Friday, December 30, 2016

Pablo Neruda: Casi fuera del cielo/ Almost Out of the Sky

Casi fuera del cielo ancla entre dos montañas 
la mitad de la luna.
Girante, errante noche, la cavadora de ojos.
A ver cuántas estrellas trizadas en la charca.

Hace una cruz de luto entre mis cejas, huye.
Fragua de metales azules, noches de las calladas luchas,
mi corazón da vueltas como un volante loco.
Niña venida de tan lejos, traída de tan lejos,
a veces fulgurece su mirada debajo del cielo.
Quejumbre, tempestad, remolino de furia,
cruza encima de mi corazón, sin detenerte.
Viento de los sepulcros acarrea, destroza, dispersa tu raíz soñolienta.
Desarraiga los grandes árboles al otro lado de ella.
Pero tú, clara niña, pregunta de humo, espiga.
Era la que iba formando el viento con hojas iluminadas.
Detrás de las montañas nocturnas, blanco lirio de incendio,
ah nada puedo decir! Era hecha de todas las cosas.

Ansiedad que partiste mi pecho a cuchillazos,
es hora de seguir otro camino, donde ella no sonría.
Tempestad que enterró las campanas, turbio revuelo de tormentas
para qué tocarla ahora, para qué entristecerla.

Ay seguir el camino que se aleja de todo,
donde no esté atajando la angustia, la muerte, el invierno,
con sus ojos abiertos entre el rocío.

Pablo Neruda

Almost Out of the sky

Almost out of the sky half moon
lies at anchor between two mountains.
Spinning, wandering night, excavator of eyes. 
To see so many stars smashed to shards in the tarn.

She brands a cross of mourning between my brows, then flees.
Forge of blue metals, nights of silenced struggles--
my heart turns madly like a flywheel.

Little one come from so far away, brought from so far away,
at times your gaze flashes forth from the sky.
Plaint, tempest, fury's whirlpool--flares over my heart
with no stopping you.

Wind of sepulchers wafts, obliterates, scatters your sleeping core,
uproots huge trees to the other side of her.
But you, cloudless girl, question mark of smoke, spike of wheat
were she who went about shaping the wind with brightly lit leaves.
Behind the night mountains, a white iris of fire--
Ah! I can say nothing aright—of all that exists!

The unease--that you shared out my heart at knifepoint.
It is time to follow another road, where she might not smile madly.
Tempest that drowned out bells, great roiled stir of storms--
to what purpose touch her now, to what purpose sadden her?

Ay--to follow the road that distances from all,
on which she may not be sensible of anguish, of death, of winter,
with eyes wide in the dew.

Tr. E.A.C.

E. A. Costa 30 December, 2016 Granada. Nicaragua.
N. B: Poem 11 of 20 Poemas de amor y una canción desesperada.
 Note the cryptotype of “si fuera el cielo” (if it were heaven)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

H. D.(Hilda Doolittle): Mysteries Remain/ Misterios permanecen

Mysteries Remain

The mysteries remain,
I keep the same cycle of seed-time and of sun and rain;
Demeter in the grass,
I multiply, renew and bless
Bacchus in the vine;
I hold the law,
I keep the mysteries true, the first of these to name the living, dead;
I am the wine and bread.

I keep the law,
I hold the mysteries true,
I am the vine, the branches, you, and you

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Misterios Permanecen

Los misterios permanecen,
Llevo el ritmo del mismo ciclo de la siembra y del sol y de la lluvia;
Demeter en la hierba,
Multiplico, renuevo y bendigo
A Baco en la vid;
Sostengo la ley,
Mantengo los misterios como verdaderos, el primero es denominar los vivos y los muertos;
Soy el vino y el pan.

Mantengo la ley,
Sostengo los misterios como verdaderos,
Soy la vid, los brotes, tú, y tú.

Tr. E. A. C.

E. A. Costa    December 28, 2016   Granada, Nicaragua
N.B.: (1) from Sea Garden (1916); (2) Compare Genesis 8.22: cunctis diebus terrae
sementis et messis frigus et aestus aestas et hiemps nox et dies non requiescent.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Mirror-Bearer/ El portador del espejo

If a
glass could
mirror this
morning it
would be
sweet sea
east of Granada—
and today windless, still, and placid.
Brought low by drought, it drank
a seasonful of rain
and once again is fat
and sleek as an owl in
a hundred shades of gray.
Across to the other shore
stared back the mountains of Boaco and Chontales.
Above, His Royal Highness Sky and below and at his feet,
loyal servitor seconding every glance, the Mirror-Bearer Lake.

