To Laugh While Crying

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 170th birthday.

06-29 Dios Peza
Juan de Dios Peza
Mexican
1852 – 1910

 

Watching Garrik – an actor from England –
the people would say applauding:
“You are the funniest one on earth
and the happiest one…”
And the comedian would laugh.

Victims of melancholy, the highest lords,
during their darkest and heaviest nights
would go see the king of actors
and change their melancholy into roars of laughter.

Once, before a famous doctor,
came a man with eyes so somber:
“I suffer – he said -, an illness so horrible
as this paleness of my face”

“Nothing holds any enchantment or attractiveness;
I don’t care about my name or my fate
I die living an eternal melancholy
and my only hope is that of death”.

– Travel and distract yourself
– I’ve traveled so much!
– Search for readings
– I’ve read so much!
– Have a woman love you
– But I am loved
– Get a title
– I was born a noble

– Might you be poor?
– I have richnesses
– Do you like compliments?
– I hear so many!
– What do you have as a family?
– My sadness
– Do you go to the cemeteries?
– Often, very often.

– Of your current life, do you have witnesses?
– Yes, but I don’t let them impose their burdens;
I call the dead my friends;
I call the living my executioners.

– It leaves me – added the doctor – perplexed
your illness and I must not scare you;
Take today this advise as a prescription
only watching Garrik you can be cured.

-Garrik?
-Yes, Garrik… The most indolent
and austere society anxiously seeks him;
everyone who sees him, dies of laughter;
he has an amazing artistic grace.

– And me? Will he make me laugh?
-Ah, yes, I swear it;
he and no one but him; but… what disturbs you?
-So – said the patient – I won’t be cured;
I am Garrik! Change my prescription.

How many are there who, tired of life,
ill with pain, dead with tedium,
make others laugh as the suicidal actor,
without finding a remedy for their illness!

Ay! How often we laugh when we cry!
Nobody trust the merriment of laughter,
because in those beings devoured by pain,
the soul groans when the face laughs!

If faith dies, if calm flees,
if our feet only step on thistles,
the tempest of the soul hurls to the face,
a sad lighting: a smile.

The carnival of the world is such a trickster,
that life is but a short masquerade;
here we learn to laugh with tears
and also to cry with laughter.

 

Translation by Marga Lacabe

You, Azure Bird

We present this work in honor of the 550th anniversary of the poet’s death.

06-04 Nezahualcoyotl
Nezahualcoyotl
Mexican
1402 – 1472

 

You, azure bird, shining parrot, you walk flying. Oh Highest Arbiter, Life Giver: trembling, You extend Yourself here, filling my house, filling my dwelling, here.

With Your piety and grace one can live, oh Author of Life, on earth: trembling, You extend Yourself here, filling my house, filling my dwelling, here.

 

Translation by John Curl

from How the Sea Will Be

We present this work in honor of the 125th anniversary of the poet’s death.

03-02 Prieto
Guillermo Prieto
Mexican
1818 – 1897

Your name, or sea, resounds within me;
awakens my tired fantasy:
move, enlarge my soul,
of fervent enthusiasm fills it.
Nothing limited compresses me,
when I imagine contemplating your breast;
alluvial, melancholic and serene,
or august brow; thy mooing sublime.
You will be oh sea! magnificent and great
when you are sleeping in peace and quiet;
when your breast is still and dilated
caress the delicious atmosphere?

Pain

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

z 02-19-22
Enrique Gonzalez Martinez
Mexican
1871 – 1952

 

Its gaze filled my abyss, its gaze melted
into my being, became so mine that I
am doubtful if this breath of agony
is life still or hallucinated death.

The archangel came, cast his sword
upon the double laurel flourishing
in the sealed garden….And that day brought back
the shadow and I returned to my nothingness.

I thought the world, witnessing man’s appal,
would crumble, overwhelmed beneath the ruins
of the entire firmament crashing down.

But I saw the earth at peace, at peace the heavens,
the fields serene, limpid the running stream,
blue the mountain and the wind at rest.

