Michael R. Burch

1958
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Lorca translations

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) was a Spanish poet, playwright and theater director. He was assassinated by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and his body was never found.

Gacela of the Dark Death
by Federico Garcia Lorca
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I want to sleep the dreamless sleep of apples
far from the bustle of cemeteries.
I want to sleep the dream-filled sleep of the child
who longed to cut out his heart on the high seas.

I don't want to hear how the corpse retains its blood,
or how the putrefying mouth continues accumulating water.
I don't want to be informed of the grasses’ torture sessions,
nor of the moon with its serpent's snout
scuttling until dawn.

I want to sleep awhile,
whether a second, a minute, or a century;
and yet I want everyone to know that I’m still alive,
that there’s a golden manger in my lips;
that I’m the elfin companion of the West Wind;
that I’m the immense shadow of my own tears.

When Dawn arrives, cover me with a veil,
because Dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me;
then wet my shoes with a little hard water
so her scorpion pincers slip off.

Because I want to sleep the dreamless sleep of the apples,
to learn the lament that cleanses me of this earth;
because I want to live again as that dark child
who longed to cut out his heart on the high sea.

Gacela de la huida (“Ghazal of the Flight”)
by Federico Garcia Lorca
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have been lost, many times, by the sea
with an ear full of freshly-cut flowers
and a tongue spilling love and agony.

I have often been lost by the sea,
as I am lost in the hearts of children.

At night, no one giving a kiss
fails to feel the smiles of the faceless.
No one touching a new-born child
fails to remember horses’ thick skulls.

Because roses root through the forehead
for hardened landscapes of bone,
and man’s hands merely imitate
roots, underground.

Thus, I have lost myself in children’s hearts
and have been lost many times by the sea.
Ignorant of water, I go searching
for death, as the light consumes me.

***

La balada del agua del mar (“The Ballad of the Sea Water”)
by Federico Garcia Lorca
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The sea
smiles in the distance:
foam-toothed,
heaven-lipped.

What do you sell, shadowy child
with your naked breasts?

Sir, I sell
the sea’s saltwater.

What do you bear, dark child,
mingled with your blood?

Sir, I bear
the sea’s saltwater.

Those briny tears,
where were they born, mother?

Sir, I weep
the sea’s saltwater.

Heart, this bitterness,
whence does it arise?

So very bitter,
the sea’s saltwater!

The sea
smiles in the distance:
foam-toothed,
heaven-lipped.

***

Paisaje (“Landscape”)
by Federico Garcia Lorca
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The olive orchard
opens and closes
like a fan;
above the grove
a sunken sky dims;
a dark rain falls
on warmthless lights;
reeds tremble by the gloomy river;
the colorless air wavers;
olive trees
scream with flocks
of captive birds
waving their tailfeathers
in the dark.

***

Canción del jinete (“The Horseman’s Song” or “Song of the Rider”)
by Federico Garcia Lorca
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cordoba. Distant and lone.
Black pony, big moon,
olives in my saddlebag.
Although my pony knows the way,
I never will reach Cordoba.

High plains, high winds.
Black pony, blood moon.
Death awaits me, watching
from the towers of Cordoba.

Such a long, long way!
Oh my brave pony!
Death awaits me
before I arrive in Cordoba!

Cordoba. Distant and lone.

***

Arbolé, arbolé (“Tree, Tree”)
by Federico Garcia Lorca
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sapling, sapling,
dry but green.

The girl with the lovely countenance
gathers olives.
The wind, that towering lover,
seizes her by the waist.

Four dandies ride by
on fine Andalusian steeds,
wearing azure and emerald suits
beneath long shadowy cloaks.
“Come to Cordoba, sweetheart!”
The girl does not heed them.

Three young bullfighters pass by,
slim-waisted, wearing suits of orange,
with swords of antique silver.
“Come to Sevilla, sweetheart!”
The girl does not heed them.

When twilight falls and the sky purples
with day’s demise,
a young man passes by, bearing
roses and moonlit myrtle.
“Come to Granada, sweetheart!”
But the girl does not heed him.

The girl, with the lovely countenance
continues gathering olives
while the wind’s colorless arms
encircle her waist.

Sapling, sapling,
dry but green.

***

Despedida (“Farewell”)
by Federico Garcia Lorca
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If I die,
leave the balcony open.

The boy eats oranges.
(I see him from my balcony.)

The reaper scythes barley.
(I feel it from my balcony.)

If I die,
leave the balcony open!

*

In the green morning
I longed to become a heart.
Heart.

In the ripe evening
I longed to become a nightingale.
Nightingale.

(Soul,
become the color of oranges.
Soul,
become the color of love.)

In the living morning
I wanted to be me.
Heart.

At nightfall
I wanted to be my voice.
Nightingale.

Soul,
become the color of oranges.
Soul,
become the color of love!

*

I want to return to childhood,
and from childhood to the darkness.

Are you going, nightingale?
Go!

I want return to the darkness
And from the darkness to the flower.

Are you leaving, aroma?
Go!

I want to return to the flower
and from the flower
to my heart.

Are you departing, love?
Depart!

(To my deserted heart!)
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