January 12, 2009
Antonio Gamoneda's Georgics
[Below is my translation of Georgics, the first section of Antonio Gamoneda's book Libro del Frío (Book of Cold.) Gamoneda, born May 30th 1931, was winner of the Cervantes Prize in 2006 and it is difficult to overstate how largely he glowers over the world of Spanish and Latin American poetry, though he is little known in the U.S. He was born in Oviedo but by the time he was three lived in León, and has lived there ever since. The town and its landscape figure greatly in his poetry, both aesthetically and as it was there where he saw Franco's repression first hand, during the Spanish Civil war.
I will follow next month with another section from the book and a short essay on translating Gamoneda.
Please bear in mind that individual poems begin and end between -----------. They are two, sometimes one sentence poems that each receive their own page. For space and blogging comfort, I have smushed them.]
It is cold by the springs. I climbed until my heart was tired.
There is black grass on the hillside and purplish lilies in the shade, but ¿what am I doing before the abyss?
Under the soundless eagles, immensity lacks meaning.
Between the dung and lightning bolt, I hear the shepherd’s cry.
There is still light on the sparrowhawk’s wings as I climb down to the damp pyres.
I have heard the snow’s bell, I have seen purity’s fungus, I have created oblivion.
Faced with the vineyards scalded by winter, I think on fear and light (a single substance in my eyes,)
I think about the rain and the distances cut through by wrath.
A forest opens in the memory and the scent of resin to the heart is useful. I saw beads of sweat and insects in sweetness;
then, twilight in her eyes;
then, thistles simmering in the rye and the exhaustion of birds being harried by the light.
This house was devoted to labor and death.
Inside, nettles are spreading and the flowers weigh upon the wood harassed by the rain.
The body shines in the long hallway, before the wicker latticework and cupboards meant for quinces and shade.
Suddenly, wailing sets the stables ablaze.
A neighbor washes the funeral clothes and her arms are white in the water and the night.
Over the dungheaps of herds, I climb and lie under the musical oaks.
Doves shuttle back and forth between my body and the twilight, the wind dies down and the shadows are damp.
Solitary weeds, black doves: I have finally arrived; this is not my place, but I’ve arrived.
Mares, ripe in the phosphorescence. I remember the fear and joy in my hair dented by lightning; then, water and oblivion.
Sometimes I see the hills glowing over the great machinery of sorrow.
Strangeness, refulgence: the motionless sparrowhawk, the tumbleweed’s mane, and, over the water, my hands in the blackberry bramble.
I put the black fruits in my mouth and their sweetness is otherworldly,
like my thoughts demolished by the light.
I saw calm in the eyes of cattle meant for the knives of industry, I saw it in the horses paralyzed by sorrow;
then, limestone, its light inside the elderly, and the great cracks the lamentations live in.
I stretch my body out over the wood cracked by tears, I smell linseed and shadows.
Ah, morphine in my heart: I sleep with open eyes before a landscape white and abandoned by words.
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