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Archive for June, 2012

Surrounded by the void,
naked,
I share
the profile
of suspended air  
and feel
the convulsions
that grip
the treetop
when the saw
bites the trunk.

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Alrededor del vacío
me desnudo
para unirme
al perfil
en suspenso
aéreo
reconozco
las convulsiones
que asaltan la copa
cuado la sierra
muerde el leño

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Julia Barón Supervielle, nacida en Buenos Aires en 1934 en el seno de una familia argentina/uruguaya de origen francés, creció en ambas orillas del Rio de la Plata. Al superar su juventud, ya admirada como poeta y novelista tanto en español como francés, cuenta  que “obedeciendo a un impulso misterioso” decidió mudarse a París, donde hoy día sigue viviendo y trabajando. En su última novela, “El Puente Internacional” (Gallimard 2011) la trama fluye con la corriente de los ríos que la han inspirado siempre: no sólo el Rio de la Plata, sino también el Sena en París y el Támesis en Londres, y sus personajes son basados en ribereños reales, incapaces de sobrevivir lejos del entorno fluvial.  Si bien no conozco su obra como novelista, considero a Julia como “poeta para poetas”. Me complace enaltecer esta columna con una joyita de la poesía más pura que data de su período del Río de la Plata, inspirada por un bosque ribereño, en su original en español y mi versión libre en inglés.

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Julia Barón Superrvielle, born in Buenos Aires in 1934 to an Argentine/Uruguayan family of French roots, grew up on both shores of the River Platte, and in her late youth, already renowned as poet and fiction writer in both Spanish and French, Julia says that  “due to a mysterious impulse” she moved to Paris, where she still lives and works. In her latest novel, “The International Bridge” (Gallimard,2011) the plot flows along those rivers that have always inspired her, not only the Platte, but the Seine in Paris, and the Thames in London, to create characters from real people who must dwell at the edge of rivers to survive. While I’m not too familiar with Julia’s fiction, I do admire her as indeed “a poet’s poet”, and grace this column with a gem from her River Platte period, inspired by a riverside forest, both her original Spanish and my English rendering.

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Kiddie cat Michin tells his mom:
“I’m now a highway robber,
and anyone who tries to stop me
will be killed on the spot.
From Pop I stole dagger
and pistols, and I’m ready
to hold up and whack people.
This is the last time
you’ll see me in this house.
Once up in the hills, Michin
meets up with a rooster
and practices his aim on the bird:
the shot thunders in the woods,
stubs Michin’s right paw
and scorches his whiskers.
Still, the rooster gets its neck broken.
Then, hungry as hell, our boy
climbs a tree to rob an owl’s nest,
arouses her rage and breaks
the branch that supports him
high above ground: Clank!
Cowboy and dagger fly off
and the owl’s shrieks hurt his ears
as the prodigal wannabe robber
rolls and screams plummeting
to the hard rocky ground.
Once composed from his mishap,
he meets another cat and holds
him up at gunpoint, saying:
“Hey, little bro:  your purse or your life!
Not bullied, the other screams back:
“Put up your arms, thief!”
Michin’s pistol backfires
and he’s almost obliterated
by the ensuing confusion.
On another sojourn our hero
meets a  dog armed to the teeth,
a well-known highway bandit,
and approaches him with  tact
and exquisite manners:
“Pal, lets celebrate our alliance
with mirth, brandy and dance…”
Until  Michin nearly passes out
while scratching his belly.
“Sure thing, chum,” says the dog,
“Lets put our earnings together
and bury them in a safe place.”
While counting the money,
a dispute arises, followed
by screamed threats and slurs
until the dog grabs a big stick
with both paws and beats
his accomplice nearly to death.
Courtesy of the morning dew,
Michin regains his senses,
though lame, half blind,
penniless and hungry as hell.

And while his rival exits
with guffawing barks,
Michin’s ears flop sadly,
tail between his haunches.
crying over so much bad luck.
He picks up his sombrero
and bracing the burning heat,
step by step, returns home
with humble and contrite airs,
to beg Mom:
“I confess to my great sins
and willing to pay for them.
I swear not to be bad again.
Beat me up if you will, mamita,
but please give me something to eat!”

