Of the Dark Doves

For Claudio Guillén

In the branches of the laurel tree
I saw two dark doves
One was the sun
and one the moon
Little neighbors I said
where is my grave —
In my tail said the sun
On my throat said the moon
And I who was walking
with the land around my waist
saw two snow eagles
and a naked girl
One was the other
and the girl was none
Little eagles I said
where is my grave —
In my tail said the sun
On my throat said the moon
In the branches of the laurel tree
I saw two naked doves
One was the other
and both were none

— Federico García Lorca
(Trans. by Sarah Arvio)

Spanish poet Federico García Lorca was abducted and executed by right-wing National forces during the Spanish Civil War (1935-1936). He dedicated Of the Dark Doves to Claudio Guillén, who fled Spain at the age of 15 after the war.

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Eternal Darkness

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]

Casida of Sobbing

I have shut my balcony door
because I don’t want to hear the sobbing,
but from behind the grayish walls
nothing else comes out but sobbing.

Very few angels are singing,
very few dogs are barking,
a thousand violins fit into the palm of my hand.

But the sobbing is a gigantic dog,
the sobbing is a gigantic angel,
the sobbing is a gigantic violin,
tears close the wind’s jaws,
all there is to hear is sobbing.

— Federico García Lorca
(Trans. by Robert Bly)

Casida del llanto

He cerrado mi balcón
porque no quiero oír el llanto
pero por detrás de los grises muros
no se oye otra cosa que el llanto.

Hay muy pocos ángeles que canten,
hay muy pocos perros que ladren,
mil violines caben en la palma de mi mano.

Pero el llanto es un perro inmenso,
el llanto es un ángel inmenso,
el llanto es un violín inmenso,
las lágrimas amordazan al viento
y no se oye otra cosa que el llanto.

— Federico García Lorca

Spanish poet Federico García Lorca was abducted and executed by right-wing National forces during the Spanish Civil War (1935-1936). Casida of Sobbing was one of his last poems, published posthumously.

[Research note: Robert Bly, Trans., Selected Poems of Lorca and Jiminez (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973, 1997), pp. 188-189]