Friday, December 25, 2015

César Vallejo: Trilce XVI (with English Translation)

     Tengo fe en ser fuerte.
Dame, aire manco, dame ir
galoneándome de ceros a la izquierda.
Y tú, sueño, dame tu diamante implacable,
tu tiempo de deshora.

      Tengo fe en ser fuerte.
Por allí avanza cóncava mujer,
cantidad incolora, cuya
gracia se cierra donde me abro.

      Al aire, fray pasado. Cangrejos, zote!
Avístase la verde bandera presidencial,
arriando las seis banderas restantes,
todas las colgaduras de la vuelta.

      Tengo fe en qué soy,
y en que he sido menos.

      Ea! Buen primero!

César Vallejo

Trilce XVI

I hold fast to faith
in being strong.

Give me, one-armed air--
give it me to go on, braiding
myself alive from zeros to the left.

And you, dear sleep and dream,
give me your unyielding diamond,
your time undivided into hours.

I hold fast to faith
in being strong.

Yonder strides ahead
hollow woman, colorless quantity,
whose gracefulness closes in on itself
where mine opens out.

Forward--to the air, Brother Yesterday! Crabs, dummy!
Behold the fresh green and presiding banner of the banquet,
lowering the rest of the hebdomad--
all the hangings of the return trip.

I hold fast to faith
in what I am and in which
I have been less than now.

Ay—a good start and splendid
first cipher!


E. A. Costa 25 December, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua 
N.B.: César Vallejo is notoriously difficult to translate and 
thorough-going literalness will leave most readers at sea. In this
translation into English one has added a few key items, unstated
but iimplicit in the original, the most of important of which
is "banquet", which is a banquet of picnickers before the hanged.
Some years ago in correspondence with the estimable Peruvian
poet Roger Santiváñez one pointed out the obvious reference
of Vallejo to both François Villon and Arthur Rimbaud in
the use of "manco".  This "manco" is the key to the Old World
of the poem, but it also gives another key to the New World,
here specifically the past of Peru. A critical discussion
quickly becomes complex and layered, and too lengthy to be
adequately sunmarized in a note.  Those who thoroughly
know the great Vallejo surely will get at least part of the drift,
and those who don't, from the hints of the English translation
may be encouraged to follow it through not only into the 
Spanish original, but into a new universe, East and West, 
North and South, of poesis.  

Edwin Markham: Preparedness/ Preparación

For all your days prepare,
And meet them ever alike:
When you are the anvil, bear--
When you are the hammer, strike.

Edwin Markham


Por todos tus días prepárate
y como iguales encuéntralos:
cuando el yunque eres, aguántalo
y cuando eres el martillo, golpéalo.

(tr. EAC)

E. A. Costa 25 December, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Sea Turtle/ La Tortuga de mar

(dedicated to José Roberto Bermúdez Pérez)

                                             Stretching his neck
                                             the turtle waits too...
                                             the year's first day

                                             (Kobayashi Issa, tr. by David G. Lanoue)

Through the night a deluge
like Deucalion's or Noah's--
wind wreaking havoc
on the corrugated roof,
torrential rain flooding
the street.

In morning calm of the beach
a huge and magnificent
sea turtle, prone and stranded
on the sand, gray-green
and motionless like
intricately carved stone,
waiting patiently for Fu Xi
to read the cracks on her back
and inaugurate the new universe.

E. A. Costa 19 December, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

La tortuga de mar

(Dedicado al estimado José Roberto Bermúdez Pérez)

                                             Estira el cuello la tortuga--
                                             ella también está esperando
                                             el primer día del año

                                             (Kobayashi Issa, tr. EAC from Lanoue's version)

Por la noche un diluvio
como los días de Deucalión o Noé,
con viento que causa estragos
en el techo corrugado
y lluvia que inunda la calle.

En la calma de la mañana
una tortuga de mar magnífica
y enorme, prona sobre la arena,
del color gris-verde e inmóvil
como la piedra minuciosamente tallada,
espera pacientemente a que Fu Xi
lea las fisuras de su carapacho
e inaugure el nuevo universo.

tr. E.A.C.
N.B: Fu Xi or Fu-Hsi (伏羲), counted as the first of the
Three Sovereigns by the Chinese, according to one account,
invented the Eight Trigrams (pa-kua),which are the basis
of the I-Ching, observing the back of a turtle that
emerged from a river. Both Deucalion and Noah,
merely incidentally, were preceded many centuries
by the story of Utanapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh,
who rescued all life on earth from the Deluge
in his great ark--a story itself preceded by Sumerian
references as well.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pareidolia: On The Wall At Hostal La Casita

On the wall at Hostal La Casita
the head of a three-eyed elephant
with square ears and a bright spiral trunk
that lights up the blackness of the night.

