Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Cementerio de Punta Arenas" by Enrique Lihn

[original poem in Spanish]


Ni aun la muerte pudo igualar a estos hombres 
que dan su nombre en lápidas distintas 
o lo gritan al viento del sol que se los borra: 
otro poco de polvo para una nueva ráfaga. 
Reina aquí, junto al mar que iguala al mármol, 
entre esta doble fila de obsequiosos cipreses 
la paz, pero una paz que lucha por trizarse, 
romper en mil pedazos los pergaminos fúnebres 
para asomar la cara de una antigua soberbia 
y reírse del polvo.

Por construirse estaba esta ciudad cuando alzaron 
sus hijos primogénitos otra ciudad desierta 
y uno a uno ocuparon, a fondo, su lugar 
como si aún pudieran disputárselo. 
Cada uno en lo suyo para siempre, esperando, 
tendidos los manteles, a sus hijos y nietos.

[poem translated into English by David Unger]


Not even death could make these men alike
who give their names to different gravestones
or shout them into the sun’s wind that rubs them out:
some more dust for a fresh gust of wind.
Here, by the sea that is just like marble,
between this double row of bowing cypresses,
peace rules, a peace struggling to shatter itself,
ripping the burial parchments in a thousand pieces
to reveal the face of an ancient arrogance
and to laugh at the dust.

This city had yet to be built when its first
settlers raised still another empty city
and, one by one, they settled deep into their places
as if anyone would even try taking it away from them.
Each one forever in his own place, waiting,
the tablecloths laid out, for his sons and grandsons.

Source of the text – Enrique Lihn, The Dark Room and other poems.  New York: New Directions, 1978, p. 32-33.

TJB: Uneasy peaces. In this arctic-graveyard lyric-essay, the dead are not alike so much as all frozen in time in different struggles & sorrows.

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