 

Translation by Samuel Beckett

Thoughts of a Little Girl

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

01-19 Camarillo
María Enriqueta Camarillo
Mexican
1872 – 1968

I think flowers can see
and clouds play a game,
that when the wind whispers,
the leaves understand.
They sway and they dance
in the mad-cap breeze.

Sometimes in the morning
to the meadow I go,
where the daisies are playing
in the wind.

First the wind whispers,
then runs, jumps, and tickles their feet.
And the daisies, their heads sweetly nodding,
laugh, sway, and shiver in glee.

The Shadow of the Wing

In honor of the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, we present this work by one of modern Mexico’s most thoughtfully spiritual poets.

12-12 Nervo
Amado Nervo
Mexican
1870 – 1919

 

You who think I don’t believe
when we two feud
do not imagine my desire,
my thirst, my hunger for God;

nor have you heard my desolate
cry that echoes through
the inner place of shadow,
calling on the infinite;

nor do you see my thought
laboring in ideal genesis,
frequently in distress
with throes of light.

If my sterile spirit
could own your power of birth,
by now — I would have columned heaven
to perfect your earth.

But tell me, what power stows
within a flagless soul
to carry anywhere at all
its torturer — who knows? —

that keeps a fast from faith,
and with valiant integrity
goes on asking every depth
and every darkness, why?

Notwithstanding, I am shielded
by my thirst for inquiry —
my pangs for God, cavernous and unheard;
and there is more love in my unsated
doubt than in your tepid certainty.

 

Translation by Isabel Chenot

The Foreigner

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 105th birthday.

12-11 Garro
Elena Garro
Mexican
1916 – 1968

 

There where we find the lost
There where what was had goes
There where the dead are dead
and there are days when they revive and repeat
the actions prior to their death
There where cried tears are cried
again without a cry
and where intangible lips seek each other
and are found already without a body
There where we are suddenly children
and we have a house
and where cities are photographs
and their monuments reside in the air
and there are pieces of gardens attached to some eyes
There where the trees are in the void
where there are lovers and relatives mixed
with familiar objects
There where celebrations come after mourning
births after deaths
rainy days
after sunny days
There, lonely, without time, without childhood,
comet without origin, a foreigner to the landscape
strolling among strangers
There you reside,
where memory resides.

 

Translation by
Adele Lonas,
Olatz Pascariu,
Silvia Soler Gallego,
and Francisco Leal

Legislator

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

Francisco Hinojosa
Mexican
b. 1954

 

Having just heard, my love,
that you won a seat by popular vote,
I am overwhelmed with joy
for you and your electorate
and because I know you well
I am sure you will legislate with courage and devotion
making your voters feel represented
forget these household chores a while
you don’t have a spouse for nothing
and focus on the legislative charge assigned you
receive the citizens’ demands
attend the sessions
ascend the podium
assert your views
hear out your committee chairman
be yourself
and above all
legislate, legislate, legislate
our bed will not feel the void caused by
all those nights you work late, legislating
you will receive a salary
and they will give you bonds and business trips and cell
phones and chauffeurs
and try, my love, not to be corrupted
try to stay honest
because you, Honorable Representative
woman of laws and convictions
our advocate
you are our voice in Congress
although I did not vote for you
forgive me
but I never thought you’d win.

 

Translation by Tanya Huntington Hyde

Pax Animae

In honor of Mexican Independence Day, we present this work by one of Mexico’s most celebratory poets.

09-16 Najera
Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera
Mexican
1859 – 1895

 

Speak not a word of wild, blaspheming grief!
Be proud, be brave, though fallen in the strife,
And gaze, oh poet, with supreme disdain
On all the dark injustices of life!

Thou shalt not seek for constancy in love,
Nor aught eternal from frail mortals ask;
To rear sepuchral monuments on high
From all thy griefs, O artist, be thy task!
Chisel thy statues out of marble white,
Forms chaste of mien, though naked to the air;
And let speech slumber on their sculptured lips;
Let them stand deeply sad, yet silent there.

