Rosario Castellanos – The day-to-day

Rosario_Castellanos

For love there’s no heaven, my love, only today;
this sad hair that falls
as you brush it in front of the mirror.
Those long tunnels
that we traverse panting and breathless;
the walls without eyes,
the hollow that rings out
with some hidden and meaningless voice.

For love there’s no respite, my love. The night,
suddenly, becomes breathable.
And when a star breaks its chains
and you see it zigzagging, wildly, till it disappears,
even then the law doesn’t loosen its grip.
The encounter is in the dark. The taste of tears
mingles with the kiss.
And in the embrace you clasp
the memory of that orphanhood, of that death.

Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974)
(Translation by John Lyons)


Lo cotidiano

Para el amor no hay cielo, amor, sólo este día;
este cabello triste que se cae
cuando te estás peinando ante el espejo.
Esos túneles largos
que se atraviesan con jadeo y asfixia;
las paredes sin ojos,
el hueco que resuena
de alguna voz oculta y sin sentido.

Para el amor no hay tregua, amor. La noche
se vuelve, de pronto, respirable.
Y cuando un astro rompe sus cadenas
y lo ves zigzaguear, loco, y perderse,
no por ello la ley suelta sus garfios.

El encuentro es a oscuras. En el beso se mezcla
el sabor de las lágrimas.
Y en el abrazo ciñes
el recuerdo de aquella orfandad, de aquella muerte.

Rosario Castellanos

Rosario Castellanos – The absent-minded

Some were unaware.
They believed that the earth was still habitable.
They didn’t look at the crack
that the earthquake opened up; they weren’t there when the cancer
appeared on the frightened face of a man.

They laughed the moment
an apple, instead of falling,
flew off and the universe was declared insane.

They didn’t witness the decapitation
of the innocent. They never distinguished
between an innocent and one who is not.

(On the other hand right from the start
they had approved the death penalty.)

They kept turning up to the places,
demanding a more comfortable chair, a tastier
menu, a more appropriate treatment.

My dear, if they wait on you ungratefully, punish them!

And on the walls there was a strange disorder
and on the tables there was no food but hate
and hate in the wine and hate in the tablecloth
and hatred even in the wood and in the nails.

The absent-minded whispered among themselves:
What’s going on? You have to complain!

Nobody was listening. Nobody could stop.

It was the time of emigrations.

Everything burned: cities, entire forests, clouds.

Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974)

(translation by John Lyons)


Poetry is universal. Rosario Castellanos wrote many poems about the dispossessed of Mexico. When we read her poetry we are all Mexicans, and in our minds and hearts in this tragic moment, we are also all Ukrainians, as Zelensky says : Shakespeare is Ukrainian, Dante is Ukrainian, Cervantes is Ukrainian. All cultures are one human culture and culture, by definition, resists and denounces all tyranny and inhumanity for all time.

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We kill what we love – Rosario Castellanos

Rosario Castellanos (1925 – 1974) a Mexican poet and one of her country’s most important literary voices in the 20th century. She identified deeply with the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The translation below has been revised from an earlier post.

rosario-castellanos

We kill what we love. The rest
was never alive.
No one else is that close. No one else is hurt.

by a lapse of memory, an absence, sometimes less.
We kill what we love. Let this suffocation of
breathing through anothers lung end!
The air’s not enough
for us both. And the earth is insufficient
for our two bodies
and the portion of hope is tiny

And the pain cannot be shared.

Man is an animal of solitudes,
a deer with an arrow in its flank
that runs off and bleeds to death.

Oh! but the hatred, its glassy-eyed
insomniac stare; its attitude
which is both calm and a threat.

The deer goes to drink and in the waters
a tigers reflection appears.
The deer drinks the water and the image. It becomes
—before they devour him—(complicit, spellbound)
just like its enemy.

We only give life to what we hate.

Rosario Castellanos

(translation by John Lyons)

Mexican night

Mexican night

That distant night in Mexico
           the main square in Mérida
where I sat alone
           on a bench
in the intense heat
           and at my feet
a carpet of tiny spiders
           the bustle and the silence
the clack clack clack of a classroom
           full of young women
learning to type
           in the silence 

And the day before

           down by the bus station
a thousand or more birds
           on the wires
all waiting to depart
           just as I was
the memory still warm
           waiting to depart

John Lyons