Category Archives: romance

Promises, Promesas

I did promise to post a Spanish romance last week. See this post for a definition of romance.

This makes me really nervous because I’m not exactly fluent in Spanish. Writing poetry in a second language is freeing, though, and the results are often interesting. Many poets get caught in a web of idioms and cliches when writing in their own language, but when writing in a not-as-familiar tongue they may be inspired to invent odd turns of phrases. So, here you are. You’ll find a translation below it.

Romance de los viejos

Por domingo, caminamos;
Nos sentamos en un banco
Bajo un roble en el parque —
Dos viejos, lado a lado.

El roble derramó sombras —
Igualmente, tus palabras.
Me quedé tranquila – hasta –
“¡Parete tus peroratas!”

“¿Quieres que no te hable?”
Respondí, “Como así.”
Te callaste con suspiros
Por mi ausencia de tí.

Las palomas escarbaron
En busca de panecillos;
Arriba, el cielo gris
Me asió como un dios.

Pensé en lo pasado,
Cuando soñaba del amo
En las manzanas del parque
Sobre paseos de mármol.

Ese día y ayer juntos
Busqué panecillos secos
Entre las piedras y plumas,
Las piezas de oro mero.

“Hablas, mi viejo. Piensas en
Sueños de ayer, cosas altas.”
Negaste con tu cabeza,
Reíste y dijiste nada.

Romance of the Old Folks

Through Sunday, we walked;
We sat on a bench
Under an oak in the park –
Two old folks, side by side.

The oak spilled shadows,
Just like your words.
I remained tranquil, until –
“Stop your dull speeches!”

“You don’t want me to talk?”
“Yes, that’s just so.”
You fell quiet with sighs
For my absence from you.

The pigeons scratched
In search of bread crusts;
Up above, the great, gray sky
Grasped me like a god.

I thought of the past
When I used to dream of love
In the park blocks —
Over marbles pathways.

That day and yesterday together,
I searched for dry bread crusts
Between the stones and feathers,
The pieces of pure gold.

“Speak, old man. Think in those
Dreams of yesterday – loftier things.”
You shook your head no,
Laughed, and said nothing.

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I Am My Beloved’s, and He is Mine

Today, I give you an offering of a poem that has never seen the light of day. Before you read it, though, I have to tell you all about it. Sometimes, I think that I’m better at intellectualizing poetry than writing it. Be that as it may, I enjoy understanding the ins and outs of verse, and I want the world to appreciate all the wonderful details, too.

First of all, I wrote this poem around a romantic line from the Song of Solomon that I had stuck in my head: I am my beloved’s, and he is mine. This is a chiasmic expression. That means that its two phrases mirror each other with a reversal of the noun/verb. I wanted to use this reversal to demonstrate the idea of ownership in love, that is, that it doesn’t belong to one, but to both the parties.

As for structure, it is written as a romance. This is actually a Spanish word and one of the oldest and most traditional forms of poetry in Spanish. In your head, roll it off your tongue, because it’s meant to be rolled. Each line of this type of verse has eight syllables; rhyme is assonance or rima asonante, otherwise known as half rhyme in English. The vowels will sound the same, but not the consonants. Lighthouse, for example, might rhyme with eyebrow. The rhymes fall on the even lines, and the odd lines have no distinguishable rhymes.

For my poem, I anglicized it by turning the eight syllables into iambic tetrameter and used exact rhymes. Oh, and, I wrote it in English. Next week, I’ll post one that I wrote in Spanish.

Here, read the poem, already. It’s not very long!

He makes his claim, and I am his,
turned russet, painted in a pear,
and lilies drooping on his bed.
What time keeps from us unaware,
he sets in linseed and pastels:
Ivonna standing near the lake
with apple leaves heaped at her feet,
the field where mountain asters quake
with me, Ivonna, trembling.
What time holds for us, he dispels
in Santa Juana’s corridors
with acolytes that ring her bells
and carry candles through her nave.
He sends me consecrated wine
until, through silence, I can speak:
Yes—I am his, but he is mine!

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