The Song by the Way

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 160th birthday.

Francisco A. de Icaza
Mexican
1863 – 1925

 

A solitary pilgrim I,
Through foreign lands I stray;
Yet am I not alone—my song
Goes with me all the way.

And if the night around be black.
I make it bright as day;
I sing, and then the song lights up.
The darkness of the way.

I do not sigh for weariness,
However far I stray;
The heavenly staff of song makes short
The long, out-stretching way.

Ah, sad indeed that pilgrim’s fate
Who goes alone all day
Nor has for comrade of his march
A song along the way!

Translation by Alice Stone Blackwell

To the Admirable Transubstantiation of the Roses Into the Marvelous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe… the Roses Vanquish the Phoenix

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

Luis de Sandoval y Zapata
Mexican
d. 1671

 

The Luminary of the Birds expires,
of the wind that winged eternity,
and midst the vapors of the monument
burns a sweet-smelling victim of the pyre.

And now in mighty metamorphosis
behold a shroud, with every flower more bright;
in the Cerecloth, reasonable essence,
the vegetable amber dwells and breathes.

The colours of Our Lady they portray;
and from these shades the day in envy flies
when the sun upon them shines his light.

You die more fortunate than the Phoenix, flowers;
for he, feathered to rise, in ashes dies;
but you, Our Blessed Lady to become.

Translation by Samuel Beckett

To Glory

Salvador Diaz Miron
Mexican
1853 – 1928

 

Don’t try to talk me out of clumsiness
with the delusions of your crazy mind:
my reason is both light and firmness,
firmness and light like rock crystal.

Like the nocturnal pilgrim,
my immortal hope does not look at the ground;
seeing nothing but a shadow on the road,
only contemplate the splendor of the sky.

Vain are the images that it carries
your child spirit, dark sanctuary.
Your soul, like gold on the mountain,
it is virginal and therefore impure.

Through this twitching vortex,
and eager to shine, I fly or crawl,
caterpillar in love with a spark
or eagle seduced by a star.

Useless is that with tenacious murmur
you exaggerate the set in which I get entangled:
I am haughty, and he who encourages pride
wears a buckler impenetrable to fear.

Trusting the instinct that pushes me,
I despise the dangers you point out.
“The bird sings even though the branch creaks:
like he knows what his wings are.”

Erect under the blow in the stubbornness,
I feel superior to victory.
I have faith in myself; adversity could
take away the triumph, but not the glory.

Let the vile pursue me!
I want to attract envy even if it overwhelms me!
The flower on which insects perch
It is rich in hue and perfume.

Evil is the theater in whose forum
virtue, that tragic, stands out;
is the sibyl with the golden word,
the shadow that makes the star stand out.

Lighting is burning! I’m on
It will be the raging fire that consumes me!
The pearl sprouts from the wounded mollusk
and Venus is born from the bitter foam.

The clear timbres of which I am proud
they must come out of the slander unscathed.
There are plumages that cross the swamp
and they don’t stain… My plumage is one of those!

Strength is that my passion suffers! The Palm
it grows on the shore that the waves whip.
Merit is the castaway of the soul:
live, sink; but dead, float!

Let go of your frown and let your voice lull me to sleep!
Comfort the heart of the one who loves you!
God said to the water of the torrent: it boils!
and to the river of the margin: embalm!

Make up, woman! We have come
to this valley of tears that brings down,
you, like the dove, for the nest,
and I, like the lion, for combat.

The Lives of Poets

Jose Emilio Pacheco
Mexican
1939 – 2014

 

In poetry there’s no happy ending.
Poets end up
living their madness.
And they’re quartered like cattle
(it happened to Darío).
Or they’re stoned or wind up
flinging themselves to the sea or with cyanide
salts in their mouths.
Or dead from alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty.
Or worse: canonical poets,
bitter inhabitants of a tomb
entitled Complete Works.

Translation by Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez

Invitation to a Landscape

Carlos Pellicer
Mexican
1897 – 1977

 

To pose in my hand – I invite the landscape,
invite it to call itself into question,
and then give to it a dream of abyss for ingestion,
in the spiral hand of heavens with a human shape.

That by loosening the moorings in the river
the mountain to its marbles will speak
so that a frozen sigh leading to its peak
might hold the worth of fruit in a double summer.