African, Indian or fixture of a faraway age,
like the Atlas elephants, now extinct,
Hannibal herded over the Alps?

As darkness bleeds into elephant gray,
day rises over the roof tiles well after dawn
somewhere without walls.

He greets the sunrise watching the shadows
of hand and pen on illuminated page.

E. A. Costa 12 December, 2015  Granada, Nicaragua
N.B.: The Atlas elephant (Loxodonta africana pharaoensis), also known as
the North African Elephant, the North African Forest Elephant, and the
Carthaginian or Punic elephant, pictured among other places on Carthaginian
coins and now extinct, constituted surely the bulk of Hannibal's war elephants,
except his own personal one, Surus or “The Syrian”, which was likely Indian.
Interestingly enough, in his histories, the elder Cato, who never named individual
war heroes, named Surus because he had far surpassed every standard of virtus
for an elephant. (Pliny, Natural History, VIII.5)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Ray/ La Raya

In the leisured shallows
of low tide—below:
ray hypnotically on the way,
wings undulating like water
in a shaking bowl.

Standing bewitched—below:
ray wide-eyed and gazing skyward
lazily gliding in a trajectory
to collide.

At the last instant
she turns and en passant
the sting.

It is common knowledge
in the folklore of the shore
that to splash noisily while wading shoals
is never to confront a ray nor feel its sting--
never to see a ray in shallow sea,
never see so elegant, so breathlessly angelical
a thing.

E. A. Costa 8 December, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

La Raya

En el bajio ocioso de la marea baja—abajo:
la raya hipnóticamente en su camino,
con las alas ondulantes como el agua 
en un tazón tembloroso.

El embrujo—abajo:
la raya con los ojos abiertos al cielo
perezosamente se desliza
en una trayectoria para colisionar.

En el último momento ella dobla
y en passant hay picadura.

Es sabiduría en las aldeas de la orilla
que el que salpica cuando vadea estiajes
con la raya nunca se enfrentará o sentirá su picadura -
nunca la verá en el oleaje poco profundo del mar, 
nunca verá una cosa tan elegante y angélica.

Tr. E. A. Costa

Saturday, November 28, 2015

東: Dayrise Through Poplars/ Madrugada entre los álamos

Dayrise through poplars
sinless, straight and ever young:
like geometry.

E. A. Costa, 28 November, 2015 San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

東: Madrugada entre los álamos

Madrugada entre los álamos
puros, erguidos y siempre jóvenes
como geometría.

tr. E. A. Costa
Note: The Chinese character (here old form) dong is a graph of the sun rising behind a tree. Note also that in Spanish erguidir, from which erguido, which is applied mainly to posture, is derived from the Latin erigere—or ex plus regere, and from the root of the latter also the Spanish recto and derecho. The English observes the so-called syllabic rules of the haiku. In Spanish no attempt at that is made, beyond concision.  A preliminary and different version of this was published online in regard to the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam's ("The Admiralty"), in which the poplar is prominent, though with a much different thrust.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Autumn in San Juan del Sur/ Otoño en San Juan del Sur

Out of bright transparent air
descends a swarm of cloudless sulphur butterflies,
gyring and fluttering to the strand
like leaves in meteoric autumn.

As quickly as they fall wings reborn
fly up from the sand and off,
for here there is no autumn--
only milky-toothed summer surf
forever smiling in warm foam.

E. A. Costa November 16, 2015  San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Otoño en San Juan Del Sur

Se cae del aire brillante y claro
un enjambre de mariposas de azufre cristalino,
girando y ondeando como hojas en otoño meteórico.

Tan pronto como besan la playa
flotan como alas arriba y se vuelan,
porque aquí no hay ningún otoño--
sólo cachones de estío con colmillos lechosos
que ríen sin fin en la espuma cálida.

Tr. E. A. Costa

N.B: Phoebis Sennae, commonly called the "cloudless sulphur
butterfly" in English (mariposa de azufre cristalino), in Spanish
simply "Febo".

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bandelier: Quadratic 2134

In  lucid intervals of memory recalling:


that one recalls (not knowing all)
yonder outline and asks it:

why are you not black
like a sketch in India ink
or charcoal?

