge.
Bones strike awe, after several seasons out on the ground.
My mother had a ring, in the drawer. A precious cold-gem.
She drove a great distance in a car — to the City. And
Sold the ring to the shopkeeper with his telescope eye.
I knew as well as he what things look like up close.
The rootcellar lies below my room;
It’s been there since God came, ideas / shovel in tow.
Our definitions of human
Hold together, strengthen, the more He plays on us. Someday, I will
Reach down the steps. Is it
A cool, dark place? And dry not too dry? I
Believe so. Definitely, there is
No lamp. One can live in many places;
I wrote these poems when I was in my 40s, after several days of casting my mind back over my childhood, that is – my childhood up till the age of 8 – the year 1968, which was when the farm property was sold and we moved from the country (Esquesing Township, Halton County) to the city (Toronto). As children, our isolated world was both perfect and lonely; we were surrounded by “the great outdoors” yet as an un-socialized child I required much mental strength. In Toronto there began a new life for us – which included a formal end to my parents’ invisible marriage – and I had to overcome my introverted nature so as to make my first friends ever, those being kids from the rough-and-tumble world of the city.
Poem V (April 1968)
refers to the arrival of our first television set – black and white, of course – and to my first television memory – that of seeing newsreel footage of rioting in U.S. cities after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee. That mannequin “lynched” to a utility pole is my first T.V. image. Others, more light-hearted, would follow – “Felix, the Wonderful Cat”, “Rocky and Bullwinkle”, etc…
“Their liquid-gem stash” is semen from two Charolais bulls, Acajou and Architek. Dad wished to begin an artificial insemination business since so many cows on farms were injured even crippled when bulls mounted them ‘au naturel’.
. . .
The farm was a standard 100-acre Southern Ontario farm and was located on Number 15 SideRoad, between 8th and 9th Lines, in Esquesing Township. A branch of the Credit River flowed at the north boundary of the property. Nearby Georgetown has expanded in the past 50 years, its population growing from about 10,000 people in the early 1960s to just over 40,000 people today. Consequently, the farm has vanished – the whole of it was developed as a residential subdivision during the 1990s.
. . . . .
Peter Blue Cloud
Coyote makes the First People
Coyote stopped to drink at a big lake and saw his reflection. “Now there’s a really good-looking coyote,” he said, leaning farther over.
And of course he fell in. And of course you will think this is a take-off on an old theme.
But what happened was, he drank up the whole lake to keep from drowning. And because he didn’t really like the taste of certain fish, he spat them out. And because he felt sorry when he saw them flopping around, he sang a song to give them legs.
“Maybe they’ll become the first people,” Coyote mused aloud.
“Oh no you don’t,” said the headman of that tribe of fish, “if it’s all the same with you, could you just put us back where we were? And could you please take away these stupid legs?”
So Coyote regurgitated the lake and put everything back the way it was.
Again he saw his reflection and said, “Okay, you’re pretty good-looking, but are you smart? I’ve been trying to make the first people for a long time now, but nothing wants to be people. So, what do I do – huh – can you tell me?”
His reflection studied him for a long time, then it squatted and dropped a big turd.
“Okay,” said Coyote, “I guess that’s as good an answer as any.”
Then he himself squatted and began to fashion the first people…
Three dried stems of grass. A horizontally branching twig of bittersweet. A single, tiny, hand-like bit of cedar bough found upon the ground.
How to place their stems within the narrow neck of a delicate, ceramic vessel?
Ah, good…But no, perhaps I should break one of the grass stems, to give a sharp downward angle, to balance the bittersweet.
But that’s manipulation, isn’t it? Well – so’s picking them in the first place.
“We’re out of kindling,” Coyote Woman said.
Hm, cedar kindling sure makes a nice, smooth, splintering, creaking, tearing-like-jerky noise as the axe penetrates. If I close my eyes I can daydream the sound into scenes and sensations and imagine all kinds of… …
Yes, Coyote is even like this, sometimes.
Coyote, Coyote, Please Tell Me
– What is a shaman?
A shaman I don’t know
I’m a doctor, myself.
When I use medicine,
it’s between me,
and the Creation.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me – what is power?
