Monthly Archives: March 2010

Canción del pirata

José de Espronceda was a romantic era Spanish poet.  I’ll admit right now that this is not my favorite historical moment for poetry.  There is something magical about Espronceda’s overtly romanticized tribute to pirates, though.  Here is a portion of his Canción del pirata:

¡Sentenciado estoy a muerte!            70
Yo me río;
no me abandone la suerte,
y al mismo que me condena,
colgaré de alguna entena,
quizá en su propio navío. 75

Y si caigo,
¿qué es la vida?
Por perdida
ya la di,
cuando el yugo 80
del esclavo,
como un bravo,

Que es mi barco mi tesoro,
que es mi dios la libertad, 85
mi ley, la fuerza y el viento,
mi única patria, la mar.
Here is an English translation:

“I am condemned to die !—I laugh;
For, if my fates are kindly sped,
My doomer from his own ship’s staff
Perhaps I’ll hang instead.
And if I fall, why what is life?
For lost I gave it then as due,
When from slavery’s yoke in strife
A rover! I withdrew.
My treasure is my gallant bark;
My only God is liberty;
My law is might, the wind my mark,
My country is the sea.

As is usually the case, the English translation doesn’t exactly match the original Spanish version, and this is due to the attempt to preserve the form and rhyme. This causes me frustration and makes me want to rewrite it as a literal translation. However, a literal translation always loses some of the art, unless I spend much time with it. I am, essentially, the laziest blogger around. And, so, I leave you with this version as done by James Kennedy. Both full versions of this poem can be found here.

p.s. As a connoisseur of noses, I find Jose’s to be particularly attractive.


New Mexico Noir: No Shelter from Exes

Victor was my kryptonite. I might have considered myself a strong woman, if it weren’t for him. The pattern had been set so long ago that I didn’t try any longer. No, that was wrong. If I could do nothing else, I would turn around and run.

Actually, what happened was this: Angelica told him if he didn’t move his sorry behind and sit down as he was supposed to do, then she would politely ask him to leave. In an instant, he was gone, and his face was all I held in my mind.

Angelica carried out his breakfast.

“Don’t be sad, Ella,” said Pedro. “Angelica should have left at two. You know the way it is. But she’ll be ready to leave any time now.”

I couldn’t wait for “any time now” because, at any moment, Victor would find another way to talk to me. He would run around to the back of the restaurant, as I had done. I peeked around the kitchen door by the soda machine.

“Angelica,” I whispered.

Unfortunately, Victor caught me. He jumped from his seat. “Ella, I need to talk to you.”

“Call me, all right, Victor? My number hasn’t changed. Angelica, are you off the clock, yet?”

“I was off the clock an hour ago. Pedro says you’re staying with me, tonight. Hang on a minute and let me get my things. I bet you’re exhausted.”

“Ella, I mean it,” said Victor, who was leaning over the coffee counter with a look of appeal on his face. He really did have a beautiful face, with his straight teeth and clear eyes. He could appear so sincere, too. “I need to talk to you. And I know you. You won’t answer when you see my number on the caller ID.”

Angelica took off her apron and shook out her thick, black hair, as though she were ready to wear her superhuman uniform. “Victor, would you leave her alone? It’s just like you to show up at the worst possible moment. I’m taking Ella home so she can sleep. She’s been through enough tonight as it is.”

“I think you should stay out of this, Angelica. This is between me and Ella.”

“Oh, whatever, Victor.” I was beyond exhaustion at that point. I had come out the other side and was now buzzing a little from a new release of endorphins, my fight or flight response having renewed itself at the sight of him. “Like I said, my number hasn’t changed. Angelica, can we go?”


We disappeared through the kitchen. I had no desire to remain in the same building as Victor, not as long as I didn’t have to. Yes, I’d expected to marry him at one time and live happily ever after together with him in the same house, but that was then. I paused only long enough to give Pedro a parting hug.

Angelica lived in the neighborhood surrounding the university, as I did. Essentially, we both worked at our neighborhood diner, even if there were any number of restaurants and pubs around campus. Her house, although a bit too close to my own apartment for comfort, was pleasant, enclosed by a fence that sported a creaking gate, and protected by a mutt that looked and barked enough like a German Shepherd to scare most people away.

Angelica’s husband had turned the front yard into a rock garden with a pond and fountain, shadowed by an old walnut tree and a few apricot trees. Relief instantly descended on me as we entered through the gate. Even the wind soughed softly through the leaves of the trees, bringing with it the moisture trapped in the leaves. The rocks held the smell of the river they’d come from.

