Tag: poetry ABC’s

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”


Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.
– Jorge Guillén

Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.
El tren y la mujer que llena el cielo.
Tu soledad esquiva en los hoteles
y tu máscara pura de otro signo.
Es la niñez del mar y tu silencio
donde los sabios vidrios se quebraban.
Es tu yerta ignorancia donde estuvo
mi torso limitado por el fuego.
Norma de amor te di, hombre de Apolo,
llanto con ruiseñor enajenado,
pero, pasto de ruina, te afilabas
para los breves sueños indecisos.
Pensamiento de enfrente, luz de ayer,
índices y señales del acaso.
Tu cintura de arena sin sosiego
atiende sólo rastros que no escalan.
Pero yo he de buscar por los rincones
tu alma tibia sin ti que no te entiende,
con el dolor de Apolo detenido
con que he roto la máscara que llevas.
Allí, león, allí, furia de cielo,
te dejaré pacer en mis mejillas;
allí, caballo azul de mi locura,
pulso de nebulosa y minutero.
He de buscar las piedras de alacranes
y los vestidos de tu madre niña,
llanto de media noche y paño roto
que quitó luna de la sien del muerto.
Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.
Alma extraña de mi hueco de venas,
te he de buscar pequeña y sin raices.
¡Amor de siempre, amor, amor de nunca!
¡Oh, sí! Yo quiero. ¡Amor, amor! Dejadame.
No me tapen la boca los que buscan
espigas de Saturno por la nieve
o castran animales por un cielo,
clínica y selva de la anatomía.
Amor, amor, amor. Niñez del mar.
Tu alma tibia sin ti que no te entiende.
Amor, amor, un vuelo de la corza
por el pecho sin fin de la blancura.
Y tu niñez, amor, y tu niñez.
El tren y la mujer que llena el cielo.
Ni tú, ni yo, ni el aire, ni las hojas.
Sí, tu niñez: ya fábula de fuentes.

~ ~ ~

This one is from his Poeta en Nueva York. I thought it would be fun to post the poem as a whole, sin traducción, and just sort of let the Spanishness of it wash over us. Whether you understand the words or not there is a certain music to it, and in a way it’s fun to enjoy a poem just for its sounds and music without all that pesky meaning and comprehension get in the way. I’ll post the translation tomorrow and talk some more about the poem.

Galway Kinnell, “Sex”


On my hands are the odors
of the knockout ether
either of above the sky
where the bluebirds get blued
on their upper surfaces
or of down under the earth
where the immaculate nightcrawlers
take in tubes of red earth
and polish their insides.

Galway Kinnell, “Middle of the Night”


A telephone rings through the wall.
Nobody answers. Exactly how
the mouth shapes itself inside
saying the word “gold” is what sleep
would be like if one were happy.
So Kenny Hardman and George Sykes
called “Gaw-way-ay!” at the back
of the house. If I didn’t come out
they would call until nightfall,
like summer insects. Or like
the pay phone at the abandoned
filling station, which sometimes
rang, off and on, an entire day.
The final yawn before one sleeps
is the word “yes” said too many times,
too rapidly, to the darkness. On the landing
she turned and looked back. Something
of the sea turtle heavy with eggs,
looking back at the sea. The shocking dark
of her eyes blew alive in me
the affirmative fire. It would have hurt
to walk away, just as it would bewilder
a mouth making the last yawn to say “no.”

* * *

Oh, hi. Yes I took a bit of a vacation from the poem-posting but I decided to get back at it again. Right back where I left off, with Mr. Kinnell – how great is this poem?! Just so – just so – Galway-esque. Sublime and verbose and it hits you in all the right spots.

Ted Kooser, “Barn Owl”


High in the chaffy, taffy-colored haze
of the hayloft, up under the starry
nail-hole twinkle of the old tin roof,
there in a nest of straw and bailing twine
I have hidden my valentine for you:
a white heart woven of snowy feathers
in which wide eyes of welcome open
to you as you climb the rickety ladder
into my love. Behind those eyes lies
a boudoir of intimate darkness, darling,
the silks of oblivion. And set like a jewel
dead center in the heart is a golden hook
the size of a finger ring, to hold you
always, plumpest sweetheart mouse of mine.

