Translating Carmen Conde for the Web
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Carmen Conde translated by Bob Offer-Westort


El interrumpido

The interrupted,
the racket of jitters that perpetuate
indefatigably; the fusive dropletting
of the Sun. Oh, animate boy with the igneous face!
Place, over my blinded eyes, your beauty!
And the mystery...

I don’t know, I don’t understand, I don’t intuit: I fear.
I come from the secure, the forgotten—both mine
and yours. Ignore it. I ignore it all, and I seek
with this gaze that drowns itself in circles
of brilliances,
some tender, fraternal evidence.

This stolid line, the impermeable sheepskin that soaks its edges in lakes
and in round, snakish lagoons,
fascinates me like a bird, frantic, mad.

How cold that calm, asleep and nimble
for the complete dreaming, reforming
my secret creature, she of panic at the jungle and the tiger!

So much time, newly-created, and in a motion—
that of these volcanoes, in unassuming threat!

—USA, Summer, 2006


Not just in the heart of the plaza, nor in gardens,
but throughout the City, lording her (full submissive),
the ancient master, jaguar—pure, unfaded,
he, too, entirely captive
to possession (possessive and possessing)
of a world that circles him and belongs to him
like his own skin, pliable and unyielding.

Not in the uncharted jungle, though through the centuries
we, the others, came—we of foreign heritage, without beasts...
Here in the streets that count themselves out
in brief chains of wretched shacks
sprinkled liberally among absurd edifices.
Because the his, the here’s, is the hardy and the broad-shouldered,
not the tall and gawky.

Through the city, the cat.
Shuddering, hrrrring like a boiling ocean,
like the beastly flora, his
jaws gunshot-arced. Alone and giant, completely
in one dimension, though growing, clipped.

It is not that they seek or flee him: they contain him;
they are him; they owe and obey him, sending him
crowds dark and plastic, mumbling, frowning, mouthless...
For him, everything and nothing: jaguar-city,
jaguar-men, lakes, hills, mounds and streets.
What impossible challenge to civilisation in decay,
this thundering majesty of the cat!

—USA, Summer, 2006


On some morning—it could be any—
between this block and that, above and below,
perhaps near the mountain or the lake—wherever—
I catch sight of an old Indian sitting on a threshold,

Fine, handsome, with eyes like an unplumbed lake
and a distance in the brow like the hills
that join, serene, at Momotombo,
seated and possessed. Indian who watched the passing
of so many of us, filing past his eyes.

This is distance. Thus does a man absent himself.
Old, clothing burnt, barefoot,
silently pure in his annulment...
Just as the lakes, exactly like the jagged range,
but unity; but summary. Crowd
of indians in the one. Tribe filing
stationary past, within.

Sun that obscures, shadow that clothes the bodies
like a thin cloth. Hammernail trees;
birds without wings, like children, to the sun, silenced.
The dust, the noise, the merciless city with garbage.
He, there. Quiet. There, there, there,
an indian in the street (why not covered with a lava flow?)
where I lose, suffocated, my slow steps
from tired, old Spain, emerging in Managua.

—USA, Summer, 2006


On arrival I doubted where I had ever left,
for I found, at once, those same friends
who in my youth had found
where Poetry lived.

There was Pedro, seated, contemplating the sea, absorbed;
and there was Juan Ramón, ill, shouldering immortalities...

How much did I tarry in returning to this paradise? I am
shuddering, thinking of the depth of my absence.
Because I can feel myself, in return, recovering it all:
from the volcano to the wild,
from the brid to the forests,
from the cayman to the fruits...
By that mountain range over shivering lakes
that snap their jaws shut around a tender body.

They spoke words from untranslatable silences
and I raised no questions. I recognised them.
Friends who had returned before me, and now I have come
to erase my long absence from the celestial exile.

—USA, Summer, 2006


On stepping on this wave that feeds on thirsty tropical beaches,
I am stepping, already, on the threshold of my distant homeland.
And I feel in my heart, which holds itself master of indifference,
a sensation replete with clear certainties.

Oh, prodigious land, prodigal, ineffable creatures
who give me with your support a love and a tenderness
that binds me in eternal vow to your sweet friendship!
Were it not that my homeland is a net of veins
invading me as only a sea can,
I would stay here, in the shelter of your breast!

This ship is my homeland, Spain, that may have been yours
and that will continue feeling so because you speak to it
sweetly and slowly, relishing it
as I do your fruits: all bloods
of the passionate universe that the sea reunites and fuses.

—USA, Summer, 2006


Nicaragua made me hers in a rough confusion
soothed and softened by her sons’ sweet songs...
What remote roots drag my Iberian blood
toward the barren beauty of Nicaragua?

In me, everything faded in familiarity.
Who would withhold her steps toward another tomorow
who had not killed her own? Who could
purify herself in herself, with herself alone—hers,
the idispensable, expansive social purification?

Bestial, autochthonous beauty, cruel richness
which sinks into the soil its bizarre claw of blood
which, for her, overflows in averages—
Who would withhold from you your own thick breadth,
to eternalise the eternity of your powerful breath?

I do not know if I will return, but if I do
it will be as rebirth from memory to history
of this unpredicted return to the Paradise
which was this life in Nicaragua.

—USA, Summer, 2006