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Michín dijo a su mamá:
“Voy a volverme Pateta,
y el que a impedirlo se meta
en el acto morirá.
Ya le he robado a papá
daga y pistolas; ya estoy
armado y listo; y me voy
a robar y matar gente,
y nunca más (¡ten presente!)
verás a Michín desde hoy”.
Yéndose al monte, encontró
a un gallo por el camino,
y dijo: “A ver qué tal tino
para matar tengo yo”.
Puesto en facha disparó,
retumba el monte al estallo,
Michín maltrátase un callo
y se chamusca el bigote;
pero tronchado el cogote,
cayó de redondo el gallo.
Luego a robar se encarama,
tentado de la gazuza,
al nido de una lechuza
que en furia al verlo se inflama,
mas se le rompe la rama,
vuelan chambergo y puñal,
y al son de silba infernal
que taladra los oídos
cae dando vueltas y aullidos
el prófugo criminal.
Repuesto de su caída
ve otro gato, y da el asalto
“¡Tocayito, haga usted alto!
¡Déme la bolsa o la vida!”
El otro no se intimida
y antes grita: “¡Alto el ladrón!”
Tira el pillo, hace explosión
el arma por la culata,
y casi se desbarata
Michín de la contusión.
Topando armado otro día
a un perro, gran bandolero,
se le acercó el marrullero
con cariño y cortesía:
“Camarada, le decía,
celebremos nuestra alianza”;
y así fue: diéronse chanza,
baile y brandy, hasta que al fin
cayó rendido Michín
y se rascaba la panza.
“Compañero”, dijo el perro,
“debemos juntar caudales
y asegurar los reales
haciéndoles un entierro”.
Hubo al contar cierto yerro
y grita y gresca se armó,
hasta que el perro empuñó
a dos manos el garrote:
Zumba, cae, y el amigote
medio muerto se tendió.
Con la fresca matinal
Michín recobró el sentido
y se halló manco, impedido,
tuerto, hambriento y sin un real.

Y en tanto que su rival
va ladrando a carcajadas,
con orejas agachadas
y con el rabo entre piernas,
Michín llora en voces tiernas
todas sus barrabasadas.
Recoge su sombrerito,
y bajo un sol que lo abrasa,
paso a paso vuelve a casa
con aire humilde y contrito.
“Confieso mi gran delito
y purgarlo es menester”,
dice a la madre; “has de ver
que nunca más seré malo,
¡oh mamita! dame palo
¡pero dame qué comer!”

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 Personable and dapper,
RinRin Froggie.
Big Mom Toad’s kid.
emerged this a.m.
from their pond
dressed to kill
in Bermuda shorts,
gaudy cravat,
round Derby hat
and mini-cutaway.
“Hey, boy, stay home!”
bellows Big Mom.
Ignoring her command,
he fastens his exit.
On the road, he meets
Junior Mouse,
a friendly neighbor,
who bids him to join  
a fun party at Miss Mouse’s
where there’s always
plenty of booze and grub.
 
Led by the playboy rodent,
they soon arrive at her door,
and Junior Mouse
knocks with elegant flair
and greets their  hostess:
“At your feet, Miss Mouse.
Are you home for visitors?”
 
“Yes indeed, my dear boy,
and  most pleased to see you.
I was busy at my craft
spinning cotton,
but that doesn’t matter:
welcome both to my home.”
 
They smile, bow, shake hands,
and Junior, apt at such things,
breaks the ice:
 “Please, Miss, offer some beer
to my green-hued chum
who’s hot and thirsty to boot.”
 
While errant boy RinRin
empties a pitcher of brew,
the hostess brings out a guitar
and begs him to sing
happy lyrics, elegant tunes.
 
“I’ll be delighted, Miss,
but right now my throat
is parched like dry burlap
and my new clothes
a bit too tight.”
“I’m sorry about your plight,”
cajoles Miss Mouse,
“Please loosen tie and vest
while I sing in your honor
a most singular tune.”

In the midst of this joyful
soirée of of beer, dance.
guitar and singing,
Mamma Cat and her kittens
troop in trough the door,  
and mayhem ensues:
Mamma grabs Junior
by an ear, mewing “Hallo!”
and the kittens take hold
of Miss Mouse
by her paws and her tail.
 
In the face of such invasion,
RinRin puts on his hat,
opens the door
with his paws and snout,
bids all a fine evening,
and takes a colossal leap.
 
He keeps leaping
so fast and so high
that he looses his hat,
tears to pieces his shirt,
and plump!
Lands inside the beak
of a glutton duck
that swallows him
in one gulp.
 
So, one, two, three,
Junior and Miss Mouse
meet their end first,
followed by RinRin Froggie:
the cats dined,
the duck supped,
and Big Mom Toad
was left all alone.
 

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