The poetry of Micheal Cuanach

After “Romeria” by Cesar Vallejo

Together we are passing,

linked in a persistent dream:

displeased, pallid, without

even a crumb of pan dulce to sustain us.

Are there truly souls, muertas

almas, sliding along these wet cobblestones?

Walk with care, my dearest one,

on the seawall’s fragile

edge, as you toss into dark waters

one by one, the purple

flowers I gave you

on the day we rode bicycles together through the rain.

 

 Romería   de César Vallejo

Pasamos juntos. El sueño
lame nuestros pies qué dulce;
y todo se desplaza en pálidas
renunciaciones sin dulce.
Pasamos juntos. Las muertas
almas, las que, cual nosotros,
cruzaron por el amor,
con enfermos pasos ópalos,
salen en sus lutos rígidos
y se ondulan en nosotros.

Amada, vamos al borde
frágil de un montón de tierra.
Va en aceite ungida el ala,
y en pureza. Pero un golpe,
al caer yo no sé dónde,
afila de cada lágrima
un diente hostil.

Y un soldado, un gran soldado,
heridas por charreteras,
se anima en la tarde heroica,
y a sus pies muestra entre risas,
como una gualdrapa horrenda,
el cerebro de la Vida.

Pasamos juntos, muy juntos,
invicta Luz, paso enfermo;
pasamos juntos las lilas
mostazas de un cementerio.

Advertisements

Elegy for Antonio Machado


When el viejo died

the morning light was especially clear.

The cancion of the birds was louder than ever.Siempre, always, Don Antonio would say:

Keep working, trabajadores, keep working.

Ask questions. Stop talking. The people matter, not los jefes.

Be brave, muchachos, and that’s it.

Be what I have been among you, big and loud, a living soul full of blood.

The dead are dead, all muertos. The sun is burning hot.

The seats in the sombra are always much cooler.

Let go. Let go. He lives the most who lets go of everything, todas las cosas.

He lives, viviendo, trabajando, amando.

Lift up your hammers.

Bang the anvils again and again!

Louder than church bells, damn the campanas,

again and again!

 

Inspiration:  Antonio Machado’s  “A Don Francisco Giner de los Rios”

                    Campos de Castilla, 1917

  Como se fue el maestro,
la luz de esta mañana
me dijo: Van tres días
que mi hermano Francisco no trabaja.
¿Murió?... Sólo sabemos
que se nos fue por una senda clara,
diciéndonos: Hacedme
un duelo de labores y esperanzas.
Sed buenos y no más, sed lo que he sido
entre vosotros: alma.
Vivid, la vida sigue,
los muertos mueren y las sombras pasan;
lleva quien deja y vive el que ha vivido.
¡Yunques, sonad; enmudeced, campanas!
   Y hacia otra luz más pura
partió el hermanó de la luz del alba,
del sol de los talleres,
el viejo alegre de la vida santa.
... ¡Oh, sí!, llevad, amigos,
su cuerpo a la montaña,
a los azules montes
del ancho Guadarrama.
Allí hay barrancos hondos
de pinos verdes donde el viento canta.
Su corazón repose
bajo una encina casta,
en tierra de tomillos, donde juegan
mariposas doradas...
  Allí el maestro un día
soñaba un nuevo florecer de España.

 

After Eugenio Montale’s “Dora Markus”

No River Where We Parted

There was no wooden bridge, no river where we parted:

a stream of taxis yellow as daffodils, the air tasting of smoke.

With a wave of your hand you pointed to the city of brick

where an old man, almost motionless at the window, awaited your return.

Your sadness made me think of a winter morning when so many yellow birds arrived

that they filled all the trees in all the woods that stood behind my father’s house.

I spent the day shoveling snow from the neighbors’ walks,

thinking and thinking about hundreds and hundreds of yellow birds.

 

DORA MARKUS – Eugenio Montale

1

Fu dove il ponte di legno
mette a Porto Corsini sul mare alto
e rari uomini, quasi immoti, affondano
o salpano le reti. Con un segno
della mano additavi all’altra sponda
invisibile la tua patria vera.
Poi seguimmo il canale fino alla darsena
della città, lucida di fuliggine,
nella bassura dove s’affondava
una primavera inerte, senza memoria.

 

E qui dove un’antica vita
si screzia in una dolce
ansietà d’Oriente,
le tue parole iridavano come le scaglie
della triglia moribonda.
La tua irrequietudine mi fa pensare
agli uccelli di passo che urtano ai fari
nelle sere tempestose:
è una tempesta anche la tua dolcezza,
turbina e non appare.
E i suoi riposi sono anche più rari.
Non so come stremata tu resisti
in quel lago
d’indifferenza ch’è il tuo cuore; forse
ti salva un amuleto che tu tieni
vicino alla matita delle labbra,
al piumino, alla lima: un topo bianco
d’avorio; e così esisti!

