I who thought that light was mine
see myself thrown headlong into dark.
A solar ember, astral joy
fiery with sea-foam and light and desire.
My blood is weightless, round, pomegranate:
a torrent of yearning without border or penumbra.
Outside, light is buried in light.
Only darkness gives me the sensation of light.
Only darkness. Which leaves no trace. Or sky.
Beings. Shapes. Real bodies
in the flightless air,
in the tree of impossible things.
Livid frowns, grief’s passions.
Teeth thirsty to turn red.
The darkness of pure malice.
Bodies like blind, plugged wells.
Not enough room. Laughter has sunk low.
To fly high is impossible.
My heart wishes it could beat strong enough
to dilate the constricting blackness.
My aimless flesh billows
into the barren, sinister night:
Who could be a ray of sunlight, invading it?
I look. I find not even a trace of day.
Just the glitter of clenched fists,
the splendor of teeth ready to snap.
Teeth and fists evrywhere.
Like great hands, mountains close in on me.
Fighting with no thirst for morning muddies things.
Such vastness, filled with dark heartbeats!
I am a prison whose window
Opens to huge, roaring solitudes.
I am an open window, waiting,
as life goes darkly by.
Yet there is a streak of sunlight in battle
which always leaves the shadow vanquished.
— Miguel Hernández
(Trans. by Don Share)
Poet Miguel Hernández joined the Fifth Regiment of the (leftist, revolutionary) Republican army during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) as a cultural affairs officer. He read his poetry on the radio daily and traveled to the front lines to do poetry readings for the soldiers. When the (rightest, counterrevolutionary) National army prevailed, delivering Spain into the hands of Franco, Hernández found himself in a precarious political position. Having no means to flee the country, he was arrested multiple times for “anti-fascist activities.” He was eventually given a 30-year prison sentence. He died in prison of tuberculosis in 1942.
[Research note: Miguel Hernández, trans. by Done Share (New York: New York Review of Books, 1997, 2013): p. 88]