There, in that place,
there is a sense of someone

There is a map or chart.

There is a recipe for reconstruction.

There is a sign,


in the sacred air between seeing and seen,
with presque vu he searches for and is searched,
with the tip of the tongue--maiden middlehood.

Where? How far away in time or space?

How? Where the mode of knowing what
one cannot immediately find is waiting
in the wings of


waiting like an icicle or falling oak?

How old is oneness lost not so long ago,
the loss then lost as well & all returned,
all made good?

Loss is the smell of sweat in mountain lairs,
lost is the stage play of terraced rock and cliff,
lost are the ghosts of tribes who no longer exist.

Did I ever tell you about Bandelier
among the antlers where I wrapped
rawhide around a stick with bells and feathers
and set it in the shrine?

"One deer", it said, "yours or mine,
for one or both of you."

It was an electromagnetic wave of impersonal reward:

"You are welcome here for you have respected us."

And there in this between: "But only for a time."

And next morning we walked down the trail to the pueblos
seen across the pink canyon below--


as in four square,
as in the ancient Chinese ZHONG,

which is a place with a banner
raised to sky and burrowing into earth,

dead center, the KAIROS
which exists anywhere in time,
backwards and forwards.

I thought she read minds.
I thought she read my mind.
I thought she saw and smelled
the vast eons around us—inhaled
them with her eyes.

I thought she saw the spirits--
men women and happy children
around one smokepole as if
they left the light on for us,

The deer came years later.
It was a confused and naive buck.
He got it through the heart
close-up with a 12 gauge slug.

It gasped and fell.

He skinned and butchered it.

It was venison for one winter.

He knew then there was only the one,

yours or mine, for one or both of us.

E. A. Costa 25 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

Friday, September 18, 2015

De Quevedo: Retirado en la paz de estos desiertos (con traducción al inglés)

Retirado en la paz de estos desiertos,
con pocos, pero doctos libros juntos,
vivo en conversación con los difuntos,
y escucho con mis ojos a los muertos.

Si no siempre entendidos, siempre abiertos,
o enmiendan, o fecundan mis asuntos;
y en músicos callados contrapuntos
al sueño de la vida hablan despiertos.

Las grandes almas que la muerte ausenta,
de injurias de los años vengadora,
libra, ¡oh gran don Josef!, docta la imprenta.

En fuga irrevocable huye la hora; 
pero aquélla el mejor cálculo cuenta, 
que en la lección y estudios nos mejora.

Don Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas.

Cloistered in the Peace of These Deserts

Cloistered in the peace of these deserts,
cloistered with a few learned books,
I exist in lively conversation with the dead,
listening with eyes to the disappeared.

If not always grasped they remain ever open,
amending or enriching my ways and means,
and in the silent music of point and counterpoint
speak wide-eyed and awake in life's dream.

These great souls--megalopsychoi--carried off by death!
Revenger of  an age of insult and calumny--frees them
a scholar's press, oh, grand Don Joseph!

In unrecallable flight, like time's arrow, 
flees the hour counted as best trajectory,
in what by lesson & study betters us.

Tr. E. A. Costa 

E. A. Costa 18 September, 2015  Granada, Nicaragua

Metaekphrasis To Everett Millais' Ophelia

                  “Then harbour no smile on your bonny face
                    To win the deepest sigh...”
                                                              Elizabeth Siddal

Truly look at me and you will see
a world crueler and more misanthropic
than any Marquis de Sade...

E. A. Costa  18 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

Monday, September 14, 2015

An Illustrated History of Two Semicircles

                        "What is this, where am I? 
                            Where does earth end and heaven begin?”
                                              Yun Sondo (tr. L. Gross)

There is barely tenable
the pretty voice

tantalizing the vast jagged
monument of her inscriptions:

what you have to say is writ,

writ in water and stone,

writ for eyes of salt and tear,

writ for blocks syllabic in 3 dimensions,

algebraic and geometrical:

                         If angle of eye is all, IF...

    You have seen the long seas now,

seen while you were young.

You have seen the long airs,

seen them going wrong.

You age having been gifted.

Where is the long ground

at your feet, defending more

than past pain and present abstraction,

where is the future that glides

over more than alien hierarchy:

                   hurrying,  free from but not in...

From fluid English electric you

move to sudden destroying bolts,

slide singing from the north and understand

those who fight, eyeless, stock-still still,

immovable to all else and why:

                               no words will be so full...

