Why Have I Become Detached

Pita Amor
Mexican
1918 – 2000

 

Why have I become detached from the
mysterious and eternal current that I was
cast into, to forever be enslaved
by this tenacious and independent frame?

Why did I become a living being
that carries blood made of lava
and a dark anguish excavated from
knowing that my audacity is powerless?

Thinking of my matter
considering myself absurd and numb,
masqueraded by solitude and by misery,

ludicrous creature of disregard,
a worthless mask from a pointless carnival
and an echo that doesn’t proceed sound!

From a Lofty Peak How Terrible to Behold

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 230th birthday.

Manuel Carpio
Mexican
1791 – 1860

 

From a lofty peak how terrible to behold
The murky tempests far below,
And in the vast solitudes
The flash of the magnificent lightning.

Popocatepetel and Orizaba,
Crush the ground with their enormous massiveness,
And their cuspises of ice and lava
Are enveloped in a dense cloud.

There the deer, with antlered forhead,
Cross the woods with graceful bounds,
And among the pines and elevated cliffs
The waters dash in torrents.

How awe-inspiring are thine immense volcanoes
With their ponderous rocks ;
Among thy wooded mountains roar the tempest,
And their stormy summit is a crater.

Globules of fire are hurled from their mouths ;
Columns of smoke and grand flashes of fire ;
Burning sulphur, glowing sands,
Black pitch and calcined stones.

Then the foundation of the blue mountains
Trembles, and from this furnace
The rude and tremendous shaking
Extends for a hundred leagues around.

The great God of all nations said,
When distributing His treasures over the land,
“Let Mexico have silver and gold,”
And poured on thee His affluent gifts.

The Parakeets

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 70th birthday.

Alberto Blanco
Mexican
b. 1951

 

They talk all day
and when it starts to get dark
they lower their voices
to converse with their own shadows
and with the silence.

They are like everybody
—the parakeets—
all day chatter,
and at night bad dreams.

With their gold rings
on their clever faces,
brilliant feathers
and the heart restless
with speech…

They are like everybody,
—the parakeets—
the ones that talk best
have separate cages.

from Primavera Indiana

We present this work in honor of the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora
Mexican
1645 – 1700

 

I am Mary, of Omnipotent God
the Humble Mother, Virgin sovereign,
a torch whose eternal light
is the splendid North Star of Mankind’s hope:
Let a perfumed altar in a holy temple
Be instilled for me in Mexico, once Pluto’s
profane dwelling whose horrors
my foot dispels in a storm of flowers.

To a Flower

In honor of Revolution Day, we present this work by one of Mexico’s most romantic poets.

Manuel Acuña
Mexican
1849 – 1873

 

When your bud barely half-opened
Aspires to good fortune and happiness,
Do you already bend tired and breathless,
Giving yourself over to pain and despair?

Do you not see that the vile shadow
Which blackens the firmament’s blue,
Is only a cloud which will at the blow
Of the wind, again let you see the day?…

Wake up and rise!… The time is not yet here
When deep within your heart,
You yield to the pain that humbles you.

Unjust to the sun is your accusation
That the shadow which passes and blinds you
Is darkness, for night hasn’t arrived yet.

He Makes the Eagles and Ocelots Dance With Him

We present this work in honor of the Day of the Dead.

Nezahualcoyotl
Mexican
1402 – 1472

 

He makes the Eagles and Ocelots dance with him!
Come to see the Huexotzinca:

On the dais of the Eagle he shouts out,
Loudly cries the Mexica.

The battlefield is the place: where one toasts the divine liquor in war,
where are stained red the divine eagles,
where the tigers howl,
where all kinds of precious stones rain from ornaments,
where wave headdresses rich with fine plumes,
where princes are smashed to bits.

There is nothing like death in war,
nothing like the flowery death
so precious to Him who gives life:
far off I see it: my heart yearns for it!

And they called it Teotihulcan
because it was the place
where the lords were buried.
Thus they said:

‘When we die,
truly we die not,
because we will live, we will rise,
we will continue living, we will awaken
This will make us happy.’

Thus the dead one was directed,
when he died:

‘Awaken, already the sky is rosy,
already dawn has come,
already sing the flame-coloured guans,
the fire-coloured swallows,
already the butterflies fly.’

Thus the old ones said
that who has died has become a god,
they said: ‘He has been made a god there,
meaning ‘He has died.’

Even jade is shattered,
Even gold is crushed,
Even quetzal plume are torn . . .
One does not live forever on this earth:
We endure only for an instant!

Will flowers be carried to the Kingdom of Death:
Is it true that we are going, we are going?
Where are we going, ay, where are we going?
Will we be dead there or will we live yet?
Does one exist again?

