Make the grass grow in the mouths of the dead

The nostaglia surge continues… I am infected by my past, by the reveries I would once upon a time fall prey to, by the staggering cocktail of mixing location with poetry, history with experience, the written words of the dead and the smell of the stones which they personally addressed.

The Chrysler Building in NYC has always floored me (much like the rest of that incomparable city) and a significant contributor to the effect that the building and the city have on me is Lorca’s Poet In New York collection. Here was a fellow of deep, deep insight who could only speak like a child. Here was a fellow whose Poem of the Deep Song killed me as a child and left an impression that I have yet to recover from – a scar that will never heal, thank God! A scar that shames the prosaic reality that marks much of my journey into middle age. “Brave Guitar, heart gravely wounded by five arrows” “She thinks the world is tiny and the heart immense” So here, in its entirety is Cry To Rome, (From the Tower of the Chrysler Building) by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Be aware, of course, that his obsession with death foretold clearly the morning that the soldiers took him to the Fountain of Tears, shot him in the testicles and humiliated him further until finally extinguishing his life and burying him in an unmarked grave, by the side of the dusty road, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Apples barely grazed
by slender, silver rapiers,
clouds torn apart by a coral hand
that carries a firey almond on its back,
arsenic fish like sharks,
sharks like wailing drops that blind the masses,
roses that wound
and needles that lace the blood’s plumbing,
enemy worlds and loves covered with worms
will fall on you. Will fall on the great dome
that anoints the military tongues with oil,
where a man pisses on a dazzling dove
and spits pulverized coal
surrounded by thousands of hand bells.

Because there is no one to bestow the bread or the wine,
or make the grass grow in the mouths of the dead,
or spread the linen of rest and peace,
or weep for the wounded elepants.
There are only a million blacksmiths
who forge chains for tomorrow’s children.
Only a million carpenters
who make coffins with no cross.
Only a crowd of laments
unbuttoning their clothes, waiting for the bullets.
The man who scorns the dove should have spoken,
screamed naked between the columns,
and injected himself with leprosy
and shed tears terrible enough
to dissolve his rings and diamond telephones.
But the man dressed in white
knows nothing of the mystery of the wheat ear,
or the moans of a woman giving birth,
or the fact that Christ can still give water,
or the money that burns the prodigy’s kiss
and gives the blood of the lamb to the pheasant’s idiot beak.

The schoolteachers show the children
a marvelous light coming from the mountain;
but what arrives is a junction of sewers
where cholera’s nymphs scream in the shadows.
The teachers point devoutly to the enormous domes filled with
burning incense;
but beneath the statues there is no love,
no love beneath the final crystal eyes.
Love is in the flesh shredded by thirst,
in the tiny thatched hut struggling against the flood;
love is in the pits where the serpents of famine writhe,
in the sad sea where the dead gulls drift
and in the obscurest kiss bristling beneath the pillows.

But the old man with translucent hands
will say: Love, love, love,
acclaimed by millions of the dying;
he will say: Love, love, love,
amidst the gold lame that trembles with tenderness;
he will say: Peace, peace, peace,
among the shivering of knives and melons of dynamite;
he will say: Love, love, love,
until his lips have turned to silver.

Meanwhile, yes, meanwhile
the blacks who empty the spittoons,
the boys who tremble beneath the pallid terror of executives,
the women who drown in mineral oil,
the multitudes with their hammers, violins, or clouds—
they’ll scream even if they bash their heads against the wall,
scream in front of the domes,
scream driven crazy by fire,
scream driven crazy by snow,
scream with their heads full of excrement,
scream as if all the nights converged,
scream with such a heartrending voice
until the cities tremble like little girls
and knock down the prisons of oil and music.
Because we demand our daily bread,
alder in bloom and perennially harvested tenderness,
because we demand that Earth’s will be done,
that its fruits be offered to everyone.

Comments 1

  1. Hello,
    Thank you very much for your taste. I make it clear:
    I am living in Sweden with a bunch of english-speaker friends. I googled poeta en nueva york of garcia lorca because I do love that poetry and tnite I wanted to read it to some english-speaker friends of mine. I knew only the spanish version and the italian translation, thus I was looking for an english translation. yours is awesome! it’s a fortune that you translated it!

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