Nícolas Guillén


A Poem In Four Anguishes And One Hope

for Luis Díaz Soto



First Anguish
Glances Of Metal And Rocks

Not Cortéz, nor Pizarro,
(Aztecs, Incas, together hauling the double cart.)
Rather, their rough men
leaping time. Here, with their shields.
Here, with their hard calloused hands;
remote militiamen
here at our feet,
spurs dug in their ponies;
here with us at last,
distant militiamen,
fervent, closest brothers.

The tumultuous irons
of warriors' lances;
the swords that sunk their point in the dawns;
the grey armor;
the ingenuous vehement muskets;
the nails and horseshoes
of the delicate equine conquering hooves;
the helms, the visors,
all the old imperialist metal,
flows fused in burning waters
where soldier, worker, artist
gather the bullets for their machineguns.

Not Cortéz, nor Pizarro,
(Aztecs, Incas, together hauling the double cart.)
Rather, their rough men
leaping time. Here, with their shields.

Look at her, at Spain, broken!
And birds flying over ruins,
and Fascism with its wineskin,
and unlit lanterns on the corners,
and the raised fists,
and the awakened breasts,
and mortars exploding on the asphalt
over horses now definitely dead;
and marine tears,
salty, bent, clashing against all the ports;
and shouts that stick out of mouths
and of angered eyes, open, well open,
glances of metals and rocks.


Second Anguish
Your Veins, the Root of Our Tree

The root of my tree, twisted;
the root of your tree, comrade,
of all our trees,
drinking blood, damp with blood,
the root of my tree, your tree.

I feel her,
the root of my tree, of your tree,
of all our trees,
I feel her
nailed in the deepest level of my earth,
nailed there, nailed,
trailing over me and lifting me and talking to me,
shouting at me.
The root of your tree, my tree.

In my earth, nailed,
with spikes now, of iron,
of gunpowder, of stone,
and flowering in excited tongues,
and feeding branches where the tired birds roost,
and lifting her veins, our veins,
your veins, the root of our trees.


Third Anguish
And My Bones Marching in Your Soldiers

Death goes disguised as a priest.
With my tropical shirt tight,
stuck with sweat, I kill my dance
and move behind Death through your life.

Your two bloods, that are joined in me,
return to you, for they came from you,
and question through your bright wounds.
I'll see the men who wounded you withered.

Against scepter and crown and mantle and saber,
people, against cassock; and I with you,
and with my voice, so your breast will speak to you.
I, your friend, my friend; I, your friend.

In the grey mountains; on the red
trails; over the runaway roads,
my skin. in strips, to make you bandages,
and my bones marching in your soldiers.


Fourth Anguish

I knock on the door of a ballad.
--  Federico been here?
A parrot answers me:
--  He's gone.

I knock on a door of crystal.
--  Federico been here?
A hand comes, and answers me:
--  He's in the river.

I knock on a gypsy's door.
--  Federico been here?
No one answers, no one speaks ...
--  Federico! Federico!

The dark house, empty;
black moss on the walls;
well-wall, no bucket,
garden of green lizards.

Upon the plowed earth
snails that stir,
and the red wind of July
among the ruins, rocking.
Federico! Federico!
Where does the gypsy die?
Where do his eyes grow cold?
Where can he be that he doesn't come?
Federico! Federico!

(A Song)

Left Sunday at nine,
left Sunday at night,
left Sunday, doesn't come back!
Had a lily in his hand,
had a fever in his eyes;
lily turned to blood,
blood turned to death.

(Another Song)

Where can Federico be,
where can he be, that he doesn't come?
Federico! Federico!
Where can he be, that he doesn't come?
Where can he be, that he doesn't come?

(Moment in García Lorca)

Federico was dreaming of nard and wax,
of olive, carnation, and cold moon.
Federico, Granada and Spring.

He slept in a keen solitude,
beside his ambiguous lemon-trees,
lying down, musical, by the roadside.

Tall the night, burning with stars,
dragging her transparent tail
over all the highways.

"Federico!" they shouted suddenly,
with their hands motionless, bound,
the gypsies who were slowly passing.

What a voice from their empty veins!
What warmth from their numbed bodies!
How gentle their footsteps, their footsteps!

