Tags

, , , , , ,

Playing cards with the saying "Today is my lucky day!" written on them lie scattered about amongst lighters at a warehouse that held lighters and cigarettes in San Jose district, Tacloban, November 21, 2013. Photo by Will Baxter/for The Wall Street Journal

Photo by Will Baxter/for The Wall Street Journal

~~a trilogy of glosas~~

The American-born dancer and choreographer known as Waldeen (1913-1993) was among the first—and, in my opinion, best—translators of Pablo Neruda’s epic, Canto General. When Neruda arrived in Mexico in 1940 as Chile’s consul general, Waldeen was already well established as the director of her own dance school in Mexico City. Poet and dancer became lifelong friends.

Both the Canto and Waldeen’s translations remained virtually unread for decades in North America, thanks to the Cold War and fear of all things leftish. Happily, the complete 1950 chapbook, Let the Rail Splitter Awake and Other Poems, is now available online as a pdf, for those who’d like to read and know more.

Here, at Oceantics, I’ve developed an inadvertent tradition of closing the old year and opening the new with glosas, a medieval Spanish form with homage to a greater poet at its center. Over the next few days, I will post three glosas, with lines borrowed from Neruda’s Canto, all translations by Waldeen. The title of the trilogy comes from a poem within the Canto, “Some Beasts”.

I hope you enjoy “Nightfall of the Iguana”.

~~~

Give me your voice and the strength of your buried breast,
Walt Whitman, and the solemn roots that are your face
so as to sing of these reconstructions!
Together we will pay homage to what arises…

—from “Let the Rail Splitter Awake”, Pablo Neruda
Translation by Waldeen

~~~

A tattered deck of fifty-two lies scattered
in an alley behind the Government House.
Peer close, you’ll see. Face cards are scrubbed clean,
suits obliterated, numbers bleed, too thin
to read. I’m told they are apologies, not weeks,
shuffled and dealt routinely to the poorly dressed
committed activists each morning gather
them, assess the hands that cut and undercut
and from the bloodiest, demand arrest.
Give me your voice and the strength of your buried breast,

for if you don’t, if you, the partial deaf
continue to parlay in tonal motion ranges
of the one-note flute, I will fall away.
I must, for each of us, is pied and born
to play toward vast significance, adjusting
turn by turn through private grace
to seeds and shoots we placed ahead of us
in pre-born times, I didn’t question. Now
I choose deliberately condition, person, place,
Walt Whitman, and the solemn roots that are your face.

Come on, is it so hard to comprehend
that ease of mind and spirit are the wiser lead?
I have, by flabby habit, held a stopwatch to your
pace and watched for stumbles, cracks and
proofs of inconsistency. Looking back, I turn
myself to salt, am peppered by obstructions.
Ceilings made of trash are worse than glass.
They obfuscate, rain sticks and stones I can’t
recall as thrown by me. We need new instructions
so as to sing of these reconstructions!

For the building’s going on all around me—boom to
boom, regroup, I pause but never bust, when learning
to be serious regarding us as one magnanimous
and upward thrust, salubrious, percentages up-end,
odds even, then surpass. A rubber duck in mighty seas,
she’s surface prone or floating, has no terror of surprises.
Tankers in the Bosphorus collide, the whale informs
the stork who rides the dreaming tides, disclosing
from the future what our never-ending prize is.
Together we will pay homage to what arises…

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

Advertisements