 

2

 

Ormai nella tua Carinzia
di mirti fioriti e di stagni,
china sul bordo sorvegli
la carpa che timida abbocca
o segui sui tigli, tra gl’irti
pinnacoli le accensioni
del vespro e nell’acque un avvampo
di tende da scali e pensioni.
La sera che si protende
sull’umida conca non porta
col palpito dei motori
che gemiti d’oche e un interno
di nivee maioliche dice
allo specchio annerito che ti vide
diversa una storia di errori
imperturbati e la incide
dove la spugna non giunge.
La tua leggenda, Dora!
Ma è scritta già in quegli sguardi
di uomini che hanno fedine
altere e deboli in grandi
ritratti d’oro e ritorna
ad ogni accordo che esprime
l’armonica guasta nell’ora
che abbuia, sempre più tardi.
È scritta là. Il sempreverde
alloro per la cucina
resiste, la voce non muta,
Ravenna è lontana, distilla
veleno una fede feroce.
Che vuole da te? Non si cede
voce, leggenda o destino.
Ma è tardi, sempre più tardi.

from a lost poem of Osip Mandelstam

Published as “I Want Very Much to Say Nothing” in The Bitter Oleander Review, 1999.

 

The snow is light.

The birds seem afraid.

The earth and its hills are silent.

The great dark river turns white.

Why does my heart

beat so slowly?

I am shivering from the cold.

I want very much

to say nothing.

I hear you opening

the latch, stamping the snow

from your boots.

Your clothes are wet,

steaming  by the stove

in the kitchen.

I must tell you, as you stand

by your bed,

many, many words.

Mandelstam  major Russian poet and literary critic. Most of his works went unpublished in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era (1929–53) and were almost unknown outside that country until the mid-1960s.

Mandelshtam grew up in St. Petersburg in a cultured Jewish household. After graduating from the elite Tenishev School in 1907, he studied at the University of St. Petersburg as well as in France at the Sorbonne and in Germany at the University of Heidelberg.

His first poems appeared in the avant-garde journal Apollon (“Apollo”) in 1910. Together with Nikolay Gumilyov and Anna Akhmatova, Mandelshtam founded the Acmeist school of poetry, which rejected the mysticism and abstraction of Russian Symbolism and demanded clarity and compactness of form. Mandelshtam summed up his poetic credo in his manifesto Utro Akmeizma (“The Morning of Acmeism”). In 1913 his first slim volume of verse, Kamen (“Stone”), was published. During the Russian Civil War (1918–20), Mandelshtam spent time in the Crimea and Georgia. In 1922 he moved to Moscow, where his second volume of poetry, Tristia, appeared. He married Nadezhda Yakovlevna Khazina in 1922.

Mandelshtam’s poetry, which was apolitical and intellectually demanding, distanced him from the official Soviet literary establishment. His poetry having been withdrawn from publication, he wrote children’s tales and a collection of autobiographical stories, Shum vremeni (1925; “The Noise of Time”). A second edition of this work, augmented by the tale “Yegipetskaya marka” (“The Egyptian Stamp”), was published in 1928. That year, a volume of his collected poetry, Stikhotvoreniya (“Poems”), and a collection of literary criticism, O poezii (“On Poetry”), appeared. These were his last books published in the Soviet Union during his lifetime. In May 1934 he was arrested for a poem he had written about Stalin and read to a small circle of friends.

Shattered by a fierce interrogation, Mandelshtam was exiled with his wife to the provincial town of Cherdyn. After hospitalization and a suicide attempt, he won permission to move to Voronezh. Though suffering from periodic bouts of mental illness, he composed a long cycle of poems, the Voronezhskiye tetradi (“Voronezh Notebooks”), which contain some of his finest lyrics.

In May 1937, having served his sentence, Mandelshtam returned with his wife to Moscow. But the following year he was arrested during a stay at a rest home. In a letter to his wife that autumn, Mandelshtam reported that he was ill in a transit camp near Vladivostok. Nothing further was ever heard from him. Soviet authorities officially gave his death date as Dec. 27, 1938, although he was also reported by government sources to have died “at the beginning of 1939.” It was primarily through the efforts of his widow  who died in 1980, that little of the poetry of Osip Mandelshtam was lost; she kept his works alive during the repression by memorizing them and by collecting copies.

After Stalin’s death the publication in Russian of Mandelshtam’s works was resumed.

His wife, Nadezhda Mandelstam (Nadezhda Mandelshtam), Hope Against Hope (1970, reissued 1989; originally published in Russian, 1970), and Hope Abandoned (1974, reissued 1989; originally published in Russian, 1972), memoirs by his wife, were published in the West in Russian and English.

Many of his poems and translations into English and Spanish can be found here.

after The Red-Winged Birds of Anna Akhmatova

Published in the Prentice Hall Anthology of Women’s Literature

I hear always the sad voices of summer

of summer

passing like red winged birds

over the high grass

where peasants gather

skirts lifted, blouses open.

If only the old voices would linger

in the evening air!

I do not need your loving words

or hurried kiss

as night comes down

in the place where we once lived

innocent as children,

and happier.