It is said that power
is the ability to start
with one pull.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me – what is magic?
Magic is the first taste
of ripe strawberries, and
magic is a child dancing
in a summer’s rain.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me – why is Creation?
Creation is because I
went to sleep last night
with a full stomach,
and when I woke up
everything was here.
Coyote, Coyote, please tell me who you belong to?
According to the latest
survey, there are certain
persons who, in poetic
or scholarly guise,
have claimed me like
a conqueror’s prize.
Let me just say
once and for all,
just to be done:
Coyote, he belongs to none.
Elderberry Flute Song
He was sitting there on a stone
at world’s end,
all was calm and Creation was
There was a harmony and a wholeness
and peace was a warming breeze
given by the sun.
The sea rose and fell
in the rhythm of his mind,
and stars were points of thought
which led to reason.
The universe turned in the vastness
of space like a dream,
a dream given once and carried
forever as memory.
He raised the flute to lips
sweetened by springtime
and slowly played a note
which hung for many seasons
And Creation was content
in the knowledge of music.
The singular note drifted
far and away
in the mind of Creation,
to become a tiny roundness.
And this roundness stirred
to open new born eyes
and gazed with wonder
at its own birth.
Then note followed note
in a melody which wove
the fabric of first life.
The sun gave warmth
to waiting seedlings,
and thus were born
the vast multitudes
from the song
of a flute.
The Coyote (“Canis latrans”) is related to the domestic dog, the wolf, and the fox – and based upon its proven adaptability to human settlement is one of the most reviled – and admired – North American animals of the last century-and-a-half.
And then there is Coyote…
Coyote can be Trickster, Fool, Clown – and even The Creator – in Native mythologies of North America.
Often anthropomorphic, he is energetic, slyly resourceful, full of himself, goofy, embarrassing, a total liar and completely honest.
Coyote has been compared to Prometheus in Greek mythology and Anansi in the Ashanti mythology of Ghana.
But how about the Irish Leprechaun — or Bugs Bunny ? They share a lot in common with Coyote, too.
Encounters with Coyote are often spiritually transformative for Human Beings – and he himself is neither dog nor wolf nor fox but a synthesis-in-progress, with Us thrown in just to keep it weird. Life Lessons plus earthy humour – these are Coyote’s “story”.
Peter Blue Cloud (Aroniawenrate) (1935 – 2011)
was a Mohawk poet and short-story-teller – of the Turtle Clan – born in Kahnawake, Mohawk Territory, (Québec, Canada).
He travelled to the west coast of the USA where he spent years as an iron-worker, logger and ranch-hand.
He participated in the craziness of Beat and Hippy cultures in the California of the early 1960s through the mid- ‘70s – learning from those amorphous “movements” yet distancing himself from their excessive self-absorption. Spending time with Maidu Elders in California, he was strengthened by their wisdom and their stories.
In 1972 his history of the 1969 Native “Occupation” of the former Alcatraz Prison/Island – “Alcatraz is not an Island” – was published. In 1975-76 – and again from 1983-85 – he wrote for and edited Akwesasne Notes, a Native journal published out of Akwesasne, New York.
He was a recipient of the American Book Award in 1981 – chosen by other writers.
Poemas para el Día de la Madre – la Madre Luna, la Madre de Dios, y la Madre Patata – todos del idioma quechuaPosted: May 13, 2012
Poemas para el Día de la Madre
– la Madre Luna, la Madre de Dios, y la Madre Patata
– todos del idioma quechua
A Mama Luna (y al Padre…)
(Poema/canción quechua, de la época Inca,
transcribido por Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, 1615)
Luna, reina madre,
Por el amor de tus aguas,
Por el amor de tus lluvias,
Con caras de muerto, llorosos,
Caras de muerto, tiernos,
Tus niños de pecho
Por la comida y la bebida
Te imploramos, tu que gobiernas,
Padre, ¿en qué sitio estás?
¿En el lugar superior?
¿En esta tierra?
¿En los confines del mundo?
Envíanos tu agua
A tus necesitados, a tu gente.
