part two of lorca’s “poet in new york”

 "the night had a crack and quiet salamanders
            of ivory.
the American girls
carried children and coins in the belly
and the boys fainted stretched on the cross.”

  
 

II

THE BLACKS

 

For Ángel del Río

 

 

Norm and Paradise of the Blacks

They hate the shadow of the bird
over the high water of the white cheek
and the conflict of light and wind
in the salon of the cold snow.

They hate the bodiless arrow,
the precise handkerchiefs farewell,
the needle that keeps the pressure and the rose
in the cereal blush of the smile.

They love the blue desert,
the swaying bovine expressions,
the lying moon of the poles,
the water’s curved dance at the shore.

With the science of tree trunk and street market
they fill the clay with luminous nerves
and lewdly skate on waters and sands
tasting the bitter freshness of their millenial spit.

It’s through the crackling blue,
blue without worm or a sleeping footprint,
where the ostrich eggs remain eternal
and the dancing rains wander untouched.

It’s through the blue without history,
blue of a night without fear of day,
blue where the nude of the wind goes splitting
the sleepwalking camels of the empty clouds.

t’s there where the torsos dream under the gluttony of grass.
There the corals soak the ink’s despair,
the sleepers erase their profiles under the skein of
           snails
and the space of the dance remains over the final ashes.

The King of Harlem

With a spoon
he scooped out the eyes of crocodiles
and beat the monkeys’ behind.
With a spoon.

Fire of always slept in the flint
and the scarabs drunk on anis
forgot the moss of the villages.

That old man covered with mushrooms
went to the place where the blacks were crying
while the king’s spoon rang
and the tanks of rotten water arrived.

The roses fled down the edges
of the last curves of air,
and on mounds of saffron
children crushed small squirrels
in a flush of stained frenzy.

One must cross the bridges
and arrive at the black shame
so that the lung’s perfume
hits our temples with its clothing
of hot pineapple.

One must kill the blond seller of firewater,
kill all the friends of the street and sand
and one must punch
the small Jewish women who tremble full of bubbles,
so the king of Harlem sings with the crowd,
so the crocodiles sleep in long lines
under the asbestos of the moon,
and no one doubts the infinite beauty
of the feather dusters, the graters, the copper pots and pans of
         the kitchen.

Oh Harlem! Harlem!
There is no anguish compared to your oppressed reds,
to your blood shaken inside the dark eclipse,
to your garnet violence, deaf and mute in the shadows,
to your great prisoner king in his janitor’s uniform.

The night had a crack and quiet salamanders
         of ivory.
The American girls
carried children and coins in the belly
and the boys fainted stretched on the cross.

They are.
They are the ones who drink silver whiskey next to volcanoes
and swallow bits of heart on the frozen mountain of bear.

That night the king of Harlem
with a very hard spoon
scooped out the eyes of the crocodiles
and beat the monkeys’ behind.
With a spoon.

The blacks wept, confused
between umbrellas and suns of gold,
the mulattos stretched rubber bands, wanting to reach the
         white torso,
and the wind fogged mirrors
and broke the veins of the dancers.

Blacks.

Blood has no doors in your night, face up.
There is no shame. Furious blood under the skin
alive in the dagger’s thorn and in the breast of the landscapes,
under the clamps and small yellow flowers of the celestial
         moon of cancer.

Blood that seeks death down a thousand roads,
death covered with flour and the ash of fragrant weeds,
rigid skies sloping where the colonies of planets
roll down the beaches with abandoned objects.

Blood that looks slowly out the corner of its eye,
made of crushed grass, underground nectars.
Blood that rusts the careless winds in a footprint
and dissolves butterflies on the window glass.

It’s the blood that comes, that will come,
down flat and tiled roofs everywhere
to burn the chlorophyll of blonde women,
to moan at the foot of the beds before the sinks’ insomnia,
and crash in a dawn of tobacco and yellow haze.

One must flee,
flee past corners and hide in the highest floors
because the forest’s marrow will penetrate the cracks
to leave on your flesh the faint footprint of an eclipse
and the false sadness of a faded glove and a chemical rose. 

It’s in the wisest silence,
that’s when the waiters and cooks and those who clean
             with their tongues
the wounds of the millionaires
search for the king in the streets or in the angles of saltpeter.

A south wind of wood, slanting in the black mud,
spits at the broken barges and hammers nails into its shoulders;
a south wind carrying
fangs, sunflowers, alphabets
and a battery with drowned wasps.
What we forgot was expressed by three drops of ink on the monocle,
love by a single invisible face from the stone’s level.
Medullas and corollas composed above the clouds
a desert of stalks without a single rose. 

To the left, to the right, to the south and the north
an impossible wall goes up,
for the mole and a needle of water.
Don’t look, blacks, in its crevice
to find the infinite mask.
Look for the great sun of the center.
Turn into a buzzing hive.
The sun slides through the forest
sure not to find the nymph,
the sun that destroys numbers and never has crossed a dream,
the tattooed sun that goes to the river
and moans pursued by caimans.

Blacks.

Never did a serpent or zebra or mule
pale before dying.
The woodsman doesn’t know when the clamorous trees
he cuts down die.
Wait under the vegetable shadow of your king
till hemlock, thistle, and nettle trouble the farthest roofs.
Then, blacks, then,
you can kiss in a frenzy the bicycle wheels,
place pairs of microscopes in the nests of squirrels,
and dance at last, no doubt, while the bristling flowers
murder our Moses close to the rushes of heaven.

Oh Harlem disguised!
Oh Harlem, threatened by a crowd of headless uniforms!
Your rumbling comes to me,
your rumbling comes through trunks and elevators,
through layers of gray
where your cars float covered by teeth,
through dead horses and small crimes,
through your great desperate king,
whose beard reaches the sea.
 

Abandoned Church (Ballad of the Great War)

Once I had a son named John.
Once I had a son.
He was lost in the arches, one Friday, Day of the Dead.
I saw him playing on the last raised steps of the Mass
and he lowered a tin bucket into the priest’s deep heart.
I pounded on the coffins. My son! My son! My son!
I pulled a chicken leg from behind the moon and suddenly
realized that my girl had become a fish
where carts recede in the distance.
Once I had a little girl.
Once I had a dead fish beneath the ashes of the censers.
Once I had a sea. Of what? My God. A sea!
I climbed up to ring the bells, but the fruit was wormy
and the snuffed-out tapers
had eaten the spring wheat.
I saw the transparent stork of alcohol
picking clean the black heads of dying soldiers
and I saw the shelters of rubber
where the spinning goblets brimmed with tears.
I’ll find you, my dear son, in anemones of the offertory
when the priest lifts the mule and the ox with his powerful arms,
to frighten nocturnal toads that roam the chalice’s frozen landscape.
Once I had a son who was a giant,
but the dead are more powerful and can devour pieces of the sky.
If my boy had been a bear,
I wouldn’t fear the crocodiles lying in ambush,
or have seen the sea lashed to the trees
for the brutal pleasure of regiments.
If only my boy had been a bear!
I’ll lie down and wrap myself in this rough canvas so I won’t feel the cold moss.
I know very well that I’ll be given shirt sleeves or a tie;
but in the middle of Mass I’ll break the rudder and then
the insanity of those who sleep and sing on street corners say:
Once he had a son.
A son. A son. A son.
who was his alone, because he was his son.
His son. His son. His son.

–from Frederico Garcia Lorca, Poet in New York

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