I’d stayed in Angelica’s spare room before, and so we didn’t bother with host-to-guest politeness. I gratefully washed my face with soap and water, brushed my teeth, and fell into the single bed with its smooth, clean-smelling sheets. I loved staying here; it was an enclave of soft sounds and comfort. The 1920s era dresser that sat by the bed held a gurgling fish tank. I drifted to the sounds of water, thinking of the river and the bosque that surrounded it, along with the high white moon.

As my body relaxed, my mind reached out to Anthony, letting him know I couldn’t abandon him at a time like this. There was something I knew that could help him. I had to help him, and it had nothing to do with Demetria. It had everything to do with me. But blackness descended before I could work out the details.

I don’t know what time it was that I woke, but it was bright outside, and there was an awful commotion occurring outside. My comforting enclave had been breached. The dog was barking, and I heard a ruckus of shouting voices. I dragged myself from bed and padded with sock feet to the dining area, which looked out over the back patio. Angelica was already there, looking outside, where her husband and Victor were shouting at each other.

“I’m calling the police,” she said. “Victor’s drunk.”

“Oh, please don’t. They’re going to think I attract trouble. Besides that, they’re only shouting. I’ve never seen Victor get violent—manipulative, but not violent.”

“Ella, I have never heard Dave shout, ever. Victor must have really ticked him off. I’m afraid for Victor, not Dave.”

I slid open the glass door and stepped onto the patio with my stocking feet. It was true: Angelica’s husband rarely spoke, let alone shouted. I probably looked like a wreck, which was always something I thought of when Victor was around, but I also didn’t think Dave should have to fend off my drunk ex first thing in the morning.

“What is going on?” I asked.

“Ella, go back inside. I’ve already told Victor to get the hell off my property. He’s stinking drunk.”

“Tell your mother to watch out,” Victor shouted. “I tried to tell you last night, Ella. I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t listen to me. You’ve never listened to me.”


Battle of the Sexes: Lady Mary’s Piquant Reply

I’m in a mood for humor, after a late night and an early morning.  Last night we went to see Enter the Haggis, a Celtic rock band from Canada.  As I’ve mentioned before, much of my life revolves around Irish dancing, and last night was no different.  The band had invited the local Irish dancers to perform on stage during the concert, so that’s where my daughters were: on stage dancing a few numbers with a great band.  It was fun, but we are all exhausted this morning.  This whole lack of sleep thing doesn’t really suit me.  It’s how I live my life, though.  And all of this has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of my post.

If you recall, last week I posted part of Jonathan Swift’s The Lady’s Dressing Room.  It is a gross, yet funny poem mocking lovers’ illusions and pastorals and vain women.  Swift is known for penning gross poetry that deals with subjects such as excrement.  Many of his political essays are not only gross, but shocking.  For example, his Modest Proposal suggests that the Irish solve their problems of poverty and hunger by selling their own children for food.

What you may not realize when you think about the author of Gulliver’s Travels is his career as a clergyman.  When Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote her poem, The Reasons That Induced Dr. Swift to Write a Poem Called the Lady’s Dressing Room*, she held his position firmly in mind.  She might as well have titled her poem Why Would a Clergyman Write Such Filth?  For that, she has the Doctor (Swift) visiting a prostitute, and then demanding his money back from her because he can’t . . . well, you know, finish the dirty deed.  I will post the last stanza, which is a conversation between Dr. Swift and the prostitute, because it is not only funny, but biting in its tone.

The nymph grown furious roared, “By God!
The blame lies all in sixty odd,”
And scornful pointing the door
Cried, “Fumbler, see my face no more.”
“With all my heart I’ll go away,
But nothing done, I’ll nothing pay.
Give back the money.”–“How,” cried she,
“Would you palm such a cheat on me!
For poor four pound to roar and bellow,
Why sure you want some new Prunella?”
“I’ll be revenged, you saucy quean”
(Replies the disappointed Dean),
“I’ll so describe your dressing room
The very Irish shall not come.”
She answered short, “I’m glad you’ll write,
You’ll furnish paper when I shite.” (ll 74-89)

My guess is that Lady Mary didn’t like Dr. Swift all that much, nor did she appreciate his satire.

*Taken from pgs. 2588-2590 of the Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century (2000)      


Flash Fiction: Time Appliance Hacking 1.0

I’m going to post this flash fiction piece, written by Joel, even though it’s technically poetry Thursday. I believe that Joel is going to write a series of science fiction shorts based off the idea he develops in this piece.

