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.

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.

Paroxysm

We present this work in honor of the 40th anniversary of the poet’s death.

06-26 Arce
Manuel Maples Arce
Mexican
1900 – 1981

Road of other dreams we leave with the afternoon;
A strange adventure
He defiled us in the bliss of the flesh,
And the heart fluctuates
Between her and the desolation of the journey.

In the agglomeration of the platforms
The sobs broke suddenly;
After, all night
Below my dreams,
I hear their moans
And his entreaties.

The train is a blast of iron
Which sweeps the landscape and moves everything.

I apologize for your memory
All the way
Of ecstasy,
And beat in the chest
The distant colors of his eyes.

Today we will spend the fall
And the prairies shall be yellow.

I shudder for her!
Absence uninhabited horizons!

Tomorrow will be everything
Cloudy from your tears
And the life that comes
It is weak as a breath.

Because of This Modest Style

We present this work in honor of the 100th anniversary of the poet’s death.

06-19-Velarde
Ramón López Velarde
Mexican
1888 – 1921

 

It’s how she spreads, without a sound, her scent
of orange blossom on the dark of me,
it is the way she shrouds in mourning black
her mother-of-pearl and ivory, the way
she wears the lace ruff at her throat, and how
she turns her face, quite voiceless, self-possessed,
because she takes the language straight to heart,
is thrifty with the words she speaks.
                                                              It’s how
she is so reticent yet welcoming
when she comes out to face my panegyrics,
the way she says my name
mocking and mimicking, makes gentle fun,
yet she’s aware that my unspoken drama
is really of the heart, though a little silly;
it’s how, when night is deep and at its darkest,
we linger after dinner, vaguely talking
and her laughing smile grows fainter and then falls
gently on the tablecloth; it’s the teasing way
she won’t give me her arm and then allows
deep feeling to come with us when we walk out,
promenading on the hot colonial boulevard. . .

Because of this, your sighing, modest style
of love, I worship you, my faithful star
who like to cloud yourself about in mourning,
generous, hidden blossom; kindly
mellowness who have presided over
my thirty years with the self-denying singleness
a vase has, whose half-blown roses wreathe with scent
the headboard of a convalescent man;
cautious nurse, shy
serving maid, dear friend who trembles
with the trembling of a child when you revise
the reading that we share; apprehensive, always timid
guest at the feast I give; my ally,
humble dove that coos when it is morning
in a minor key, a key that’s wholly yours.

May you be blessed, modest, magnificent;
you have possessed the highest summit of my heart,
you who are at once the artist
of lowly and most lofty things, who bear in your hands
my life as if it was your work of art!

O star and orange blossom, may you dwindle
gently rocked in an unwedded peace,
and may you fade out like a morning star
which the lightening greenness of a meadow darkens
or like a flower that finds transfiguration
on the blue west, as it might on a simple bed.

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.