Ode to Federico García Lorca1
July 1, 2013 by The Citron Review
by Pablo Neruda
–English Translation by Caleb Beissert
If I could cry out of fear in a lonely house,
if I could take out my eyes and eat them,
I would do it for your mournful orange tree voice
and for your poetry that comes out screaming.
Because for you they paint the hospitals blue,
and the schools and seaside barrios swell
and are populated with the feathers of injured angels
and are covered with the scales of bridal fish,
and the sea urchins are taking to the sky:
for you the tailor’s shops with their black membranes
filled with blood and spoons,
and they swallow torn ribbons, and they murder with kisses,
and they dress in white.
When you fly away dressed as a peach,
when you laugh the laugh of hurricane-thrown rice,
when you sing you make teeth and arteries tremble,
throat and fingers,
I would die for the dulcet thing that you are,
I would die for the red lakes
where you live in the middle of autumn
with a fallen steed and a blood-soaked God,
I would die for the cemeteries
that pass by like ashen rivers
with water and tombs,
at night, amongst muffled bells:
rivers thick as bedrooms
of ill soldiers, who suddenly swell
toward death in rivers with marble numbers
and decaying garlands, and funeral oils:
I could die from seeing you at night
gazing past the piled-high crosses,
because before the river of death you cry
you cry crying, with eyes full
of tears, of tears, of tears.
If I could at night, hopelessly alone,
amass oblivion and shadow and smoke
above railroads and steamboats,
with a black funnel,
chewing the ashes,
I would make the tree in which you grow,
the nests of golden water that you gather,
and the vine that covers your bones
communicating the secret of the night.
Cities that smell of wet onion
wait for you to pass by singing hoarsely,
and silent ships of semen pursue you,
and green swallows nest in your hair,
and seashells and weekdays, too,
furled masts and cherries
definitively spin when
your pale head of fifteen eyes
and your mouth immersed in blood appear.
If I could fill the city halls with soot,
and, sobbing, tear down clocks,
I would be there to see when summer comes
at your house with broken lips,
here comes a crowd of people in death suits,
here come regions of sad splendor,
here come plowed dead poppies,
here come gravediggers and riders,
here come planets and maps with blood,
here come divers covered with ash,
here come masked men dragging maidens
held against large knives,
here come roots, veins, hospitals,
here comes the night with the bed where
a solitary hussar is dying among the spider lamps,
here comes a rose of hatred and pins,
here comes a yellowish embarkation,
here comes a windy day with a child,
here I come with Oliverio, Norah,
Vicente Aleixandre, Delia,
Maruca, Malva Marina, María Luisa and Larco,
la Rubia, Rafael Ugarte,
Cotapos, Rafael Alberti,
Carlos, Bebé, Manuel Altolaguirre,
Rosales, Concha Méndez,
and others I’m forgetting.
They see that you are crowned, young man of health
and butterfly, pure young man
like a black flash of lightning perpetually free,
conversing among us,
now, when no one is between the rocks,
let’s simply talk about how you and I are:
what do verses serve if not the dew?
What do verses serve if not for this night
in which a bitter dagger finds us, for this day,
for this twilight, for this broken corner
where the battered heart of man prepares to die?
Especially at night,
at night there are many stars,
all within a river
like a ribbon next to the windows
of the houses full of poor people.
Someone has been killed, perhaps
they have lost their jobs in the offices,
in the hospitals, in the elevators,
in the mines,
the stubbornly wounded beings suffer,
and there is purpose and weeping everywhere:
while the stars run in an endless river
there is profuse weeping in the windows,
the doorsteps are worn from the weeping,
the bedrooms are wet from the weeping
that comes in form of a wave to eat away the carpets.
you see the world, the streets,
the farewells at the stations
when the smoke raises its decisive wheels
toward where there is nothing but some
separations, stones, tracks.
There are so many people asking questions
There is the bleeding blind man, and the irate, and
and the miserable, the tree of fingernails,
the bandit with envy on his back.
Thus it is life, Federico, here you have
the things that my friendship can offer you
from a melancholic, manly man.
Already you know many things for yourself.
And you will know others slowly.
Caleb Beissert is a poet, translator, musician, and freelance writer from Washington, D.C., now living in Asheville, North Carolina. His work has appeared in International Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review, WNC Magazine, and Beatitude: Golden Anniversary, 1959-2009. Beissert’s first book, a selection of English-language adaptations of the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca, Beautiful: Translations from the Spanish, was published by New Native Press in 2013.
I enjoyed your translation. Curious about erizos to sea urchins. What was your thought there. I’m a native english speaker, and don’t know the word and usage other than the dictionary definition. In that way, it seems like erizos del mar or marinos is usually used to specify. Just wondering what your though process was here, or if there is some background to it.