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.