A name! A sounding echo on the air,
Fleeting and frail, its life a moment’s span!
A dreamer’s foolish idol! Name and fame!
This is the last sad vanity of man.
Why should we justice seek, or clemency.—
If our own comrades here deny our plea—
From the indifference, mute and icy-cold,
Of unknown men, to live in days to be?

Tardy compassion why should we implore
From strangers hid in shadows, one and all?
The echoes sleep within the darksome wood,
And no one, no one answers to our call.

The only consolation in this life
Is to remember happy hours and fair,
And lift our eyes on high to view the skies
When skies are blue or stars are shining there;

To flee the sea, and on the sleeping lake
Enjoy the water’s calm, the peaceful time;
To sleep—to dream—our wizard strong, the Dream,
Is a deceiver holy and sublime!

‘Tis true, alas, that in the honest breast
The fresh wound calls for vengeance and for strife;
But yet—forgive the evil they have done!
All suffer from the malady of life.

The very men who crown themselves with flowers
Are born to sorrow, and to perish, too.
If those you love the most betray your trust,
Forgive them, for they know not what they do!

Perhaps those instincts they inherited,
And they avenge unknowingly to-day
Races that gathered on their hapless heads
All griefs and hatreds ere they passed away.

Are thou perchance the judge—the sinless one?
Do justice and sweet mercy meet in thee?
Ah, who is not a fugitive, that bears
The weight of crimes unpunished, guiltily?

Who has not feigned to love, dared with false vows
Into a maiden’s holy soul to steal?
Who can be sure that he has never killed?
Who is the just man, that may justice deal?

Pity and pardon for all those that live!
So, full of love, in mild and gentle mood,
We shall be tender and compassionate,
And haply, haply, some time shall be good!

Friend, dost thou suffer? Seek thy sweetheart fair
In deathless beauty, free from pain and fear—
Live leaning on thy sadness, as of old
On young Cordelia leaned the wandering Lear.

See, far and farther ebbs the dying day!
How good it is to rest! In shade obscure
The woodland lulls us with a music soft;
Virgin the water is, the air is pure.

Weary, her eyes the light is closing now;
Sad murmors sound, and many a mournful sigh.
The night, descending, to the earth says, ‘Come!
‘Tis over. Go to sleep, and do not cry!’

To recollect—forgive—have loved, believed,
And had brief happiness our hearts to bless,
And soon, grown weary, to recline against
The snowy shoulder of forgetfulness!

To feel forevermore the tenderness
That warmed your youthful bosoms with its flame,
Receiving happiness, if it should come,
Like a glad visit from some beauteous dame;

To hold still hidden that which most we love—
Smiling forgiveness on our lips to keep—
Until at last, O earth! we come to thee
In the complete abandonment of sleep:

This ought to be the life of him who thinks
How transient all things are that meet his eyes,
And, wisely, stops before the wide expanse
Of falsehood’s ocean that around him lies.

Gather the flowers, while there are flowers to pluck;
Forgive the roses for their thorny guise!
Our sorrows also pass away and fly,
Flitting like swarms of dark-winged butterflies.

Love and forgive! Resist with courage strong
The wicked, the unjust, the cowardly.
The silent night, when it settles down,
Pensive and sad, is beautiful to see!

When sorrow dims my spirit, on the heights
I seek for calmness and for shining light.
Upon the frozen summits of my soul
Infinite pity spreads its hue of white.

 

Translated by Alice Stone Blackwell

Poem of a Thousand Faces

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 35th birthday.

Rossy Evelin Lima-Padilla
Mexican
b. 1986

This poem is titled
sailor of the Gulf,
and if I begin to remember
it’s called tiger hand.

When I sit on the floor
thinking of the shoes I used as a little girl
it’s called grandfather of smoke,
It’s also called this
when I find a box
of Raleigh on the floor.

This poem is called the incomplete story,
it’s called returning, the gift of memory.

When I hear the seagull cry
this poem is called blue boat,
it’s called uprooting press mill.

When I think of the future
this poem is called the invincible past,
it’s called knowing myself through your stories.

This poem has a thousand faces
and when I come across it, it tells me,
“There is no fire that burns more than distance”

And the memory sinks its hand in my burning heart.