Saturday, June 11th, 2011
Here are a couple of poems I have written recently. Experimenting with story-telling and with prosody.
I'd like to thank Pelele of Muchacha Recostada, who has posted what I believe to be a great poem, Mutilaciones (from 2009) -- my working definition of a great poem is one the reading of which alters how you read and write poetry -- I believe that "Mutilaciones," with its frantic, driving meter and its clarity of vision, will have a permanent effect on my reading of poetry and on my poetic output. "Crystal Armies" is written strongly under the influence of Pelele's piece. I'm working on a translation of "Mutilaciones"* which will be my first time (even dreaming of) translating a metered poem -- I do not think I am going to be able to keep the rhyme, but the meter is coming through very naturally.
The best-laid tracks converge, they meet
way out there by the setting sun
confounding engineering dreams perspective in the desert
where the train runs off the vanished rails and crashes, yes,
it's tragic, sad-sack Sam the goldrush pioneer will never see his lover
who was riding west to meet him, look how Jesse and his outlaws
are confused, the hold-up won't play out, they may just ride their horses over the edge behind the train or else perhaps they'll turn back just in time, they'll skirt impending doom and spend their days retelling stories of the one that got away.
Fit the image to the meter
We can print it when you're done
When the armies that you're dreaming
Wander sleepy off the page and
Wave their effervescent banners
To the rhythm of your drum.
Marching softly, scarcely there,
You have to strain to make them out
Their dusty footprints on the pages
Almost like a printer's error
When they finally encamp
Inside your thawed out cerebellum
They'll build ghostly fires and sing
About the journeys of their fathers
And you'll scratch your forehead wondering
(In your clarity of vision)
Where the simple, crystal image
Of your verbal armies went.
* Update: translation is here.
Monday, June 13th, 2011
This is my translation of Pelele's poem "Mutilaciones," which touched me so strongly when I read it last week.
A tantalizing thought I had on the train home this evening: with fairly minor rewrites, this poem could be set to the tune of David Rawling's "I Hear Them All".
Hacking it Apart
by Eduardo Valverde
The cripple in the morning
is the flight, the flight to nowhere,
is the light, the graveyard's light
that's shining, shining in my windows,
it's the bus, the line of buses
stinking sweetly on the roadway,
it's the cat up on the rooftop
where it's watching over the bells.
Half-blindness in the morning
is the frigid bite of dawn,
and forgetfulness's knockers
have no prince, have just a frog,
with the freezing rain foreseen
inside the blossom of my eyes,
inside the corpses of my
promised lands, still warm.
Half-lameness in the morning
is the spirit of the road,
and I've got my eyes wide open,
got my shrunken spirit's cough;
the sun, the half-lit sun, oh
how it's burning in their motors,
it's the end of every heartbreak,
they're in mourning for their games.
The birds get off scot-free,
my reading glasses going blind,
with whole decades slowly
dawning on this Monday.
Thursday, June 30th, 2011
A new poem from Pelele had the happy effect of reminding me of one of my very favorite poems, Kenneth Koch's "Lunch" -- and the funny thing is, I was noticing similarities to "Lunch" even before I looked up to the top of the poem and noticed Pelele's title...
by Eduardo Valverde
Last night I dreamed of you -- or of your father:
a tall man under his hat.
The place I found myself reminded me,
its silence, of a bird -- a bird that’s sleeping,
an engine, maybe, lying in the junkheap.
He came along, his face drawn long, like kids
when they play at grown-up
or like a bankrupt god
who tallies up his mornings carefully
and finds that all that glitters is not gold;
he carried a green bottle in his hands
and the analgesic pain that comes of touching earthly things.
He spoke enthusiastically of the sea's paternal womb,
of land unmapped, unconquered, which begins off in the darkness --
in every single letter of the word, “desperation” --
He spoke of a taste like olives, of the flavor in her breasts,
in hers who never aged but who had brought forth many daughters
each with olive nipples;
of the unease that he feels before the window in a photo
in which a bowl of fruit is standing lonesome on the floor
of the hallway in a vacant house --
or I should say, before the light that’s coming through the window,
an angel hewn of green basalt;
a solid angel, weak Annunciation.
He poured me out a cup and took the bottle by its neck.
Could not remember you; but he said,
with joy in his eyes, he said My kids were like the rattle
of the hills when trains are rolling by;
like a pack of dogs, dogs baying in the distance
to push your weary heart along the journey.
It must have been getting dark, I guess -- a solitary lamp
was turning back to ash his eyes and moustache
And me, I was anxious, I needed to pee;
I felt my dress was falling into shadow --
its weight returning --
raised my hands to my cheeks and found I was not dying
nor was I really back among the living.
Two images in particular seem like they could have come from Koch's pen, the woman "who never aged but who had brought forth many daughters/ each with olive nipples", and the man boasting, "My kids were like the rattle/ of the hills when trains are rolling by" -- also the general flow of the text and of voice reminds me of Koch. (I have probably intensified this similarity in my translation; but I believe it is present in the original as well.) The "analgesic pain that comes of touching earthly things" is going to stay with me for a long time.
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
A house at Mount Irazú
by Eduardo Valverde
tr. Jeremy Osner
These little stars, stars setting in the rivers and the streams,
working their way loose from our fingers and our wallets, stars flowing out like water;
and there will be no one to pay the check
nor to tally the coins.
His ashtray has a leak in it,
it's a little cardboard cup with water in it from a bottle.
You can picture the scorching agony of the fire -a little scream-
that split its fibers.
Green is the green, and leaden all the gray.
The girls are playing, they're laughing, out on the deck;
the women are waiting - just a few more minutes-
for them to come back in without a scratch, as big as life.
We were not sleeping.
I know it because I could hear them out the window
those shapes in the dark. Maybe that's how cows dream,
but us, no.
Us, we weren't sleeping.
So many times, I could swear
he just snubbed us;
indifferent to the whisky
and to the electric skillet,
to the mint tea and the conversation.
like the silence that volcanoes impose.
And the stairs,
stairs shy and ominous in the night,
downstairs to the morning -- sleeping still,
she's ready to arise.
in this house
no-one yet has died.
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