¿Para qué?

Biblioteca de Cultura Artesana, Palma

This week I’ve been on holiday in Palma, Majorca, where I managed to get myself involved in a Spanish poetry slam! Laia MaLo was the guest poet for the night and somehow got me in the line-up. The slam was judged by randomly selected members of the audience, who wrote scores out of ten on blackboards. I ended up reading first, and didn’t come last, which was surprising because probably only about ten people in the audience could understand my poem (the guy who came last called himself ‘Bonito Del Norte’)!

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While I was there I also attempted to read some contemporary Spanish poetry. I bought the book Espejo Negro y Otras Poemas by Miriam Reyes (liliputienses, 2017) and set about translating the first poem, ‘Mi padre enfermo de sueños’ (‘My father sick of dreams’), with a dictionary and my very basic Spanish skills. I checked it with Laia to make sure I got the gist, then set off to hand out the poem in the centre of Palma.

The Biblioteca de Cultura Artesana is a big, air-conditioned public library, attached to the shady gardens of Misericordia, which had this old thing in it:

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I gave the poem out in the original and my translation, though I don’t think many people who took it would have needed the English. One woman asked me: “¿para qué?” (What for?) and I answered shakily: “para leer” (…to read) which seemed to satisfy her. I also gave one to an old man sitting on a bench who stared at it very intensely for a while. When I’d handed them all out I came back and asked him if he liked it he smiled and nodded.

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Mi padre enfermo de sueños

Mi padre enfermo de sueños
en el asfalto incandescente
de cien mil mediodías caminados
bajo el sol en vertical
perdió sus pies
y apoyado en sus rodillas sigue buscando
el camino de vuelta a casa.

Mi padre sueña,
rendido por el cansancio,
que vuelve a su tierra y planta sus piernas
y le crecen pies jóvenes
y la savia de su tierra negra
le alivia el dolor de las arrugas
y resucita sus cabellos muertos.

Luego despierta en un piso alquilado
a la ciudad de los huracanes de la miseria
y blasfema y maldice y no tiene amigos.
Escondido en la noche
papá llora por las certezas que lo defraudaron.

Del otro lado de su piel
mamá llora por mamá
mamá llora por su casa que ya no habita
y por paz y reposo y risa.

Papá y mamá lloran
cada uno a espaldas del otro en la cama
en el más crudo estruendoso hermoso silencio
que modula en frecuencias infrahumanas
sonidos que se articulan como palabras:
«si aquí no están mis sueños
cómo puedo dormir aquí».
Y que sólo yo escucho
con la cabeza enterrada en la almohada.

Concebida de la nostalgia
nací con lágrimas en el sexo
con tierra en los ojos
con sangre en la cabeza.
No soy lo que soñaron
como tampoco lo son sus vidas.

*

My father is sick of dreams

in the incandescent asphalt of a hundred million midday walks
vertically below the sun
he lost his feet
and rested on his knees searching
for the road back to the house.
My father dreams
hazy from tiredness
he lies down and lifts his legs and grows young feet
and the black earth’s sap undoes the pain of his wrinkles
and revives his dead hairs.
Later he wakes up in a rented apartment
in the city of the hurricanes of misery
and blasphemy and hate and has no friends.

Secretly in the night
daddy cries for the certainty of disappointment.
On the other side of my skin
mummy cries for mummy
mummy cries for the house she doesn’t live in any more
and for peace and rest and laughter.

Daddy and mummy cry
each one behind the other’s back in bed
in the most raw clatteringly beautiful silence
that modulates in infrahuman frequencies
sounds that articulate like words:
“if my dreams are not here
how can I sleep here?”
And that only I can hear
with my head buried under the pillow.

Conceived from nostalgia
I was born with tears in sex with earth in my eyes and blood in my head.
I am not what they dreamed of
but neither are their lives.

 

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