Killa quya mama,
Aya uya waqaylli,
Aya uya puypuylli,
Llutu puchaq wamrayki,
Waqallasunki, Pacha Kamaq
Yaya, may pachapi kanki?
Novenario de la Virgen de Chuchulaya
(Poema/canción quechua del siglo xviii)
Ya con mi llanto limpio mi pecho está,
dígnate oh Madre mirarlo ya,
tu luz encienda mi pensamiento
de tu pie intento no irme jamás.
Mansión oscura triste el mundo,
de sólo errores senda tal
soy tu mendigo, bajo tu manto
con tu amor santo me cubrirás.
A esta mi vida presto resuelve dar
un fin suave, Virgen de Paz,
estoy cansado, jadeante,
llévame contigo, dame la libertad.
Tú mi esperanza pura, tú eres mi fe,
tú mi alegría, Reina del Bien,
nunca te enojas, eres consuelo,
alza mi vuelo at Dulce Edén.
Virgen de Chuchulayapaq
Waqayniywanmin sunquy llinphuña kan
qhawaykullayña, Jatun Mamáy,
Manchay laqhayyuq unphuy kay pacha kaq,
pantan pantaylla purisay chay,
waqchayki kani, munakuyniyki
Tukukuyninta thuylla lanp’uta quy
kay kawsayniyman, Misk’i Llapay,
kani sayk’usqa ansaqisqalla
Qanmin suyayniy llunp’a, iñiniy qan,
kusiyniy kanki, Sumaq Quya,
phiñakuyniyki ni jak’aq kanchu,
Janaq Pachaman phawachiway.
Yo, tu pobre
(Anónimo, poema quechua popular, transcribido por C.F. Beltrán, 1889)
Yo, tu pobre, vengo
a ti, madre mía , a saludarte,
llorando para pedirte
ese tu bondadoso cariño.
Ya estoy aquí, madre mía,
a tus pies llorando,
amando mi pobreza.
Tú te habías enterado, mi madre,
de toditas mis penas,
sufriendo el viento frío,
padeciendo la falta de afecto.
Sólo tú, paloma, con tus alas,
abrígame del frío,
sólo tú en mi padecimiento,
hazme beber, hazme comer.
La que mira todo, madre mía,
ama aún más a mi alma,
criándome bajo tu sombra,
llévame al cielo.
Nuqa waqchayki jamuni,
qan mamayta napaykusuq,
chay sumaq khuyaniykita
Kaypiña kani, mamáy,
uyariway, jáy nillaway,
waqcha kayniyta khuyaspa.
Qan, mamaymi yachasqanki
chiri wayrata muchuspa
jina khuyay ususqayta.
Qanlla urpi, lijraykiwan
Chay tukuy qhawaq mamáy,
almayta astawan khuyay,
janaq pachaman pusaway.
Ranulfo Amador Fuentes Rojas
(poeta peruano contemporáneo)
Madre Papa (2003)
Cariñosa y encantadora madre,
tú que borbotas del corazón de la tierra,
de ese maternal corazón de surco fértil,
iluminas de júbilo nuestros ojos y nuestras bocas.
Grandioso alimento, herencia ancestral,
eternamente creces en nuestras vidas,
ofreciéndonos tus frutos de oro y plata
para merendar con tu amor nos llamas.
Ese tu corazón endulza mi existencia,
esa tu pulpa se suma a mis músculos,
mi hambre ya no es hambre con tu presencia,
¡Oh papita sancochada! ¡Oh, sopita de papas!
Kuyakuwaqniy, ¡sumaq mamállay!
yana allpapa sunqumpi wiñaq,
mama pachapa sunqunmanta qispimuspa
ñawillaykuta, simillaykuta kusirichinki.
Taytaykupa saqikusqan, ¡hatun sunqu!
llaqtanchikpi wiña wiñay kawsaq mama,
quri qullqi chawchuykita mastaykuspa
mikunanchik wasinchikman qayawanki.
¡Chay sunquykim! sunqullayta miskiykachin
¡qampa aychaykim! aychallayman yapakuykun,
qam kaptikim kay yarqayniy kusirikun
papa yanuycha, lawachayki malliykuptiy.