Tomorrow, I will post the Battle of the Sexes female response to Swift’s A Lady’s Dressing Room.  It will be funny–I promise.  For tonight, enjoy Joel’s story.

Time Appliance Hacking 1.0:

Wearing faded coveralls, I slide off the cracked vinyl seat of the borrowed utility van until my boots hit cracked pavement. I pull my ball cap low to conceal my face. I am just another worker hired to mow the lawn, fix the dishwasher, or paint the shed.

I am clutching the carryall which contains the tools of my trade as I cross the street and approach the house. Under dark glasses, I scan all directions.

I take the stairs to the front door in a business-like manner. The door opens as if by magic, and I enter. The door closes. My occupation has taken me behind some of the most opulent doors in five states, and this is not one of them.

A bit worried, I stick to the script; either they have the money to procure my services or they do not. I have my exit strategy should that be the case, and I have my secret weapon should something go wrong. I pat the taser concealed beneath my coveralls.

As I allow my eyes and glasses to adjust to the interior I turn and greet the owner of the house. “Hello, Ma’am, I’m here to fix your toaster.”

“Hi, follow me; it’s right back here.” She leads me down the darkened hall; she looks about forty-two and has managed to keep her figure. She takes me to the kitchen which is lit by a large window looking out onto a fenced backyard.

There is a large unopened cardboard box in the center of the kitchen table. It is too big to contain a toaster, but this is all by design. “Fix the toaster” is code for my real work.

She has followed my instructions exactly, so this should go well. It’s much easier to operate on something that has never been plugged into the smart grid before. I can manage those, too, but it is a big hassle.

“Care for a cup of coffee?”

I study her more closely. Her hair is honey blonde, not unattractive, really. She seems breathless, however; maybe excitement or nervousness, or both. “No, thanks.”

She pauses. “Well, then, should I just leave you to it…”

I clear my throat. “About payment…”

“Oh, yes.” She hands over an envelope.

I open it and count it in front of her. It is the correct amount. I place it an inner pocket of my coveralls. I am ready to go to work.

“Well, I guess I’ll leave you to it and go do some shopping…”

“You will do nothing of the sort. I was very clear in my communication. You will sit right here in plain sight and touch no electronic or communication device until I am done.”

She sulks over to a chair takes a seat. I produce a small object and scan the room for monitoring devices. All is clear.

I look at the box. It has the “Chronos” logo that all time appliances display. I liberate the microwave from its Styrofoam and bubble wrap. Next, I open my carryall and carefully arrange my tools.

As I remove the appliance’s housing I see the familiar government warning: “1st degree Felony under international and Federal law, minimum $500,000 fine, and 50 years in prison”, etc. When I am done, it will be undetectable that anyone has opened the microwave or tampered with its delicate innards.

The shadows have grown as I finish and replace the tools in my bag. The new microwave is sitting on the counter, looking as though it had just come out of the box.

“Can we try it?”

“Hold on, let me explain a few things and then we’ll give it a spin.”

She nods.

“This is a regular old-fashioned microwave with the addition of a time travel module. The module contains a circuit that runs off of 220v. That’s what sends the food back through time, so that it appears to only take three seconds to cook it. Now the circuit contains an EPROM that contains the X+3 subroutine. X is the amount of time that it takes to cook the food and three is the three second buffer that the government has mandated that all time appliances must conform to. This is to avoid the situation that you are paying me to create, namely a food replicator which creates food out of thin air. What I did was to alter the subroutine to be X minus 30. That means that the time circuit will beam the food back in time thirty seconds before you actually started cooking it.”

I pause. “The bell should go off when the process is complete, so you know it’s done, as it will be finished before you even get up to cook it in the first place!”

“Wow! That’s amazing!”

“So, what do you want to try first?”

She extracts a frozen pizza. “Do you like pizza?”


“… That means that the time circuit will beam the food back into time thirty seconds before you actually started cooking it.”

The bell goes off. I always loosely time my little monologue to work this way. “See what I mean?”

I open the door. The smell of hot pizza fills the kitchen. “Open the freezer.”

She opens it and there is the frozen pizza in its unopened box.

Her jaw drops. “It works!”

“You will never have to buy another pizza other than that one right there.”

As I leave I tell her, “Remember, you could spend the next fifty years of your life in Federal prison should you discuss this with anyone.”

I don’t need her to recommend my services. I have my own ways of getting referrals.
She doesn’t know who I am, so there is really no way I can be implicated if she does decide to brag about it to the wrong person.

Another job well done, another satisfied customer, I think, as I pat the envelope inside my coveralls.