Going green, newly nightfellefd;
on the hard invertebrate road
their senses walked barefoot.

Federico arose, bathed in light;
Federico, Grandada and Spring;
and with moon, carnation, nard and wax
followed him to the fragrant mountain.


The Heartened Voice
A Joyful Song Floats In The Distance

You are burning, Spain! Burning
with long red kindled claws;
to matricidal bullets
breast, bronze opposing,
and in eye, mouth, flesh of traitors sinking
your long red kindled claws.
Tall, you come from below,
tied to volcanic roots,
slow blue cables you support your voice with,
your voice from below, strong, of shepherd and poet.
Your gusts, your thunders, your violent
throats cluster in the ear of the world.
You leave yourself; lift
your voice, and rise
bloodied, exhausted, crazed,
and over the crazed expanse
purer you rise, you rise!
I'm watching your veins
drain, Spain, and forever remain full again;
your smiling wounds,
your dead, buried in plots of dream;
your firm battalions,
formed from bartenders, muledrivers and peasants.

son of America,
son of you and of Africa,
yesterday slave of white overlords, masters with bloody whips;
 today slave of red yankees despised and greedy;
 I, splashing in the dark blood that soaks my Antillas;
 smothered in the sourgreen mist of the canefields;
 buried in the mud of the prisons;
 hemmed-in day and night by insatiable bayonets;
 lost in the howling forests of the islands crucified on the cross of the Tropic;
 I. son of America,
 run to you, die for you.

 I, who love freedom simply,
 as one loves a child, the sun, or a tree planted in front of our house;
 who have my voice crowned with harsh millenial jungles,
 and my heart trembling with drums,
 and my eyes lost on the horizon,
 and my white teeth, strong and simple,for cutting roots
and eagerly chewing elemental fruits;
and my lips fleshy and burning
to drink the water of the rivers that saw me born;
and my body damp from the same strong salty sweat
of the panting longshoremen on the docks,
the stonecutters on the highway,
the coffeepickers and the convicts who labor desolate,
uselessly in the prisons only because they've wanted to stop being ghosts;
I shout to you with a free man's shout that I'll go with you, comrades;
that I'll go keeping step with you,
simple and joyous,
pure, tranquil and strong,
with my kinky head and my brown chest,
united to change the trembling belts of your machineguns,
and to drag myself, with my breath held,
there, beside you,
there, where you are, where we'll be,
building under a burning sky riddled with shrapnel
another life simple and broad,
tall, clean, simple and broad,
ringing with our inevitable voice!

With you, conquering arms
yesterday, and today thrust to shatter frontiers;
hands to seize stars brilliant and remote;
to tear skies shaken and profound;
to join in one bundle the islands of the Southern Sea and the islands of the Carribean;
 to mix in a single boiling mass the rock and the water of all the oceans;
 to carry high, gilded by the sun of all the dawns,
 to carry high, nourished by the sun of all the latitudes,
 to carry high, sprinkling blood of equator and poles,
 to carry high, like a tongue that doesn't hush, that will never hush,
 to carry high, the wild, severe, red, merciless,
 hot, tempestuous, noisy,
 to carry high, the levelling and reaping flame of the Revolution!
With you, muledriver, bartender!
With you, yes, miner!
With you, marching,
shooting, killing!
Eh, muledriver, miner, bartender,
together here, singing!

                (A Song, In Chorus)

We all know the road;
our rifles are oiled;
our arms are ready;
let's march!

No matter if we wind up dead,
for death isn't such a big thing;
worse to be free and stand a prisoner,
worse to stand free and be a slave!

There are those who die in bed,
twelve long dying months;
--  and others who die singing
with twelve bullets in their breast!

We all know the road;
our rifles are oiled;
our arms are ready;
let's march!


 So we'll go walking,
 sternly walking, walking, wrapped in the day
 that is being born.  Our firm shoes, resounding,
 will tell the trembling forest: "The future is passing!"
 We'll be lost in the distance ... The dark mass of men
 will be blotted out, but on the horizon, still
 as in a dream, our whole voice will be heard ringing:

        ... We know the road ...
        ... our rifles are oiled ...
        ... our arms are ready ...

 And our joyful song will float like a cloud above the red distance.


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