from Enclosed Garden

Book three: Thresholds of Shadow, Part two: Different Love

Emilio Prados

XX

Shadow of April

My body alive and I barely know it;
I can hardly perceive its form
and only when it passes through my dreams
do I feel from its sadness that in it I live.

I do not know its name, nor have I ever
known its name, nor do I want to know it.
Its name has to form itself in its memory:
the memory of me, that is not mine.

But I am born, already old it seems,
after so many hard gales, and, in it,
my tender nature is sharpened
for war now, at the edge of death,
just as before, my cowardly hope
was honed at birth together with my life.

O persistent form that in this way you ensnare
my thoughts in the spinning of the hours!
Where have you carried my eternal struggle
that you always find me disconsolate?

Yet the shadow of April approaches me,
like in other times, when a boy, I saw
its ardor encroach upon my nerves
to awaken its anguish in my blood.

Still its threat upsets my senses,
as yesterday it upset my sad childhood
among ghosts, dreams and resentments
in my first unprotected years . . .

Likewise it shows me its auroras
and wears away my hope for the same.
April, in war and peace, you always find me
unrecognized in the middle of combat,
near the leaves of my death, trembling,
naked, keeping your eternal flower:
like a tree, within my eternal grove;
like delicate grass, among my companions,
but equal to the essence of my fortune.

Always, on arrival, you see that my body
keeps the romantic form of its absence,
that excessive zeal names oblivion.
Me, always in my sadness, not recognizing me.

O, restless springtime, you conceal me,
sated by your ambition, from my own body!
April, April: what eternal adolescence
my continual rebirth though your branches!





XXI

Voice of the Light

Like a knife, you thrust your burning
tongue into the shadow
and you go away and you leave it there
in its dark meat, throbbing,
like a small steel blade
of light, that in your love you sharpen.
How deep it reaches! how securely
it stays buried in the silence
and distributes stars to the night
of the entrails that it illuminates.

Like the skin of thought,
darkness is woven
and the body walks without shadow
and the heart without wound,
the same as in the limbo of the blind,
without shame and without happiness.

How many flooded eyes
and how much useless saliva . . .
and how good the stab
of your fiery tongue.
And, so true, in the exact
moment, your knife sank.

No one saw you. No one knew
who ignited its word,
nor why it was left
in mad alien shadow.

No one saw you. No one knew
how the vision recovered . . .
No one saw you. No one knew,
nor recognized, your flight.





XXII

Copla

Water of God, solitude:
my body is swimming
through seas of oblivion . . .
May it reach your beaches alive.





XXIII

Castle without Strength

Has the soul already been closed to you?
In what stone or skin do you dress?
What inflexible habit squeezes
the youthfulness that controls you?
You are only a display
of ugliness.
                    What oppresses you
in this way, a love
that is not free, even in your dreams?
How hard is the enclosure that masks
the beautiful name that you inhabit!
With what spoon have you dug
the trench that burns your feet?

You are not a tower for defense,
nor a fortified fear,
nor a delayed combat,
nor a tree in the desert . . .

You are only a display
of ugliness.
                    In what lap
of solitude, do you draw out
your disheveled dream?
In none? . . .
                    (There is no repose
if the heart fails to bleed).

In the land of Nothing
you are the firmest reed.
And you raise up, a useless ember,
without knowing that a wandering
flame already follows you
under the sky where you lift yourself.

An ember that the body raises
is always a stone, that from the fire
comes, to be made into a flame.

You do not know it—ember,
brick, skin, dream, plaster—
prison of your heart.

And now you approach the flame
and already it pounds against your tower
and already it scratches your body.

Like ivy, it climbs on you
and already it burns your face . . .
Your skin, your name, the silence,
all proclaim you to be the bonfire.
And your trench is now a ring of
light that declaims your love.
Ay stubborn and mute castle,
how soft are your walls!

Fire comes to you and leaves you:
a thousand tongues attack your body!
Crackle, crackle, crackle, may it crackle
all that burns for love!
You burn.
                    Crackle, crackle, may it crackle
the fire that lifts you up,
fountain of baptism,
tree of light that saves you.
And, now, do you know how to defend yourself?
Has the soul already been closed to you?
Are you only a display
of ugliness? . . .
                    —Bright fountain!


translated from the Spanish by Donald Wellman



Read the original in Spanish

Emilio Prados was born in 1899. In 1937, Edna St. Vincent Millay published her translation of his poem "The Arrival (To Garcia Lorca)" in Spain Sings. Since then, little attention has been paid to his work by readers of English. In Spain he is thought to be next to Garcia Lorca with respect to the depth of his song. In the years before the Spanish Civil War, working with Manuel Altolaguirre, Prados established Litoral, a press associated with the work of many authors of the Generation of 1927: Lorca, Cernuda, Aleixandre, to name only a few. During the War, he wrote in popular idioms in order to gain support for the cause of freedom. Prados died in exile in Mexico in 1962. Jardín cerrado (Enclosed Garden) reflects the loss of homeland and a beautiful gentleness of spirit.

Donald Wellman has published several books of poetry, most recently Prolog Pages from Ahadada, and A North Atlantic Wall and The Cranberry Island Series from Dos Madres Press. From 1981-1994, he edited the O.ARS series of anthologies, devoted to topics bearing on postmodern poetics, including volumes titled Coherence and Translations: Experiments in Reading. In addition to the poetry of Emilio Prados, he has translated works by Antonio Gamoneda (Cervantes Prize 2006), Blaise Cendrars, and Yvan Goll. His translation of Gamoneda's Gravestones is available from the University of New Orleans Press. Enclosed Garden is forthcoming from Dialogos.