Friday, February 1, 2013

Dulce María Loynaz, translated by Rebecca Seiferle



Fountains shine in the moonlight
as if they were long diamond chains:
Fountains laugh in shadow. And they entwine
and cross and sparkle, sketching the radiant
scrawls of the stars.

The water has to be clenched tightly
to rise pure and high. A shiver of spray
dissolves in the air; turns around to unite,
then falls, opening in slow feathered fans. . .

But it will not go far. . .This is somnambulant water
that dances and travels on the edge of a dream,
exhausted from fleeing horizons, through landscapes
that don’t exist. Blown from a little faucet.

           Water of seven veils, undressing yourself, but never
naked! When will you gush to rupture the marble
brooch that pins you, and finally for an instant
burst out to pierce like a sword, the Night!


And in the beginning was water:
                          A raucous water,
without the breath of fishes, without shores
to clasp it tightly. . .
Water was first,
on a world being born of the hand
of God

         Water was.
the earth
hadn’t appeared among the waves,
still the earth
was only a bland and trembling mud. . .
There wasn’t a flower of moons nor clusters
of islands. . . In the womb
of the young water continents were gestating. . .

         To dawn of the world, to leave
the world!
         To extinguish ultimate fires!
What a sea crying beneath the black sky!

First was water.


When we go to the sea
I’ll tell you my secret. . .
My secret resembles
the wave and the salt.
When we go to the sea
I’ll tell you without words:
For beneath the quiet water,
blurred and fugitive,
my secret will pass by
like the water’s reflection
like a branch of seaweed
among flowers of crystal. . .

When we go to the sea
I’ll tell you my secret:
It envelops me, but is not wave. . .
It embitters me, but is not salt. . .


You are a window to the sea: Window
to the closed sea. . . .

                        Behind your close leaves
is the sea to the white moon, the grain
to the potent sun. . . Grey, to the dawn; with star
points, with a ship in the distance. . .
The sea where it goes away and returns, or
returns no more! The green hopeful sea!
The sea sparkles, the sea sings! The seagoing birds
come from
the furthest distance and at these hours
in tumultuous flocks. . .
They touch the shore!
                    You. Closed door.
You have the sea behind you and you don’t know it. . .


Dark-faced sailor, carry me away
in your ship tonight. . . And don’t tell me
where we’re going! I want to travel without direction:
We’ll leave behind on land the intrigues
of hope and the accomplices of memory. . .
And we’ll give ourselves to the sea! How the wind
pushes our boat wherever it wishes
while the full moon strikes a moment
on your dark face! How the waves
carry us and return to us many days
and many nights! To sail without direction
like slow and shadowy clouds!

Like clouds. . . Among mists,
by mysterious seas, below white
skies and infinite solitudes,
to sail without fear and without longing. . .

Dark-faced sailor, never
tell me where I’m going nor when I’ll arrive:

What do they matter to me now, the route or the hour!
You are like destiny, mute and blind,
when I, facing the sea, my eyes wandering,
rising in the night, feel a light
and languid emotion for the faraway
unknown shore that awaits me. . .


Today I’ve felt the whole river
in my arms . . . I’ve felt it
in my arms, tremulous and alive
as the body of a green man. . .

This morning the river has been
mine: I lifted it up from the old
willow. . . How eagerly I gulped it down!
The river had weight. . .The river throbbed
bruised with
shamelessness. . . -Cold fever
of water. . .: It left in my mouth
a bitter taste of love and death. . .


This mirror hanging on the wall,
where sometimes I look at myself passing by. . .
is a dead pond that has been carried
into the house.
The mirror is the corpse of a pond.
Water, unmoving and rigid, that yet preserves
inside herself, colors,
of sun, of shadow. . . edges of moving
horizons, from life that burns and travels
about and returns and never
burns up. . . Vague
reminiscence that coagulates in glass
and cannot return to the distant
earth where they uprooted the pond,
still whites
of moon and jasmine, still tremors
of rains and birds, their waters. . .
This is water domesticated by death;
It’s a ghost
of a living water that will sparkle one day,
free in the world, lukewarm, exposed to sun. . .
Open to the happy wind that makes it
dance! The water
dances no more; won’t imitate
the daily sun. Hardly if the withered ray
that filters through the window
reaches it.
In what cold did they freeze you so often
vertical pond, that you won’t gush
onto the carpet, that you don’t spill
into the room,
your remote landscapes and your spectral
light? Grey crystallized water,
my mirror where sometimes
I see myself
so faraway, that I fear remaining
over there, within, forever… Detached
from my self, lost in that mud
of the ashes of extinguished stars. . .


Dulce María Loynaz (1902-1997) was one of Cuba's most important, and most honored, poets, a recipient, among other honors, of the Premio Miguel de Cervantes and the Premio Federico García Lorca. Her books include Poemas sin nombre (1953), Últimos días de una casa and Un verano en Tenerife (both 1958), Poesías escogidas (1984), Bestiarium (1991), and Fe de vida (1994). Juego de agua, her first book, was published in 1947.


© Melissa Buckheit

Rebecca Seiferle is the author of four prize-winning collections of poetry, most recently Wild Tongue, (Copper Canyon, 2007). Her other books include Ripped-Out Seam (Sheep  Meadow, 1993), The Music We Dance To (Sheep Meadow, 1998), and Bitters (Copper Canyon, 2001), as well as translations of two books by César Vallejo, Trilce (Sheep Meadow, 1992) and The Black Heralds (Copper Canyon, 2003). She is the Founding Editor of the online international poetry journal Drunken Boat. She lives in Tucson, AZ, where she was recently appointed Tucson's Poet Laureate.

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