Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hunger and poetry

Hunger and poetry. Two Harriet posts address this: one here by Linh Dinh, and the other here, by Javier Huerta.

Below is my version of the poem, "Nanos de la cebolla," and the second part of "El hambre," by Miguel Hernández.

Lullaby of the Onion

(dedicated to his son, after receiving a letter from his wife
in which she said she had nothing to eat but bread and onions)

The onion is frost
shut in and poor.
Frost of your days
and of my nights.
Hunger and onion,
black ice and frost
large and round.

My little boy
was in hunger's cradle.
He was nursed
on onion blood.
But your blood
is frosted with sugar,
onion and hunger.

A dark woman
dissolved in moonlight
pours herself thread by thread
into the cradle.
Laugh, son,
you can swallow the moon
when you want to.

Lark of my house,
keep laughing.
The laughter in your eyes
is the light of the world.
Laugh so much
that my soul, hearing you,
will beat in space.

Your laughter frees me,
gives me wings.
It sweeps away my loneliness,
knocks down my cell.
Mouth that flies,
heart that turns
to lightning on your lips.

Your laughter is
the sharpest sword,
conqueror of flowers
and larks.
Rival of the sun.
Future of my bones
and of my love.

The flesh fluttering,
the sudden eyelid,
and the baby is rosier
than ever.
How many linnets
take off, wings fluttering,
from your body!

I woke up from childhood:
don't you wake up.
I have to frown:
always laugh.
Keep to your cradle,
defending laughter
feather by feather.

Yours is a flight so high,
so wide,
that your body is a sky
newly born.
If only I could climb
to the origin
of your flight!

Eight months old you laugh
with five orange blossoms.
With five little
With five teeth
like five young
jasmine blossoms.

They will be the frontier
of tomorrow's kisses
when you feel your teeth
as weapons,
when you feel a flame
running under your gums
driving toward the centre.

Fly away, son, on the double
moon of the breast:
it is saddened by onion,
you are satisfied.
Don't let go.
Don't find out what's happening,
or what goes on.



Hunger is the most important thing to know:
to be hungry is the first lesson we learn.
And the ferocity of what you feel,
there where your stomach begins, sets you on fire.

You aren't so human that you won't strangle
doves one day without a bad conscience:
that you can't drown doves in cold snow,
who know nothing, if not innocence.

The animal is a huge influence on me,
a beast roars through all my strength, my passions.
Sometimes I have to make the greatest effort
to calm the voice of the lion in me.

I am proud to own the animal in my life,
but in the animal the human persists.
And I look for my body as the purest thing
to nest in such a jungle with its basic courage.

Through hunger, man reenters the labyrinth
where life is lived sinister and alone.
The beast turns up again, recaptures its instincts,
its bristling paws, its animus, its tail.

Learning and wisdom are thrown out,
the mask is removed, the skin of culture,
the eyes of science, the recent crust
of knowledge that reveals and procures things.

Then you know only evil, extermination.
You invent gases, launch ruinous ideas,
return to the cloven hoof, regress to the kingdom
of the fang, dominate the big eaters.

You train the beast, clutch the ladle,
ready for anybody who comes near your table.
Then I see over the whole world only a troop
of tigers, and the sorry sight aches in my eyes.

I haven't opened my soul to so much tiger,
adopted so much of the jackal, that the wine I feel,
the bread, the day, the hunger isn't shared
with other hungers fed nobly into my mouth.

Help me to be a man: don't let me be a beast,
starving, enraged, forever cornered.
A common animal, with working blood,
I give you the humanity that this song foretells.

Translated by Don Share
- from I Have Lots of Heart: Selected Poems of Miguel Hernández

1 comment:

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Don,

I just reposted these on my blog, added a relevant one by Trần Vàng Sao.