To the cloud, I might proselytize
the risks posed by height and morning light,
then argue that the low tide is not on the rise,
but rather every hour, set alight.

To make a shadow tame
within a rosebush, at its very gut
(To add to love what is subtracted on its name
and feed the remains to a dovecote of naught).

What if the sea might abandon its pearls
and then step out its shell… !
What would happen to these frothy swirls
if instead of splashing all over, they lay forgotten?

Who knows if the stone
that at every turn is a wonder,
to join the exact exedra would be prone,
fountain-garden-love-tumbler.

What if the benign lane
that comes, goes and is, becomes impassable
on account of a blunder without aim:
a magnetic waterfall that rendered it pliable.

Will the trees be able to put in motion
all their elementary schools of chirping?
(I feel my desires go mixing and mingling
Like townspeople at a wedding celebration).

Over there, the river is a boy, but it is a man here,
One that gathers dark leaves in a creek.
Everybody calls him by his name, without sneer
and strokes him like a dog, one that is meek.

Which season should my guests
want to get off at? In autumn or in springtime?
Or will they wait till the foliage speaks of harvests
like an angel announcing apples at its prime?

And when the guests
finally arrive – within myself –, the gentleness
to which every corner of my being attests
shall leave them alone and, as a sign of happiness,
will show a set of ten fingers that rests
untouched
but
by
poetry,
alone.

Translation by Andrea Acle-Kreysing

Rain in the Night

Homero Aridjis
Mexican
b. 1940

 

It rains in the night
on the old roofs and the wet streets

on the black hills
and on the temples in the dead cities

In the dark I hear the ancestral music of the rain
its ancient footfall its dissolving voice

More rapid than the dreams of men
the rain makes roads through the air

makes trails through the dust
longer than the footstep of men.

Tomorrow we will die
die twice over

Once as individuals
a second time as a species

and between the bolts of lightning and the white seeds
scattered through the shadows

there’s time for a complete examination of conscience
time to tell the human story

It rains
It will rain in the night

but on the wet streets and black hills
there will be no one to hear rain fall

Translation by George McWhirter

Fraternal Inscription

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

Margarita Michelena
Mexican
1917 – 1998

 

I

I have not come to say goodbye, sister,
Although surroundings affirm your death.
One evidence of you has been cancelled,
One only: your body,
That indication that united and contained you
—dark net of time—
Like the closed womb of the flower imprisons
Its immortal family and in a precise dream
Prepares its face of constant splendors.
A certain morning, a finger of air
Touches the arranged wall,
Penetrates the heanvenly armor,
Mocks mirrors.
Alone, naked now,
Lacking a foundation
For its house of aromas,
The tiny fist enlarges
Its secret energies,
Tears up its mystery
And gives the wind everything it has:
A laughing border of earth’s gown,
A certainty of beauty.
There it will have for the eye only a long silence.
And beyond, working in the spring,
Green living memories, May vocations.

So I’m thinking of you now,
Thus I explain your passage,
That’s how I know you have left
One of your appearances,
Left your summer hair,
Left your smile and your flashing openness,
Left your eyes
Where the sea, in morning dress,
Laughed wave by wave and tossed off
Gentle flashes of foam.

Now you multiply in warm hollows
In gardens of sweet humidities,
In places of tenderness,
In fields ringing with clover and bees,
In time-lapses of blood,
In circles of shadow softening the midday,
In stones warmed by afternoon sun.

You shall return voices of child, cheek of girl,
Tree of double kingdom—roots
In hidden tasks,
Music in the happy madness of the breezes—.
By fruit and grasses you shall make your way
And you shall draw near in their fragrance.
You shall be the company the recluse meets
Passing through the midnight of his soul
And through one of these walls rising in the field
And upon which moss installs its long softnesses.
You shall be that born by groan and happiness
And shall be in the joy of violated bone.

You shall come in each spiraling trill,
In each thing morning returns to us,
In the shy mirror of the poplar leaf,
In the dry and happy whisper of wings,
In the child who leaves with a kiss on its brow:
You knew beforehand the dawn’s occupation.

II

Goodbye to the sad ones, the obscure.
Not to you, sister.
To live as you did was to deny death,
To see a plant thrive on bare rock.
Goodbye to the closed one, to the dried.
Never goodbye to the rain.
Till soon. Till soon.
Until a child’s radiance.
Until a rose.

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