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.

Rise Up! To Woman

We present this work in honor of the 110th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Sara Estela Ramírez
Mexican
1881 – 1910

 

Rise up! Rise up to life, to activity, to the beauty of truly living; but rise up radiant and powerful, beautiful with qualities, splendid with virtues, strong with energies.

You, the queen of the word, Goddess of universal adoration; you, the sovereign to whom homage is paid, do not confine yourself so to your temple of God, nor to your triumphant courtesan’s chamber.

That is unworthy of you, before Goddess or queen, be a mother, be a woman.

One who is truly a woman is more than a goddess or queen. Do not let the incense on the altar or the applause in the audience intoxicate you, there is something more noble and more grand than all of that.

Gods are thrown out of temples; kings are driven from their thrones, woman is always woman.

Gods live what their followers want. Kings live as long as they are not dethroned; woman always lives and this is the secret of her happiness, to live.

Only action is life; to feel that one lives is the most beautiful sensation.

Rise up, then, to the beauties of life; but rise up so, beautiful with qualities, splendid with virtues, strong with energies.

Dream of Man

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we present this work by one of modern Mexico’s most heartfelt poets.

Margarita Michelena
Mexican
1917 – 1998

 

for Efrain Huerta

You run through the night like a blind fountain,
Like a rich vein of sleeping music.
Your skin—simple forest of touch and dew—
Is the clear reef that limits your dream,
The place where the blood of tumultuous crests
Is met softly by the waiting shore.
—That lovely blood of yours, high and resplendent,
Wearing its necklace of music and sound
Through the hoisted rosebush of your veins.
Singing in the thirsty caverns of your pulse
Its elastic and burning score—.

In you, sleeping man, the world goes breathing,
The dawn is readied, and roses are invented.
Your children are raised up, imminent and beautiful.
They shine beneath your flesh, which asleep,
Is like a great transparent silence.
If you could see yourself on the summit of your dream…
You are not yourself certainly. You are more: a mirror
Of your deepest life, of the great hidden life
Which blind and powerful carries you
In your smallest gestures without anyone seeing it,
In the things you do when walking down the street
With your cruel suit and your eyes open.

Lost among resounding arrows of daylight
You are only a slight seed in the nothingness,
A weak despairing light
Which shines a moment
Between two infinite solitudes and runs toward death.
You feel how collapse already works in your bones.
Installing its irremediable darkness.
Behind the two gloomy vaults of your eyes.
You are always taking leave
Of the fleeting wonder of your flesh,
Looking at its devoured beauty,
Knowing your death grows and grows
Inside you, like an enclosed garden,
Like a dark apple, hanging,
From the tragic and beautiful
Branches of your veins.
And so you go, alone, alone, despairingly abandoned,
Like an infinite widower of your own body.

But when asleep you open like a rose
That is going to die, but that carries within,
In its cloister of active and blind love,
A sweet galaxy of beauty,
A close daughter of its perfume
Which at the same time its mother dies
Repeats her in color and architecture.
In dream your flesh disembarks
As upon an invulnerable continent.
There you can watch those unknown faces
Those that nightly model themselves in you,
That construct their dance and beauty,
The future column of their voices,
The desolate tower of their tears
And the loving snow of their teeth.

What eternity, what mysterious force
Inhabits you when you sleep,
While you are a quiet island
Lost in the ocean of your bed,
And in which musics and bonfires grow,
The infinite fingers of grass
And noisy armies of children
That demand your love and their disaster.

You are what declines, but also the eternal:
The seed in its place, separating itself,
The mystic darkness of the blood.
And there you are, victorious and defeated,
Burned by oils of mystery,
Possessed, undone, carried
By innumerable and future feet,
Your forehead crowned by dark angels,
Your hero’s shoulders wasted on the world
And your body filled with love and moans.

City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in Five Cantos

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 120th birthday.

Manuel Maples Arce
Mexican
1900 – 1981

 

I

To the workers of Mexico

Here’s my brutal
and multispirited
poem
to the new city.

O city all tense
with cables and with efforts,
all resounding
with motors and with wings.

Simultaneous explosion
of new theories,
a bit further
On the spatial plane
from Whitman and from Turner
and a bit closer
to Maples Arce.

The lungs of Russia
blow the wind
of social revolution toward us.
Literary zipper-robbers
will understand nothing
of this new sweaty
beauty of the century,
and the ripe
moons
that fell,
are this putrefaction
that reaches us
from intellectual sewage pipes.
Here’s my poem:
O city strong
and manifold,
made all of iron and of steel!

Docks. Inner harbors.
Cranes.
And the sexual fever
of industrial plants.
Metropolis:
Bodyguards of trams
that traverse the subversivist streets.
Window displays accost sidewalks,
and the sun, it sacks the avenues.
On the fringes of the tariffed
days of telephone posts
momentary landscapes file
through systems of elevator tubes.

Suddenly,
O the green
flash of her eyes!

Beneath the ingenuous shutters of the hour
pass red battalions.
The cannibal romanticism of Yankee music
has gone making its nests in the masts.
O international city!
Toward what remote meridian
cut that ocean liner?
I feel that everything moves away.

Aged dusks
float among the masonry of the scene.
Spectral trains that travel
toward far
away, panting with civilizations.

The upset multitude
sloshes musically in the streets.

And now, the bourgeois thieves, they will lie down to tremble
for the fortunes
that robbed the town,
but someone concealed beneath their dreams
the spiritual music staff of the explosive.

