10 April, 2011

Before Saying Any of the Great Words

We already know: first we must agree
on which they are; but let us acknowledge that they exist:

they resound in all their weight and gravity
down Nevsky Prospekt, in the muttering of Raskolnikov,

and Cortázar mocks them at every opportunity,
lightens them up, musses their hair, reconciles them

with the rest of the vocabulary so that they may rub benignly
against one another and liberty won't do too much harm

with its tonnage of Greek marble
and its whiff of existentialism and its undeniable tragic greatness

to janitor, tenedor, bibelot--although the greatness of this last one
is suspect, for which we have Mallormé to blame,

there are also the short and decisive words: yes, no, now, never,
turbid love, clean death, rattled poetry,

other words that are like art for art' sake: sandalwood
for instance, and words like deoxyribonucleic, telescopic

and possessing an undeniably scientific elegance, a diffuse,
intense, and labyrinthine character, all at once, linked

to that other word, life, and of course there are the combinations,

your mouth, this letter, dozens of verbal objects,
that are only important for inexplicable reasons,

spoken at night or during the day, said

or held in silence, in the velvety net
of memory, in the transparent and energetic fortress

of forgetting, that body or fabric from which
are also made the great words, time, so many things.

~ ~ David Huerta

Translated from the Spanish by Mark Schafer.
From:   Before Saying Any of the Great Words  (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). 
With permission.
Why Must It Be Beautiful?

What is it for, all this
beauty? The curve
of the spiral

from the laddered
twist of DNA
to the vast wave

of galaxies; the green
luna moth, breath-
taking & ordinary.

Does the prey see
beauty in its predator?
Do gazelles admire

the leopard? Does
the seal lift
its sleek head

to gaze in wonder
at the bumbling,
lethal polar bear?

Our science tells us
how. Our science
gives us reason.

But why must it be
beautiful? The aero-
nautic miracle

of the bumble bee;
the passing brilliance
of the butterfly. Surely

predators would be
more deterred by
ugliness. The hideous

and the platypus
have their own glory.
Humans have our

own glory. Do other
creatures adore
the useless,

the only gorgeous,
the green wave
of Northern Lights

dimming the stars?
The indented shadow
of the heron's bath

in a snowdrift? Why
must it be beautiful?
When we pass, with

the bee, with
the butterfly,
with the polar bear,

the leopard,
the gazelle,
who will grieve

this deep and terrible
loss? Who will delight
in what comes next?

~ ~ Sharon Brogan

Escarcha sucia del audio
en la penumbra nómada
del automóvil;
ciénaga de sonidos
en donde la aguja del oído
apenas puede moverse.
De pronto, una torch singer
desmenuza a Wittgenstein
con tenedores de Cante...
¿Cómo lo hace? ¿Cómo
desenlaza, destraba los lenguajes,
hace fluir el mundo - y por añadidura
suma la gracia
y la tragedia?
El automóvil
entra en la noche
ungido por la música.


               Gritty frost from
               the radio speaker
               in the car's
               nomadic shadows:
               a swamp of sounds
               in which hearing's
               needle can
               barely move.
               Out of nowhere,
               a torch singer
               slices through Wittgenstein
               with the cutlery
               of cante jondo...
               How does she do it? -
               unstitch, unseam
               language itself,
               make the world flow and
               if that wasn't enough
               hit the twin peaks
               of grace and tragedy?
               The car
               anointed with music
               slips into the night.

~ ~  David Huerta

Translated from the Spanish by Jamie McKendrick.