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Federico García Lorca: New York (Office and Denunciation)

Beneath the multiplications,
a drop of duck’s blood;
beneath the divisions,
a drop of sailor’s blood;
beneath the additions, a river of tender blood.
A river that sings and flows
past bedrooms in the boroughs —
and it’s money, cement or wind
in the false daybreak of New York.
I know there are mountains and eyeglasses
And wisdom. But I didn’t come to see the sky.
I’m here to see the clouded blood,
the blood that sweeps machines over waterfalls
and the soul toward the cobra’s tongue.
Every day in New York, they slaughter
four million ducks,
five million hogs,
two thousand pigeons for pleasure,
a million cows, a million lambs,
and two million roosters
that leave the sky shattered.

.

It’s better to sob while honing the blade
or murder dogs on delirious hunts
than to resist at dawn
the endless milk trains,
the endless blood trains
and the trains of roses manacled
by the merchants of perfume.
The ducks and the pigeons,
and the hogs and the lambs
leave drops of blood
beneath the multiplications,
and the terrified bellowing of the cows
fills the valley with sorrow
where the Hudson gets drunk on oil.

.

I denounce all those
who never think of the other half,
the irredeemable half,
who raise their mountains of concrete
where the hearts of forgotten animals beat
and where all of us will fall
in the final fiesta of jackhammers.
I spit in your faces.
The other half hears me,
eating, pissing, flying in their purity
like children who carry flimsy twigs
to holes where insects’ antennas are rusting.
This is not hell. This is the street.
That is not death. That is the fruit stand.
There are broken rivers and distances just out of reach
in the paw of a cat smashed by a car,
and I hear the song of the earthworm
in the hearts of many young girls.
Rust, fermentation, earthquakes.
You yourself are earth drifting among numbers in the office.
What am I going to do, put the landscapes in their right places?
Arrange the loves that quickly turn into photographs
And then become pieces of wood and mouthfuls of blood?

.

Should we then worship the blood of the rabbit
beside the church tower? No, no, I denounce,
I denounce the conspiracy of these deserted offices
that erase the architecture of the forest in agony,
and I offer myself as food for the cows milked dry
while their bellowing fills the valley
and the Hudson gets drunk on oil.


Translation copyright 2021 Michael Simms

Translator’s note: García Lorca left several extant versions of this poem. My translation is derived from this version. It is  a direct translation although I did take a few liberties with the text for the sake of coherence. Most notably, the lines which many translators, as well as the poet himself in some versions, simply leave out because they are so odd and obscure:

San Ignacio de Loyola

asesinó un pequeño conejo

y todavía sus labios gimen

por las torres de las iglesias.

translate literally as:

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

killed a little rabbit

and still her lips moan

by the church towers.

I translate as:

Should we then worship the blood of the rabbit

beside the church tower?

.

Poet in New York (in Spanish, Poeta en Nueva York) is one of the most important works of Spanish author Federico García Lorca. It is a body of poems composed during the visit of the poet to Columbia University in New York in the years 1929/1930. During his stay, the stock market crashed in October 1929, an event which profoundly affected his poetic vision.

After his stay in New York, Lorca traveled to Cuba, where he wrote one of the poems included in the book, “Son de negros en Cuba”, before returning to Spain. The book was not published until 1940, after Lorca’s death. Due to Franco’s dictatorship, it was originally released in Mexico and the United States translated by Rolfe Humphries.

4 comments on “Federico García Lorca: New York (Office and Denunciation)

  1. johnlawsonpoet
    July 10, 2021

    Gripping translation, Michael.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rose Mary Boehm
    July 10, 2021

    Excedlent translation. I also prefer the literal trasnslationg with some obviously needed exceptions.

    “who raise their mountains of concrete
    where the hearts of forgotten animals beat
    and where all of us will fall
    in the final fiesta of jackhammers.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      July 10, 2021

      Thanks, Rose Mary. Since you also translate from the Spanish to the English, I appreciate your praise.

      Liked by 2 people

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