My Life Plays to the Accordion

Let me tell you a little about myself. I’ve been studying Spanish since I was fourteen, which makes more than twenty years of book study, but I don’t really speak it all that well. I’m comfortable reading Cervantes and Maria de Zayas and, yet, I fall apart in conversation.

Let me tell you what occurred many years ago, now, when I took to listening to the local Mexican radio station in order to learn Spanish better: I fell in love with the accordion. In those beginning days, I heard a song, the words of which were perfectly comprehensible to me, called Un Rinconcito del Cielo. Translated, that means, A Little Corner of the Sky (literally). Figuratively, it translates as A Little Piece of Heaven. All of that is immaterial, because, the first time I heard the song, I was so overcome with emotion that I nearly stopped breathing. My heart pounded in my chest and, as I was driving, I was forced to pull to the side of the road.

You think I’m full of drama. Maybe I am, but I also speak the truth. It was the accordeonista that took my breath away. Later, I discovered he was Ramon Ayala. Years later, I still can’t listen to his songs without the passion welling in my chest and the love filling my heart. I’ve collected his albums and seen him live in concert, and the novelty of my love for his music has never faded.

It’s difficult to explain, but it has something to do with longing. Wistfulness descends at inexplicable moments due to unknown causes. It’s as if the mysteries of the universe are suddenly present in my mind and heart, and they’re felt in the senses: a taste on the tongue, a smell, an image transfixed in the mind. Have you ever seen the leaves of a tree that appear green in one glimpse, and gold with another turn of the wind? That’s what I’m talking about. The gold in turn is an image that catches the mysteries of life, if only for a moment.

It’s as if, at the first sound of the accordion, I realized what I was longing for. Yet, at the same moment, I knew the mysteries of life had just deepened. The accordion is almost my “little piece of heaven”. It’s from God; that’s all I know. And the fact that Señor Ayala, at least on one of his album covers, is playing an accordion with crosses on it, simply proves that he’s attempting what’s most important in life–understanding God, giving him glory–either one or both.

Here’s a song he’s well-known for, and one of my favorites. Yes, you’ll have to go out and find a copy of the song to hear his accordion, but, meanwhile, savor the lyrics of Mi Golondrina (English below)*:

Ya se fue,
lo que anhelaba,
yo en mi corazón.
Mi golondrina
se fue y me dejo,
sin rumbo fijo,

Voló y voló,
sin la esperanza
de que volviera.
Sin la esperanza
de volverla a ver.
Por que se fue
sin decirme adiós

Ay golondrina,
dime que vuelves
junto a mi lado,
tarde o temprano.
Ay golondrina,
dime que vuelves
cuando regrese
de nuevo el verano.

My Swallow (or wanderer)

She went away, already.
What I longed for
In my heart,
My wanderer,
She went away and left me,
Without a fixed course,
and disappeared.

She flew and she flew,
Without hope of return,
Without hope of
Returning to see her,
Because she left
Without saying goodbye.

Ay, wanderer,
Tell me that you’ll return
To my side,
Sooner or later,
Ay, wanderer,
Tell me that you’ll return
When summer
Comes again.

For my part, I think of the swallow as the gift of poetry. I always wonder if that gift will return to me. Certainly, I’m not on a fixed course, nor is my writing life, and only God knows the future.

*I can’t claim that these are the official lyrics. They’re what I hear when I listen to the song. There are too many versions on the internet to come to a consensus. Also, I’ve done my best with a translation; if you know Spanish better than I do, please help me.


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