At three thirty, two hours before I am due home, my desk partner begins investigating a strange smell emanating from his backpack. We are in Math class, and I am finding it difficult to pay attention to functions when he’s got the bag on the table, and his entire upper body stuck in it.
After a while his head, a little disheveled, emerges, and then a hand gripping a napkin. He gives it a perfunctory glance, as though accustomed to textiles in its state of disrepair, before returning to his rummaging in the bag and the search of the That God-Awful Smell. By this point I have almost totally abandoned my attempt to follow the teacher’s explanation and am watching him like a camera man filming a chimpanzee encountering a foreign termite mound.
Suddenly he shoots back up and exclaims: “I KNOW WHAT THE SMELL IS! IT’S MY SANDWICH!”, in the tone of: “I KNOW WHAT THE MEANING OF LIFE IS! IT’S MY SANDWICH!”
And then he proceeds to tell me it’s as old as a month and a few days, and hey, is the napkin disintegrating? Oh, why, yes, it is, hey Emma, is that even possible?!
And that’s when I started guffawing, and my good girl image went straight to Hell.
Cuando es invierno en el mar del Norte
es verano en Valparaíso.
Los barcos hacen sonar sus sirenas al entrar en el
puerto de Bremen con jirones de niebla y de hielo
en sus cabos,
mientras los balandros soleados arrastran por la superficie del Pacífico Sur
Eso sucede en el mismo tiempo,
pero jamás en el mismo día.
Porque cuando es de día en el mar del Norte
—brumas y sombras absorbiendo restos
de sucia luz—
es de noche en Valparaíso
-rutilantes estrellas lanzando agudos dardos
a las olas dormidas.
Cómo dudar que nos quisimos,
que me seguía tu pensamiento
y mi voz te buscaba -detrás,
muy cerca, iba mi boca.
Nos quisimos, es cierto, y yo sé cuánto:
primaveras, veranos, soles, lunas.
Pero jamás en el mismo día.
(We read this in Lengua class and it, spoke to me? Something quite like that.)
“These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.” — Charles Manson
A veces, las palabras se posan sobre las cosas como una
mariposa sobre una flor, y las recubren de colores nuevos.
Sin embargo, cuando pienso tu nombre, eres tú quien le da
a la palabra color, aroma, vida.
¿Qué sería tu nombre sin ti?
Igual que la palabra rosa sin la rosa:
un ruido incomprensible, torpe, hueco.
(And because I am wonderful and too lazy to translate the previous, longer poem, I shall do so for this one.)
Sometimes, words situate themselves above things like a
butterfly above a flower, and they cover themselves with new colors
And yet, when I think of your name, you are the one who gives
the word color, aroma, life.
What would your name be without you?
The same as the word rose without the rose
an incomprehensible noise, clumsy, empty.
(Note that I am not an academic, and that this loses 200% of its power in the translation. I’m helpless.)
Almost immediately (hell, who am I kidding, immediately) that poem made think of a certain someone. A Certain Someone. A CERTAIN SOMEONE. Crazy magic stuff, and I want to hit myself, and then I think of this, something I wrote in the margins of my English notebook:
WHAT IT TAKES TO COMMIT A CRIME, OR CONFESS YOUR LOVE, WHICH REALLY AMOUNT TO THE SAME THING, IN MY MIND
Equal parts gut, gumption, all stupid. Optional, but highly recommended: good boots.
Vonnegut once wrote that saying “I love you” is like putting a gun to someone’s head-because what else can they say, except, “I love you, too.”?
Emma ETA: Vonnegut sure knows what he’s talking about.
Love this: “WHAT IT TAKES TO COMMIT A CRIME, OR CONFESS YOUR LOVE…”
And the crazy pic, wow, powerful, and translations of poems are almost impossible but just reading what you were able to put in English made me want to learn Spanish.
Emma ETA: Thanks Otto! As for the translating of poems, you are right, it’s a horribly frustrating endeavor. Spanish is, in a set of ways I cannot really put into words, a million times lovelier than English, and a million times more impractical. Switching between the two is almost like a betrayal for me, like I’m vacillating between a long-time spouse (English) and a lover (Spanish). Being bilingual is crazy.
I should add that confessing one’s love might actually be a crime 😉
Emma ETA: It might as well be, considering the array of consequences.