* * *

From his little book Valentines.

John Keats, “Lines on the Mermaid Tavern”


Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine?
Or are fruits of Paradise
Sweeter than those dainty pies
Of venison? O generous food!
Drest as though bold Robin Hood
Would, with his maid Marian,
Sup and bowse from horn and can.

I have heard that on a day
Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
Nobody knew whither, till
An astrologer’s old quill
To a sheepskin gave the story,
Said he saw you in your glory,
Underneath a new old sign
Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the Zodiac.

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

* * *

Poets, drinking, and divine intervention. All the trappings of a classic poem – by a man who should know a thing or two about classic poems.

Kenneth Koch, “The Duplications” [excerpt]


One night in Venice, near the Grand Canal,
A lovely girl was sitting by her stoop,
Sixteen years old, Elizabeth Gedall,
When, suddenly, a giant ice-cream scoop
Descended from the clouded blue corral
Of heaven and scooped her skyward with a loop-
The-loopy motion, which the gods of Venice
Saw, and, enraged they left off cosmic tennis

And plotted their revenge. They thought some outer
Space denizen or monster had decided
To take this child, perhaps who cared about her
And wished to spare her heart a world divided,
Or else wanted to hug, kiss, and clout her,
And, lust upswelling, the right time had bided,
Or something such—so thought, at least, the gods of
Her native city, famed for bees and matzoh.

Venice, Peru, of course, is where it happened,
A city modeled on the Italian one
Which was all paid for by Commander Papend,
A wealthy Yugoslav who liked his fun.
The Com had sexual urges large as Lapland
And was set for action as a gun
In madman’s hands who hates the world around him—
But Com was filled with love, his heart all pounding!

And so he’d made this North Italian jewel,
Canals and palaces on every side,
An urban re-creation, not renewal,
A daring lust’s restatement of life’s pride;
Huge bumboats carrying marble, masks, and fuel
Clogged South American streams, til Nature cried
“Some madman’s building Venice in Peru!
Abomination beneath the sky’s blue!”

* * *

Kenneth Koch – as you can probably tell at this point after reading a few stanzas – was a poet who believed that – gasp! – poetry could be fun and lighthearted! I know, right?! What a nut! But he and his pals Frank O’Hara (coming next week) and John Ashbery, in the wake of the mythological drudgery that was Modernism, believed just that, and through their works tried to infuse poetry with a jolt of the weird, of the contemporary, of pop culture. The excerpt above begins his long poem “The Duplications.” I’ll be honest, I’ve yet to make it all the way through this poem’s insanity, but I will tell you that on the next page alone Koch references Canada Dry, Walt Disney, Minnie Mouse, and Salvador Dali.

Stanley Kunitz, “Hermetic Poem”


The secret my heart keeps
Flows into cracked cups.

No saucer can contain
This overplus of mine:

It glisters to the floor,
Lashing like lizard fire

And ramps upon the walls
Crazy with ruby ills.

Who enters by my door
Is drowned, burned, stung, and starred.

* * *

There is really little to say about this poem, except that it is perfection.


Jack Kerouac, 1st Chorus of “Desolation Blues”


I stand on my head on Desolation Peak
And see that the world is hanging
Into an ocean of endless space
The mountains dripping rock by rock
Like bubbles in the void
And tending where they want—
That at night the shooting stars
Are swimming up to meet us
Yearning from the bottom black
But never make it, alas—
That we walk around clung
To earth
Like beetles with big brains
Ignorant of where we are, how,
What, & upsidedown like fools,
Talking of governments & history,
—But Mount Hozomeen
The most beautiful mountain I ever seen,
Does nothing but sit & be a mountain,
A mess of double pointed rock
Hanging pouring into space
O frightful silent endless space
—Everything goes to the head
Of the hanging bubble, with men
The juice is in the head—
So mountain peaks are points
Of rocky liquid yearning

~ ~ ~

Whenever I get lost, thinking too much about the world and how hard it can be sometimes, I remember that there is the lonely fire lookout on Desolation Peak.

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