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