Boston Review
CURRENT ISSUE
table of contents
FEATURES
new democracy forum
new fiction forum
poetry
fiction
film
archives
ABOUT US
masthead
mission
rave reviews
contests
writers’ guidelines
internships
advertising
SERVICES
bookstore locator
literary links
subscribe

 

Search this site or the web Powered by FreeFind


Site Web



 
Epistle of the Shipwreck

There was a time for the audience of the fish
and the Scribes of law and doctrine
in the hidden cadence of the calm night
appointed the gods of the waters
seeking alliance with the icicles,
the soft assault of prayers.

And there was also a time
in which all the beings
from cities and villages
and the long stretches of fresh earth
enchanted the fire, the water
and the warm lineage of winds.

There, men of clay
painted the shuddering of the ground,
the courts of the desert,
the thresholds of daybreak,
the road of the dogs.

They built the walls of ancient mountains
with distance tattooed on their chests,
like a voice with no master or legend,
or like the silence carried by men from faraway.

There the flowers shrieked, the roses
that loved only the red verge of that night.
And for them, the men of time
listened to the message brought by the birds of the North
and the beautiful song of its dead:

The earth was sleeping
on the other side of this world.
Under the dreams of the sky, broad
was the surface of the earth,
with its scepter of shadows and whiteness
and its sites of sand and rocks.
With the flavor of madness,
the material earth
took on human form:

I am the son, the father, the mother,
the suffering and strength.
I am the roar of the lighthouse,
the factory, the slow
passing of time.
I am the scent of the quiet sea,
the storm,
the feast of the elders.
Upon me I found the days
of drones and bumble-bees,
the weddings of man and of beasts,
the idea of demons with lively eyes
that dance and chat light-hearted
and leave us only an echo.

The earth, in a lower voice,
lulled the pasture of its skin.
The aged earth. The fresh earth.
It was pointless to close one's eyes,
to bear witness in the squares:


"From sea to sea, between the two: war."
The cry of a sailor,
the body of a sword.
Beyond,
naive and insubordinate,
the daughter, the sister,
the single absence of the sea;
the earth in a lower voice.

We, kneeling before the Queen's dreams,
knew the law of the cyclones,
the season for fables
and the circling of those seagull skies.
In the role of Ambassadors
we spoke about homage to lagoons and rivers,
colloquies, strange barks,
rows of juniper and entangled palms.
We spoke about the lineage of Temples,
the skin of badgers and hyacinth cloth,
about ceremony bordering on corruption.
We, birds of the North, chained
the cords of Heaven and Earth.

(Tell me the truth, you maker of lies--orders the Queen
with a well-bred mouth.)

But night has penetrated that part of memory
and women raise their prayers
in the tedium of so many offerings.

Praised be those calm afternoons
when ships,
like blind goats, returned
to the memory of their homelands!

Praised be the family of the horned viper,
the king of the herd,
the stories told face to face!

Praised be bays, open
to the games of the moon
and the invasions of murderous nights!

Praised be the maker of piers
and chests
where grace and marvel are kept!

(We breathe the delight of oregano
and wild marjoram; we are ready to die
remorseless.)

Blessed the night that shelters so much sleep!

And above the bliss and the glory,
we beg you Lord,
let us know the course of the winds,
the route of the first rustling,
the laws by which the irises rise.
Lord, we will open
our body
to mountain ranges, sugar-cane plantations
and all the dusty hills.
We will be docile


to the sweat of the jungle,
pleasing
to the voices of the stone,
faithful to the tubercules and the coasts
where silk
and malaria are traded.

And from the lips of a sweet oracle
slides this part of the dream:
under the spur of the wind
and the bitter taste of herbs
man travels to an ancient land,
sent to pinnacles
and sowing fields
to leave a trace in books.
The Advanced
who names the secret things, the abysses
and the shapes of rocks,
chews a leaf cultured under the moon
and his thoughts
descend to the roots of that empire.

Loaded with history
I go to the origin of every glance,
and with the Almighty's gift,
I privilege branches and mountains.

He sought good fortune
once the vessels had sailed off.
Further than six leagues away the beach of his longing was being born.

You are there, boundless in the leaves of the palms.
Filled with varieties of fish,
ornate with shad and mackerel laughter.
You are the body of a virgin,
the tunic of hope.
Above you I will indicate the honor and the caste.

O, Earth with the mouth of a woman,
release my strength,
the grace that nests like a fruit
in the palm of my body!
I am alone and I am frightened.
Far is the other shore of my dream,
the harbor where women of salt
paint the faces of desire.
Guests of my sweet memory,
eat from me,
from my remembrances,
I want to hear you gnaw on the bread and the cheese,
I want to offer myself, change places
with the dead!
The earth beats inside my veins,
I feel the limestone, the phosphorous,
the respite of a never-ending root.
The spittle of the earth finds me,
a man alone,
like a leaf of a lentiscus
in the hiss that comes from the sea.

Green was the leaf that the travelers remembered.
Sitting over the time-worn railing,
they celebrated the path where the mockingbird
annunciated life.


Given to the pleasure of the blights
and the shrouds,
I look at the folly and motionless things
while I think of women who laugh on their own.

Your scent was the slowness of morning;
the warmth of your breasts,
the cause of a lingering silence.

I have dreamt of your vast expanses
of freshness,
of the shadows that tremble
under dikes,
and of the tall trees grown
under the moon's indifference.
I have dreamt of you alive,
in my hands,
with your rumor of crackling
species,
with the divine texts
written in your interior,
with the scraps
of all that is foreign to you,
with the wild flowers that belittle
the temples and the masks.
I have dreamt of you remounting
the history of my words,
like a dappled mare,
unhurried, harmonious.

Lady of an Aztec name,
from wave to wave, you were penetrated
by a white army of seagulls.

Who is like you?
"Afflicted by the sea,
you are now
buried in the depths of waters."

Earth
of all things and all beings,
eager with territories
and titles for provinces.
Your presence is my law,
your extension,
the most sacred rope.

Earth,
return me my voice,
let my dreams be visited by truth,
open the night to the splendor of water.
Relieve me
of all history and guide me,
like an assembly of cuttlefish
or like the hungry hydra
in search of a water-flea,
to the memory of the divine sea.

God,
night has cast off its ropes.

-- María Baranda (translated by Mónica de la Torre)


Copyright Boston Review, 1993–2005. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

 | home | new democracy forum | fiction, film, poetry | archives | masthead | subscribe |