Federico Garcia Lorca, “Your Childhood in Menton”

(I am so sorry for taking so long to post this translation. The old WordPress was acting up something ridiculous. Had to delete and reinstall the database and well, here it is. Enjoy.)

~ ~ ~

Yes your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
– Jorge Guillén

Yes, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
The train and the woman who fills the sky.
Your shy loneliness in hotels
and your pure mask of another sign.
The sea’s childhood and your silence
where the crystals of wisdom shattered.
Your rigid ignorance where
my torso was circumscribed with fire.
What I gave you, Apollonian man, was the standard of love,
fits of tears with an estranged nightingale.
But ruin fed upon you, you whittle yourself to nothing
for the sake of fleeting, aimless dreams.
Thoughts before you, yesterday’s light,
traces and signs of what might be…
Your waist of restless sand
follows only trails that do not climb.
But in every corner I must look for your warm soul
that is without you and doesn’t understand you,
with the sorrow of Apollo stopped in his tracks,
the sorrow with which I shattered your mask.
It’s there, lion, there, sky’s fury,
where I’ll let you graze on my cheeks;
there, blue horse of my insanity,
pulse of the nebula and hand that counts the minutes.
There I’ll look for the scorpions’ stones
and the clothes of the girl who was your mother,
midnight tears and torn cloth
that wiped moonlight from the temples of the dead man.
Yes, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.
Strange soul, tiny and adrift, ripped
from the emptied space of my veins – I must look until I find you.
The same love as ever, but never the same!
Yes, I do love! Love! Leave me alone, all of you.
And don’t try to cover my mouth, you who seek
the wheat of Saturn in snowfields,
or castrate animals on behalf of a sky,
anatomy’s clinic and jungle.
Love, love, love. The sea’s childhood.
Your warm soul that is without you and doesn’t understand you.
Love, love, the flight of the doe
through the endless breast of whiteness.
And your childhood, love, your childhood.
The train and the woman who fills the sky.
Not you, not me, not the air, not the leaves.
Yes, your childhood: now a fable of fountains.

~ ~ ~

If that doesn’t hit hard and sink down to your bones, well, then there’s nothing more I can do for you. You are honestly lost. I don’t think you should expect to be able to pierce the web of Lorca’s imagery, because it is strong and fierce and well-protected, a type of surrealism that can only be conjured by a Spaniard, a type of surrealism that is at once imagistic and deeply personal, yet open, expressive, emotive, and free to all. To me the language here is simply astounding. And the poem is not totally impenehjgtrable: it is very clearly about love. Love, love, love, he says. “The sea’s childhood.” Love, and it’s disappearance, and Lorca’s attempt to cope with its fleeting nature. It is about his male lover, the “Apollonian man,” and of course this matters, very much so – his forwardness about his sexuality shows incredible bravery for his time and his place, under the thumb of fascism, but in the end too it is just as much about the idea of Love, and how it may cause pain as well as joy. At least this is what I take from it. Like I said, the imagery is hard to untangle, and yet you understand it, even if you think you don’t. I don’t know if reading the Spanish first without translation did anything for you. This translation is not by me, but by the translators of his Poet in New York, Greg Simon and Steven F. White.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Lorca portion of our Poetry ABC’s. It’s been a while for me since I have visited his poetry, so it has been a joy to reread it and share it all with you.


Federico García Lorca, “Tu Infancia en Menton”
Rod McKuen, Part Twenty-Seven of “Listen to the Warm”

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