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Translating Poetry: a Creative Challenge / Traduciendo Poesía : Un Desafío a la Creatividad

 

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)

Sometimes

 

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

Sometimes

only sometimes.

 

_____

 

A veces

 

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

Lucifer enamorado

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

fair   Stop

her anger her pranks

Bind tight her craziness

Knees,  hips,

Legs – savage beasts –

But let her waist be free.

 

_____

 

Amarren

 

La loca   vengan

se desnuda y muerde a todos

los que burlaron los modos

de su destino   Mantengan

ecuanimidad   Detengan

su rabieta   su diablura

Aten fuerte su locura

las rodillas   las caderas

los muslos – salvajes fieras –

Pero suelten su cintura.

 

_____

 

That one

 

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.

 

_____

 

Ese

 

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.

 

_____

 

It’s True

 

I’m the happy whore

the melancholic

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.

 

_____

 

Es verdad

 

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)

Homily

 

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.

 

_____

 

Homilía

 

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 fly

 

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, hombre pequeñito,

suelta a tu canario que quiere volar.

Yo soy el canario, hombre pequeñito,

déjame saltar.

*

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.

Corola cerrada

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

Conservas intacto

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;

Renueva tejidos

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,

Preténdeme blanca,

Preténdeme nívea,

Preténdeme casta.

 

_____

 

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

Celebrating Bacchus

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

Feed yourself

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.

 

_____

 

Busco Mujeres

 

 

Busco Mujeres,

que sean sensibles ante la injusticia,

Busco Mujeres,

que luchen por sus ideales.

Busco Mujeres,

que se harten de las mentiras,

de los golpes, de la violencia.

Busco Mujeres

que no sean indiferentes

al dolor de la gente.

Busco Mujeres

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


Le pizzazz de Josephine Baker: “Si J’étais Blanche” / Josephine Baker’s pizzazz: “If I were White”

 

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

*

Ce stratagème

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,

Dites-moi, Messieurs:

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

*

My strategy

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


“A cool, dark place? And dry not too dry?”: “Childhood” by Alexander Best

Alexander Best

CHILDHOOD

I

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.

 

 

II

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?

Memory.

*

I  am  grateful  now,  not  anxious  about  you,  Time.

Not  only  sad,  your  passing.

 

 

III

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.

Mechanical  typewriter

( 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

heedless-someone’s  bulletins.

Upright  piano,  painted  bandage colour,  stood  somewhere…

Did  we  carve  the  entire  alphabet  on  its

Ivory-like-an-old-man’s-toe  keys?

We  did.  

And  we  lifted  “the  lid”,  strummed  harp  wires  with

Knives,  and  a  rusty  letter  opener  got

Brandished.  

*

“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.

 

 

IV

Despairenthood…fairly-young,  fresh-gone

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

No  lamp.

 

 

VI

I  carried  a  small  metal  box:   my  “lunchpail”.

Sugar-butter  sandwich,  and  in  my  sister’s,

Spiders.

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

Tall.

 

 

VII

‘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.

 

 

VIII

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.

 

 

IX

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;

Here,  too.

Editor’s note:

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…

Poem VII

“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: Tales and Poems of Coyote

 

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…

 

 

_____

 

An Arrangement

 

 

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

anything about.

I’m a doctor, myself.

When I use medicine,

it’s between me,

my patient,

and the Creation.

*

Coyote, Coyote, please tell me – what is power?

It is said that power

is the ability to start

your chainsaw

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

this morning,

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

very beautiful.

There was a harmony and a wholeness

in dreaming,

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

above Creation.

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.

 

Editor’s note:

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 quechua

 

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.

*

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 Mama

 

 

Killa quya mama,

Yakuq sallayki,

Unuq sallayki,

Aya uya waqaylli,

Aya uya puypuylli,

Llutu puchaq wamrayki,

Mikhuymanta yakumanta

Waqallasunki.

Waqallasunki, Pacha Kamaq

Yaya, may pachapi kanki?

Janaq pachapichu?

Kay pachapichu?

Qaylla pachapichu?

Yakullaykita kacharimuway

Waqchaykiman, runaykiman.

 

_____

 

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,

unanchayniyta k’anchaykullaña

chakiykimanta nisripusaq.

*

Manchay laqhayyuq unphuy kay pacha kaq,

pantan pantaylla purisay chay,

waqchayki kani, munakuyniyki

munakuyninwan qhataykuway.

*

Tukukuyninta thuylla lanp’uta quy

kay kawsayniyman, Misk’i Llapay,

kani sayk’usqa ansaqisqalla

pusakapuway, qhispichiway.

*

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,

escúchame, háblame

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

 

 

Nuqa waqchayki jamuni,

qan mamayta napaykusuq,

chay sumaq khuyaniykita

waqakuspa mañakusuq.

*

Kaypiña kani, mamáy,

chakisniykipi waqaspa

uyariway, jáy nillaway,

waqcha kayniyta khuyaspa.

*

Qan, mamaymi yachasqanki

tukuypi ñak’arisqayta,

chiri wayrata muchuspa

jina khuyay ususqayta.

*

Qanlla urpi, lijraykiwan

chirimanta jamach’away,

qanllataq ñak’ariyniypi

ujyachiway, mikhuchiway.

*

Chay tukuy qhawaq mamáy,

almayta astawan khuyay,

llanthuykipi uywawaspa,

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!

 

 

Papa Mamay

 

 

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.

 

_____