Here’s my poem:
Pennants of hurrahs into the wind,
inflamed heads of hair
and captive mornings in eyes.

O musical
city
all made of mechanical rhythms!

Tomorrow, perhaps,
only the vivid light of my verses
will illuminate the humiliated horizons.

II

This new profoundness of the scene
is a projection toward interior mirages.

The resounding crowd
today overruns the communal plazas
and the triumphal hurrahs
of obregonismo
reverberate from the façades to the sun.

O romantic girl
flare-up of gold!

Maybe between my hands
only living moments remained.
Landscapes dressed in yellow
fell asleep behind the windowpanes,
and the city, rapt,
has remained trembling in the rigging.
Applauses are that barrier.

—Oh God!
—Never fear, it’s the romantic wave of the multitudes.
Afterward, over the overflows of silence,
the Tarahumara night will go expanding.
Extinguish your shop windows.
Within the machinery of insomnia,
lust, are millions of eyes
that smear themselves on flesh.

A steel bird
has emprowed its aim toward a star
The port:
inflamed distances,
smoke of industrial plants.
Over clotheslines of music
her remembrance suns itself.
A transatlantic farewell leapt from the gunwale.

Motors sing
over the dead panorama.

III

The afternoon, riddled with windows,
floats on the wires of the telephone,
and between the
inverse crossings of the hour
the farewells of the machines hang. One morning his

wonderful youth
exploded
between my fingers,
and in the empty water
of the mirrors,
the forgotten faces were shipwrecked.

Oh the poor trade union city
scattered
with cheers and screams!

The workers
are red
and yellows.

There is a flourishing of pistols
after the springboard of the speeches,
and while the lungs
of the wind
are suppurated,
lost in the dark corridors of the music
some white bride leaves off.

IV

Among copses of silence
darkness licks the blood of dusk.
Fallen stars,
they are dead birds
in the dreamless water
of the mirror.

And the resounding
artilleries of the Atlantic
waned,
finally,
in the distance.

Over the rigging of autumn,
a nocturnal wind blows:
it is the wind of Russia,
of the great tragedies,
and the garden,
yellow,
founders in shadow.
Her recollection, sudden,
it crackles in muted interiors.

Her golden words
sift in my memory.

Rivers of blue shirts
overflow the floodgates of industrial plants,
and agitator trees
gesticulate their discourses on the sidewalk.
The strikers fling
insults and blows with stones,
and life, it is a tumultuous
conversion to the left.

On the edges of the pillow,
night, it is a precipice;
and insomnia,
it has remained rummaging in my brain.

From whom are those voices
that float in shadow?

And these trains that howl
to devastated horizons.

The soldiers
will spend this night in the inferno.

My God!
And from all this disaster
only a few white
pieces
of her recollection,
they have kept me within her hands.

V

The savage hordes of the night
lie down over the frightened city.

The bay,
flowering
with masts and moons,
spills
over the ingenuous
music score of her hands,
and the distant scream
of a steamboat,
toward the Nordic seas.

Goodbye
to the shipwrecked continent!

Between the wires of her name
remain feathers of birds.

Poor Celia Maria Dolores;
the scene is inside us.
Beneath hatchet blows of silence
iron architectures are devastated.
There are waves of blood and storm clouds of hatred.

Desolation.

The marijuana discourses
of legislators
splattered her remembrance with droppings,
but,
her tenderness has fallen headlong
on the multitudes of my soul.

Ocotlán
there, far away.
Voices.

Impacts peck about
trenches.

All night lust stoned
balconies under cover of a virginity.

Shrapnel
makes pieces of silence sound.

Resounding
and deserted streets,
they are rivers of shadow
that go into the sea,
and the sky, frayed,
is the new
flag
that flutters
over the city.

To Her Portrait

We present this work in honor of the 325th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Mexican
1651 – 1695

 

This that you see, the false presentment planned
With finest art and all the colored shows
And reasonings of shade, doth but disclose
The poor deceits by earthly senses fanned!
Here where in constant flattery expand
Excuses for the stains that old age knows,
Pretexts against the years’ advancing snows,
The footprints of old seasons to withstand;

‘Tis but vain artifice of scheming minds;
‘Tis but a flower fading on the winds;
‘Tis but a useless protest against Fate;
‘Tis but stupidity without a thought,
A lifeless shadow, if we meditate;
‘Tis death, tis dust, tis shadow, yea, ‘tis nought.

O.

Elena Garro
Mexican
1916 – 1998

 

All year is winter next to you,
King Midas of the snow.
The swallow hidden in the hair
fled.
The tongue did not produce any more rivers
passing through cathedrals nor eucalyptus
in the towers.
Through the crack the blue wave fled
at whose center swayed the dove.

The white sky descended to drown
the trees.
The bed is the glacier that devours
the dreams.
The ice dagger appeared
to meticulously sever
the small beauty that I defend.

The sun moves further away each day
from my orbit.
There is only winter next to you,
friend.

To the River of Cosamaloapam

Manuel Carpio
Mexican
1791 – 1860

 

Mighty and enchanting river
Which irrigates the meadows of my village,
Who could weep upon thy shores
In the cold rays of the round moon?

At night in my agitated delirium
I seem to view thy groves of palms,
Thy flowering clustered orange trees,
And thy dew covered lilies.

Who would ever deign to glance
Upon that lovely, modest home of mine,
Where I was born, like the bird of the bower?

But thy waters flow at present
Over the ruins, alas! of that home
Where I passed my happy childhood.