Poetry, translation

A Brief Allegory of Merida and other poems

by Roldan Peniche Barrera

translated by Jonathan Harrington

 

 

Brevísima alegoría de Mérida

A Mérida llega la brisa vespertina
con su cauda de pájaros cansados.
Cuando en Mérida es noche
aroma la esencia del jazmín,
y de lirios, y de rosas del color de la carne.
Es las tinieblas oirás el alarido
del tecolote de ojos encendidos
y el revuelo del pájaro fantasma.
La madrugada es del tordo y de la tórtola
y la mañana refluye en cantos de cigarras,
pregones de voz primaveral,
sabores de piña y de guanábana
y un sol gozoso que emerge del mar.

 

A Brief Allegory of Mérida

The breeze comes to Mérida  in the twilight
with its comet-tail of tired birds.
When it is night in Mérida
the air is perfumed with jazmine
and lillies, and of roses the color of flesh.
In the darkness you will hear the owl of fiery eyes
and the rustling of a phantom bird.
Dawn belongs to the black sparrow and the turtle dove
and the entire morning flows in the singing cicadas
proclaiming in the primeaval voice of vendors
—pineapples and guanábana—
and a joyful sun emerges from the sea.

 

 En Uxmal

En Uxmal restalla el látigo de los resplandores.
Quien  asciende a la cúspide de la pirámide
toca a los astros,
percide la respiración de los dioses
y acaso escuche el tañido
del címbalo de oro
que fulgura en las manos de un rey mago.
Entre los ecos de una caverna
vive todavía la abuela de ese rey,
castigada de siglos.
A sus pies yace, en silencio,
el rencor de una serpiente fugitiva del infierno.

 

In Uxmal

In Uxmal the whip of brightness cracks.
He who ascends the pinnacle of the pyramid
touching the stars,
perceives the breathing of the gods
and might hear the striking
of a golden cymbal
that sparkles in the hands of a magician king.
Between the echoes of the cave
the grandmother of this king still lives,
punished by the centuries.
At her feet lies, in silence,
the rancor of a fugitive serpent from hell.

 

Boceto de Chichén Itzá

En Chichén Itzá hay una pirámide
donde el tigre rojo pernocta su melancolía.
En Chichén Itzá duerman los ecos
y las sombras de reyes y guerreros.
Crujen allí las calaveras del tzompantli
terribles en la oquedad de los tiempos.
Pisan la suave sombra del mediodía los venados;
las serpientes de piedra
descienden desde la cúspide
de equinoccios y solsticios,
y en la alta noche los astrónomos
desvelan la encrucijada de la eternidad.

 

Sketch of Chichén Itzá

In Chichén Itzá there is a pyramid
where the red tiger slumbers in its melancholy.
In Chichén Itzá the echoes and shadows
of kings and warriers sleep.
The skulls of tzompantli rustle
in the cavity of the ages.
The deer tread lightly on the shadows of midday,
the serpents of stone
descend from the heights
of equinoxes and solstices,
and the astronomers reveal the cross-roads of eternity
in the elevated night.

 

Danza en el mar

Desnudos,
danzamos en el mar
arrebujados de las olas,
sabios en los besos
y el juego de manos
que acarician mutuamente
nuestros cuerpos.

 

Dancing in the Sea

Naked,
we danced in the sea
juggled by the waves,
scholars of kisses
in a play of hands
that mutually carressed
our bodies.

 

Patio-abuelo

En el patio, inmenso y abierto a la soledad,
me gasté la mitad de mi infancia.
Gran abuelo, seguramente hollado
de las pisadas de los antiguos mayas
fue cancha del juego de pelota,
huerto y jardín, dador de la guanábana,
solar del gata nutrido de violines
y territorio de la zariguya-guillotina
terror de las aves de corral.
A la aurora, despierta el patio
al arrullo de los pajarillos.

 

Grandfather and Patio

In the patio, immense and open to the solitude,
I spent half of my childhood.
Amazing grandfather, it surely was touched
By the footsteps of the ancient Maya;
and it once was their ball field,
then it became a garden, giver of the guanábana,
the backyard of the cat fed on violins
and territory of the opposom guillitine
terror of the birds of the corral.
At dawn, the patio wakes
to the cooing of little birds.

 

 

Poetry by Roldán Peniche Barrera from his book: Between Sweat and Time

 

 


 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Roldán Peniche is one of the best known writers in Yucatán.  He is a poet, story writer, essayist and a critic of art and literature as well as a translator.  He has published twenty-nine books.  He has translated Freud and Tennessee Williams into Spanish.  In 1992 he received the Antonio Medez Bolio Prize in recognition of his life-long contribution to literature.  The above poems are translations (by Jonathan Harrington) from Roldán Peniche’s book, Entre el sudor y el tiempo, (Between Sweat and Time). The settings of the poems in this book are fare-ranging.  The book includes poems not only about his beloved Mérida, but also San Francisco, Boston, New York, Mexico City and elsewhere.  In the introduction to the book, Peniche writes:  “We have here in these pages an unfinished chronicle of man and his circumstances, the memory of a witness and actor…”

Jonathan Harrington (translator) has published translations from Mayan and Spanish in World Literature Today, Visions International, The Dirty Goat, International Poetry Review, and other magazines.  He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has published thirteen books including novels, poetry, short stories, and essays.  His book of translations from the Maya poet Feliciano Sánchez Chan is forthcoming from New Native Press.  His latest book of poems, The Traffic of Our Lives recently won The Ledge Press Poetry Prize.  Jonathan lives on the Hacienda San Antonio Xpakay in Yucatan, Mexico.

Contact Jonathan Harrington at: xpakayjon@hotmail.com

 

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jane23

Artist: Jane Gilday

And She Really Was Feeling It So Much

Watercolor and crayon on canson paper

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