Pablo Medina

Poets as Translators - Pablo Medina



The Fulcrum



(1) Three Fulcrums
(2) A Poem for the Epiphany

Translations from the Spanish:


(1) Address to the Lover
(2) Kassida of the Sleeping Woman
(3) Gacela for a Dead Child
(4) Two Words



Pablo Medina

The Fulcrum

Eureka! Eureka!

ONE DAY AFTER I had been writing prose for months, the thought occurred to me that my poet-self would die if I did not write a poem. I moved away from the computer and sat with notebook and pen. What came out was a six-line piece in Spanish. I tried again a few hours later and came up with another six-line poem, this time in English. Over the next few days, I forgot all about prose and wrote what I eventually called fulcrums at a furious pace, in both languages. At times I was totally unaware of what tongue I was using, so effective the form, so unencumbered by the preconceptions that we bring to the writing of poems. The fulcrum was not only keeping my poet-self alive in both languages, but also making it leap with excitement out of the water of its lethargy.

The fulcrum-or fulcro in Spanish-is essentially a six-line poem divided into couplets with a syntactic/semantic shift in the middle stanza. The structure is reminiscent of the Taoist hexagram. It is a meeting of chance and form, spontaneity and shape, movement and stasis. It combines the dialectic of the sonnet with the imagistic power of the haiku, but is free of either tradition, its primary intent being the shaping of language and silence into a point of balance floating in the ocean of time. --Roosevelt, New Jersey, July 12, 1997


Pablo Medina

Three Fulcrums

Dress Rehearsal

This city is a French
horn in distress,

Calvin chasing hens
and the pages of the hymnal blank

like a furious whoosh,
a stomach pain, the pitch of sin.


Russian Doll

Every wall is an eye,
every eye is a wall.

I have only myself tonight
in a language inside a language

about the white sky falling
and the black earth.



And when I run out of things
to say, what do I say?

And when the thrush sings
in the know-it-all woods,

isn't there a slippage
from language to departure?


Pablo Medina

A Poem for the Epiphany

Ach, wie anders, wie schön
Lebt der Himmel, lebt die Erde
It snows because the door to heaven is open,
because God is tired of working
and the day needs to be left alone.
It snows because there is a widow hiding
under her mother's bed,
because the birds are resting their throats
and three wise men are offering gifts.
Because the clouds are singing
and trees have a right to exist,
because the horses of the past are returning.
They are grey and trot gently into the barn
never touching the ground.

It snows because the wind wants
to be water, because water
wants to be powder and powder wants
to seduce the eye. Because once in his life
the philosopher has to admit
to the poverty of thought.
Because the rich man cannot buy snow
and the poor man has to wear it on his eyebrows.
Because it makes the old dog think
his life has just begun. He runs
back and forth across the parking lot.
He rolls on the snow. He laps it up.

It snows because light and dark
are making love in a field where old age
has no meaning, where colors blur,
silence covers sound, sleep covers sorrow,
everything is death, everything is joy.

(for Ellen Jacko)


Carmen Matute

Address to the Lover

Feeling my way
through your skin
I forgot the parched skin
of my country.
I stopped wandering its roads,
never made it to the villages.
I ignored the hunger and violence
while immersed in bottomless pleasure.
And so I turned into a seashell,
I turned into a turtle
hiding in the depths of the house.
I lived without purpose,
chirping away like the cricket in the fable.
My house lacked doors and windows.
My monumental selfishness
covered me like a chrysalis.
But our loving grew--
our loving, a dialogue of years,
of kisses, blows and bites--
to become a huge basket of bread,
enough for everyone.
You know it, love.
Today, under our sheets
I find all the women and the men
and the children of our village.
Let us agree:
from now on
let there be room for everyone!

(Translated from the Spanish by Pablo Medina)


Federico Garcia Lorca

Kassida of the Sleeping Woman

To see you naked is to know the earth,
smooth, clean of horses,
the earth without rushes, pure form
closed to the future: confines of silver.

To see you naked is to understand the anguish
of rain that searches for a feeble shape
or the fever of the huge-faced sea
without finding the light of its cheek.

Blood will rush through the bedrooms
and approach with flaming swords,
but you will never know where
the toad's heart and the violet are hidden.

Your womb is a struggle of roots
and your lips are a dawn without contours.
Under the bed's warm roses
the wailing dead await their turn.

(Translated from the Spanish by Pablo Medina)


Federico Garcia Lorca

Gacela for a Dead Child

Every afternoon in Granada,
every afternoon a child dies.
Every afternoon the water sits
to chat with her friends.

The dead wear moss wings.
The cloudy wind and the clean wind
are two pheasants flying past the towers
and the day is a wounded boy.

Not even a fragment of lark remained in the air
when I found you in the grottoes of wine.
Not even a cloud's crumb was left on the earth
when you drowned in the river.

A giant of water fell on the mountains
and the valley went rolling with dogs and lilies.
Shadowed violet by my hands, your body was,
dead on the shore, an archangel of winter.

(Translated from the Spanish by Pablo Medina)


Alfonsina Storni

Two Words

Tonight at my ear
you have said two simple words.
Two words tired of being said.
Words so old they are new.

Two such sweet words
that the moon dripping through the branches
lands in my mouth. So sweet
these two words that I let an ant
wander down my neck without moving.

Such sweet two words that I say
without trying-How beautiful life is!
So sweet, so tame,
they spill like aromatic oils on my body.

So sweet and so beautiful
that my nervous fingers
move toward the sky like scissors
wanting to cut out the stars.

(Translated from the Spanish by Pablo Medina)





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