Perhaps we will live a second time?
Thy heart knows:
Just once do we live!.
Like a quetzal plume, a fragrant flower,
friendship sparkles:
like heron plumes, it weaves itself into finery.

Our song is a bird calling out like a jingle:
how beautiful you make it sound!
Here, among flowers that enclose us,
among flowery boughs you are singing.

the earth is a grave and nothing escapes it, nothing is so perfect
that it does not descend to its tomb. Rivers, rivulets, fountains and
waters flow, but never return to their joyful beginnings; anxiously
they hasten on the vast realms of the rain god. As they widen their
banks, they also fashion the sad urn of their burial.

Filled are the bowels of the earth with pestilential dust once flesh and bone,
once animate bodies of man who sat upon thrones, decided cases, presided in
council, commanded armies, conquered provinces, possessed treasure, destroyed
temples, exulted in their pride, majesty, fortune, praise and power. Vanished
are these glories, just as the fearful smoke vanishes that belches forth from
the infernal fires of Popocatepetl. Nothing recalls them but the written page.

Monologue of a Foreign Woman

Rosario Castellanos
Mexican
1925 – 1974

 

I came from far away. I’ve forgotten my own country
and I no longer understand the language they
use there for trade or work.
I’ve reached the mineral muteness of a statue.
Sloth, scorn and something
I can’t distinguish have defended me
from this language, that heavy jewel-studded
velvet that people where I live
use to cover their rags.

This land, like that other one of my childhood,
still bears on her face
a slave’s brand,
burned in by fire, injustice, and murder.
As a girl I slept to the hoarse crooning
of a black dove: a conquered race.
I hid beneath the blankets
because a huge animal
crouched out there in the dark, hungry
but patient as a stone.
Compared to him, what’s an ocean, a catastrophe,
or the bolt of love
or joy that annihilates us?

I mean
that I had to grow up fast
(before terror devoured me),
go away, keep a firm hand
on things and run my life.

I was still very young
when I spit on places the mob held sacred.
In crowds I was like a dog
that offends with its mange and copulation,
its startling bark in the midst
of a ritual or major ceremony.

So you,
although serious, was not entirely fatal.
I recovered, healed, and learned to gauge
the pulse of success, prestige,
honor, wealth, with a clever hand.
I possessed what the mediocre envy, the victors
dispute, but only one carries off.
It was mine but it was like eating foam
or passing my hand across the back of the wind.

Supreme pride is supreme renunciation.
I refused to become
a dead star
that takes on borrowed light to come alive.
Without a name or memories
I spin in spectral nakedness
in a brief domestic orbit.

But I still simmer
in the turbid imagination of others.
My presence has brought
a salty gust of adventure
to even this sleepy inland city.

When men look at me they remember that fate
is the great hurricane that splits branches,
uproots tall trees,
imposing merciless cosmic law
— above and beyond the meanness of humankind —
throughout its empire.

The women pick up my scent from afar, dreaming,
like draft animals when they smell
the brutal bolt of the storm.
for the elders
I fulfill that passive role
of the generator of legends.

At midnight I open wide the windows so anyone
keeping watch at night, meditating on death,
suffering the pangs of guilt,
or even the adolescent
(a burning pillow under his brow)
can question darkness through my being.

Enough. I’ve kept quiet more than I’ve told.
High mountain sun has tanned my hand
and on my fourth finger, “that points to the heart,”
as they say here,
I wear a golden ring with a carved seal.

A ring used
to identify corpses.

Wring the Swan’s Neck

In honor of Mexican Indepedence Day, we present this work by one of Mexico’s greatest poets.

Enrique Gonzalez Martinez
Mexican
1871 – 1952

 

Wring the swan’s neck who with deceiving plumage
inscribes his whiteness on the azure stream;
he merely vaunts his grace and nothing feels
of nature’s voice or of the soul of things.

Every form eschew and every language
whose processes with deep life’s inner rhythm
are out of harmony…and greatly worship
life, and let life understand your homage.

See the sapient owl who from Olympus
spreads his wings, leaving Athene’s lap,
and stays his silent flight on yonder tree.

His grace is not the swan’s, but his unquiet
pupil, boring into the gloom, interprets
the secret book of the nocturnal still.

She Kissed Me Often

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Amado Nervo
Mexican
1870 – 1919

 

She kissed me often, as if she feared
an imminent departure… Her affections
were restless, nervous.

I didn’t understand
such feverish haste. My coarse intention
never saw very far…
She foresaw!

She foresaw that our time would be short,
that the sail battered by the wind’s lash
was already waiting… and in her anxiety
she tried to leave me her soul with every embrace,
to put all eternity into her kisses.