Only then will you know.
how easy it has been:

I am glittering over the wind, Icarus--
Fear, alternate me,
rise me
with cold hands
twisting my chair
and tearing my chamber.
Hiding underneath
this mantle
leek-green longitude
protecting like a tortoise shell... 

E. A. Costa 14 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua
NB: The three short phrases beginning “If angle...”, “hurrying...”, and “no words...” are reworked citations of and allusions to Suli Kwock Kim's “Slant”. This poem is a tribute to Kim's elegant poetry in English, to that of Yon Se-Ondo (Yun Seundo) in Korean, and to a number of incisive, if far too neglected, English translators and publicizers of Korean traditional poetry, including Peter Lee, L. Gross, & others.

Nightfall / La caída de la noche

Has night ever fallen into the sea
to rise again the following day
for the funeral of the sun?

Who knows save sly two-faced moon?

E. A. Costa 14 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

La caída de la noche

¿Ha caído alguna vez la noche
en el mar y al otro día se ha levantado
para asistir al funeral del sol?

¿Quién sabe salvo bifronte luna astuta?


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Onion Eyes/ Ojos de cebollas

                           “An onion will do well for such a shift...”
                                                                Wm. Shakespeare

Eyes are onions
whose layers
are the blindness
and terrors of mankind,
peeled off in tears,
bequeathing rays
of new smiling light,
prasinous and ever young.

E. A. Costa 13 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua.

Ojos de cebollas

                “Una cebolla sierve muy bien para tal cambio...”
                                                                 Wm. Shakespeare

Los ojos son cebollas de las cuales las láminas
son la ceguera y los terrores de género humano,
peladas en lágrimas y dejando rayos luminosos
del color de prasio--risueños y siempre jóvenes.

tr. EAC
NB: “Prasio” es el cristal de la roca prasiolita, del latín prasius (adjetivo prasinus)
del griego antiguo πρáσiος, “el color de puerro” (verde pálido), de lo que viene
tambien la palabra inglesa "prasinous". La palabra "puerro", del latín porrum, 
tambien parece estar relacionado a  πρáσiος. V. Diccionario etimológico de Chile,

Monday, August 31, 2015

Presque Vu

                          There is a gap therein; but no mere gap.
                          It is a gap that is intensely active. A sort
                          of wraith of the name is in it.

                                                                   William James

Is memory of a memory
a memory?

What is on the tip of your

What are you searching for
and why?

And where is the space in which
you hunt as if through thinnest air
a word you can't quite remember
but which you know is there?

Presque Vu

                            Hay un hueco allí, pero ningún mero hueco,
                            un hueco sumamente activo. Una especie
                            de aparición del nombre está en ello.

                                                                           William James

¿Es memoria de una memoria
una memoria?

¿Qué tienes allí en la punta
de la lengua?

¿Qué estás buscando y para qué?

¿Dónde subsiste el espacio
en el cual estás cazando
como si por el aire vacío
una palabra que no recuerdas
pero sabes que allá está?

(Tr. EAC)

E. A. Costa 31 August, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

Two Voices

                                 "All this while Tashtego, Daggoo,
                                 and Queequeg had looked on with
                                 even more intense interest and surprise
                                 than the rest..."
                                                                  Herman Melville

Two voices
with no choice
converse and the reverse
becoming two who never existed:

And the one says to the other:
Which step would you like to be,
first or last?

And other says to the one:
In the beginning as in the end--
you have both.

And one says: I am Ahab.

And other says: One sees it from your tracks.

And one says: Are you mocking me as monomaniac?

And other says: You mock yourself as a prowler at sea
walking little and hopping much.

And one says: Steel then moves you naught?

And other says: Why would it interest? It will end
at the bottom of the sea with everything and everyone else.
What interest to a whale or a whale's belly either?

And one says: You speak then? You are no dumb beast
but cunning.

And other says: Only to deny.

And one says: A fiendish beast, therefore, demonic and apophatic.

And other says: What profit, Captain, of revenge—what profit?

And one says: Your prophecy is of what, then--seeing all 
at the bottom of the sea? That is not another revenge?

And other says: Sea is sea. It is a prophecy of soft rains
and flying fish, of ocean and hard deserts flooded by sky.

And one says: A cunning beast and fiendish and claiming to be Noah?

Two voices
who have no choice
converse and are silent
becoming two who never existed.

E. A. Costa 31 August, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua