Category Archives: Spanish poetry

Blogging Break Poem . . .

El castillo interior

Por el primero, agua;
en el segundo, luz;
la tercera, sí misma con palabras.

Por las quiebras y piedras
se escapan las gotas
como tinta de agua de luz de letras.

Son hogares sin fuego,
son pozales sin fondo,
adentro de castillos de sangre y huesos.

¿Que refleja la luz
sino espejos de agua?
¿Que espera adentro la sombra de la cruz?

Un retrato de Dios,
de la paloma y pluma,
con su corona y su nimbo unidos. 

Drawing of San Miguel by A. Leon Miler.

El río frío

I found a Spanish version of my poem, The Cold RiverThose of you who know Spanish will notice that it is quite a bit different from the English.  That’s because the Spanish one has rested dormant on a hard drive, and, meanwhile, I’ve revised the English poem.  Oh, and, as usual, don’t be too hard on me.  Spanish is not my first language: no es mi idioma nativo.  But sometimes I feel that it ought to be mi idioma natural.

El río sigue la noche
por poca razón,
lavando las piedras
con risas burlonas.

Él sigue la noche,
su lengua, gris y lisa
prueba la ribera,
sorbos dulces y fríos.

Sin fondo se sigue
hasta, al oir
de sonidos estirados,
murmullos del aire–

quiere parar, pero, en vez,
sigue soñando que
la ribera le espere
en su cuerpo.

Sus pliegues apretados
y suspiros largos,
alcanzan las luces allá
donde mezclan colores.

El río refleja la noche
burlando la;
aun los colores en el aire
no están tocando. 


The Cold River

Let me tell you what is unique about the following poem.  First of all, I wrote it.  No, that doesn’t make it unique.  It is because I am madly in love with metrical poetry, and I tossed metrics to the wind for this one.  Secondly, I wrote it several years, originally in Spanish.  This is the English translation.  If I can find the original Spanish, I’ll post it some other day.  You see, I have a lot of missing work due to moving files from my old laptop to my netbook.

The river follows the night
through little reason,
washing stones
with broken laughter.

It follows the night,
a smooth, grey tongue
that tastes the bank
with a click and drum.

It flows in shallow straits,
until the sounds
from stretched notes,
moans of an accordion

catch the waves in their
wake, and dream that
the bank awaits music
with her body.

Her pressed folds
and long sighs
reach out to the lights
where colors meet.

The river follows the night,
taunting, taunting
its sounds and lights
that reach, but never meet.

Let me tell you something else.  I am in one of those moods that agitates me to the point that I don’t know whether I’m desperately in love with life and the world around me, or too tired and sad to feel that way.  A good night’s sleep should solve my dilemma.  Tomorrow I might know and maybe even understand the difference.

(photo taken from WTTC San Antonio)


Y las mariposas

Folk songs tell stories in a microcosm. Traditionally, they record stories of history, which do not always or often end happily. This is a song by Pancho Barraza that, several years ago, I listened to repetitively for its melancholic sound (many people have done this song, so I can’t say who is the original artist). I appreciate it for its simplicity, and for the way it tells a story in very few words.

I’m not going to translate it for you, but will give you the gist: it’s a love story between two young people, a girl of 15 and a boy of 17. They fall in love in a spring wheat field, where there are butterflies flying from flower to flower and all around them. Then it is winter, and they are older. It’s a time without flowers. She’s a housewife, and he’s a poet (obviously, as the song is from his perspective, and only a poet could write a line like cuando hasta el alma se encuentra en flores).

The song tells a story with a lingering sadness, perhaps from nostalgia. It doesn’t tell the whole story, however, and that is why it lingers in the mind. Did they stay together? Are they happy? It’s winter for them now, but that doesn’t mean they are unhappy, especially since they can hold onto their love by imagining the butterflies that they encountered in that afternoon so long ago.

Yes, but who can really hold onto butterflies without crushing them? It’s a delicate business, for sure.

Era una tarde de primavera
cuando hasta el alma se encuentra en flores
yo 17, tu quinceañera
tu colegiala y yo soñador

Y en aquel trigal
el sol cayó primero
despues un pantalón vaquero
y una falda escolar

Y las mariposas
volaban alrededor
y nos enteramos por primera vez
lo que es el amor

Y las mariposas
y las mariposas
y las mariposas
volaban de flor en flor
y nos enteramos por primera vez
lo que es el amor

Era una tarde de primavera
hoy es invierno y ya no hay flores
el tiempo pasa quien lo dijera
tu ama de casa y yo trovador

En aquel trigal
el sol cayó primero
despues un pantalón vaquero
y una falda escolar

Y las mariposas
volaban alrededor
y nos enteramos por primera vez
lo que es el amor.


Poetry Tuesday: La Musa Que Inspira Sonetos or The Muse that Inspires Sonnets

There is danger in writing poetry. There is danger in venturing into the world, armed with verse. There is danger in displaying the poetry of the heart to the world. In that regard, Sor Juana was a hero and a warrior.

For my part, I view Sor Juana as either my muse, or the bearer of the muse that in turn inspires me. Were the sonnets to flow in perfection from my fingers as they did from her ink-dipped quill, I would be trembling with delight. Instead, I’m still waiting, holding my breath–holding that inspiration inside until it pours out.

Below is one of her sonnets that is all about risk. Sometimes, analyzing risk is paralyzing. I will post her sonnet, and then a translation by Margaret Sayers Peden*. Translations are tricky, and I often find that remaining true to the syllabic and rhyme may cause a loss of meaning. Sayers Peden’s translation is not at all bad, and you will understand the gist of the poem.

Soneto 149

Encarece de animosidad la elección de estado durable hasta la muerte

Si los riesgos del mar considerara,
ninguno se embarcara; si antes viera
bien su peligro, nadie se atreviera
ni al bravo toro osado provocara.

Si del fogoso bruto ponderara
la furia desbocada en la carrera
el jinete prudente, nunca hubiera
quien con discreta mano lo enfrenara.

Pero si hubiera alguno tan osado
que, no obstante el peligro, al mismo Apolo
quisiese gobernar con atrevida

mano el rápido carro en luz bañado,
todo lo hiciera, y no tomara sólo
estado que ha de ser toda la vida.

Sonnet 149

Spiritedly, She Considers the Choice of a State Enduring Unto Death

Were the perils of the ocean fully weighed,
no man would voyage, or, could he but read
the hidden dangers, knowingly proceed
or dare to bait the bull to frenzied rage.

Were prudent rider overly dismayed,
should he contemplate the fury of his steed
or ponder where its headlong course might lead,
there’d be no reining hand to be obeyed.

But were there one so daring, one so bold
that, heedless of the danger, he might place,
upon Apollo’s reins, emboldened hand

to guide the fleeting chariot bathed in gold,
the diversity of life he would embrace
and never choose a state to last his span.

If you would like to learn more about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the great Mexican poet and nun, click here.

Tomorrow night, I will actually post a new flash fiction story by. . . me!

*Both poems I copied out from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Poems, Protest, and a Dream, published by Penguins Classics, 1997.