E. A. Costa

El Portador del Espejo

Si un
reflejar esta
mañana él
sería Coci-
bolca, mar
dulce al
este de Granada--
y hoy sin viento, inmóvil, y plácido.
Caído bajo por la sequía, ha bebido una temporada
de lluvia y de nuevo es
gordo y luminoso como
un buho de cien matices
de color gris. Sobre el 
lago a otra orilla se 
quedan mirando las montañas de Boaco y Chontales. Arriba
 estaban Su Alteza Real El Cielo y abajo a sus pies el servidor leal que
secunda cada mirada lanzada, el Portador del Espejo El Lago.


E. A. Costa        November 5, 2016        Granada, Nicaragua
N.B.: (1) Cocibolca is the local name for Lake Nicaragua, also known as Lake Granada, meaning in Nahuatl, “the sweet sea” (el mar dulce) where the “sweet” denotes fresh water as opposed to salt. (2) The Mirror-Bearer is the Mayan factotum that carried a mirror for the Prince or King to gaze into. Often a dwarf or a small carved figure, as here:

from a Wall Street Journal Article available here:

Mirrors, of metal, ore, polished obsidian and such are a distinctive and transcultural artifact of Meso-American cultures. Though probably used at times for cosmetics, the principal use for mirrors was religious and spiritual and was shared by many of the tribes in the area, including both Aztecs and Mayas, from Mexico in the North to Guatemala and further south where Maya also reached. The mirror was considered a channel to a spiritual realm that could not otherwise be seen, and perhaps also with properties of an amulet. Warriors, for example, wore mirrors on the small of the back. Mirrors were also identified with water and with the sun. In many carvings eyes are inset mirrors as are pools of water. A rare surviving wood carving of a Mayan Mirror-Bearer is available here:

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Emily Dickinson: The Sky Is Low--The Clouds Are Mean... / El Cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes...

The Sky is low — the Clouds are mean.
A Travelling Flake of Snow
Across a Barn or through a Rut
Debates if it will go —

A Narrow Wind complains all Day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like Us is sometimes caught
Without her Diadem.

Emily Dickinson

El cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes... 

El cielo es bajo, malvadas son las nubes.
Un copo viajante de nieve considera
si a través del granero o por una rodera
se irá.

Todo el díá se queja el viento estrecho
sobre cómo por alguien era maltratado.
Como nosotros, no coronada se puede atrapar


E. A. Costa October 30, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua
N. B.: This poem (1075) of Dickinson is, on the one hand, a close to perfect illustration of John Ruskin's pathetic fallacy—and that surely intentionally--and, on the other, a subtle and ironic reversal of it, then itself reversed. In his Modern Painters, a book Dickinson much admired, Ruskin defined the so-called fallacy (here meaning falseness) thus: “All violent feelings...produce impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as 'The Pathetic Fallacy'.” Here Dickinson plays with the idea, with among other things masterly ambiguity, where a “low” sky and “mean” clouds can be perfectly and scientifically descriptive, while even the howl of the wind may sound querulous. Anyone who has lived in New England for any time will recognize just such mean and low days, especially in late Fall or early Spring, in which even the wind seems to have something to complain about. Importantly, Ruskin did not discountenance the use of the pathetic fallacy, as long as it was not false, that is, did not falsely attribute to nature attributes that were genuinely the subjective effect of pathos in the observer. Dickinson here expands the figure not to something violently pathetic, but to the observation that both human beings and nature have undiademed days, ordinary and mean, when they are not at their best. The clincher here is the snowflake, potentially a more than ordinary or mean image, especially being singular, which cannot make up its mind which way to go off, thus mirroring the Ruskin's “web of hesitant sentiment, pathetic fallacy, and wandering fancy”, alloyed with “all manner of purposeful play and conceit” (also in Modern Painters)--which is almost an exact description of Dickinson, at work and play and feeling in and on this poem. To say that the poem is ironic and playful, which clearly it is, is not to discount seriousness and sadness--here with Dickinson herself, in one role at least, as the snowflake, and also solitary and unwed, thus balancing against one another the two necessary levels of all irony, surface and underlying meaning.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Silence (to Álvaro Urtecho)/ Silencio (a Álvaro Urtecho)


                    To Álvaro Urtecho*

The whisperer:
who speaks low,
who murmurs mute,
whose haunting breath rustles
in the syrinx of the blackest cave,
the one whose curving fingers
create space and murder time.

E. A. Costa

                 a Álvaro Urtecho*

El susurrador
quien habla bajo,
quien murmura mudo,
cuyo aliento cruje en la siringa
y embruja la cueva más negra,
él cuyos dedos en curva
crean el espacio y asesinan el tiempo.  


E. A. Costa     October 27, 2016    Granada, Nicaragua
N.B.: *Álvaro Urtecho (1951-2007), poeta  nicaragüense

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unutterance/ Inelocución

To the left
on a wooden table
the computer screen
white with what was
an hour or so ago
blank page.

To the right
an open patio
of tropic night
before the rain
with clouds
in small
bursts of lightning
and low warning
snarls of thunder.

The light flickers
like butterflies
or fluttering
flowers of milk.

The sound rolls on
and there is no sense.

E. A. Costa


A la izquierda
sobre una mesa
de madera la pantalla
blanca del ordenador
con lo que era
hace una hora o más
una página en blanco.

A la derecha
un patio frente
a la noche trópica
antes de la lluvia
con nubes que tiemblan
en ráfagas pequeñas
de relámpago
y gruñidos de aviso
de truenos.

La luz parpadea
como mariposas
o flores de leche
que revolotean.

El sonido sigue rodando
y no hay ningún sentido.


E. A. Costa October 27, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Théophile Gautier: Sérénade/ Serenade/ Serenata

Sur le balcon où tu te penches
Je veux monter... efforts perdus!
Il est trop haut, et tes mains blanches
N'atteignent pas mes bras tendus.

Pour déjouer ta duègne avare,
Jette un collier, un ruban d'or ;
Ou des cordes de ta guitare
Tresse une échelle, ou bien encor...

Ôte tes fleurs, défais ton peigne,
Penche sur moi tes cheveux longs,
Torrent de jais dont le flot baigne
Ta jambe ronde et tes talons.

Aidé par cette échelle étrange,
Légèrement je gravirai,
Et jusqu'au ciel, sans être un ange,
Dans les parfums je monterai!

Théophile Gautier


I want to scale the balcony
over which you lean—a waste of energy!
It is too high and your candent hands
won't reach my outstretched arms.

Thwart your stingy chaperone
and throw me your necklace,
a golden yellow ribbon,
or from guitar strings
plait a ladder, or once more...

Release the flowers from your hair,
undo your comb and send down upon me
the long jet-black tresses whose waterfall
cascades over shapely legs and heels.

By such droll aid ascending
I'll waft up airily and, with no need
to be angelic, will mount right up
to heaven in your scent.



Al balcón sobre que te estás inclinando
quiero subir—¡Esfuerzo en vano!
Es demasiado alto, y tus manos cándidas
no pueden alcanzar mis brazos levantados.

Para desbaratar a tu dueña avara,
échame un collar, una cinta de oro;
o con las cuerdas de tu guitarra
trenza una escalera de nudos, o otra vez...

Quita las flores, deshaz el peine,
y sobre mí deja caer tu melena,
cuya cascada azabache baña
tus piernas torneadas y talones.

Por esta escala extraña,
ligeramente subiré,
y sin ser un ángel, hasta el cielo
ascenderé en tu perfume!


E. A. Costa October 25, 2016 Granada, Nicaragua
N.B.: The poem is from Gautier's España and is many-layered, with
a hint of the ingenuity of the poets and troupadours of  Provençal 
applied to the Spanish serenade. The first hint of even deeper drollery
are the lady's guitar strings (cordes de ta guitare) which are proper
to the serenader not the serenaded. How did they get there and 
become hers? Hasn't the serendader already passed up his
guitar?There follows the deliberate use of the archaic form
of encore in bien encor, missing an “e” followed by ellipsis.
This seems no more than the equivalent use of the English “yet again”
when enumerating, as in “still yet” and “or once more”, as if just
coming up with a new idea to try out. But here also may be hidden
an “again” that suggests, with upstairs guitar strings, this is not
the first time. The last part is obvious: the serenader reaching his
“heaven”is no angel—nor perhaps the serenaded.