Translated by María Luisa Ortega Hernández (DePaul University of Chicago) and read by Antonio Martínez Arboleda (University of Leeds)
The slavery of desire
or suffering dressed as sex
I swallow the smoke at your waist
as a tahalí of fingerprints,
as a curved abacus
where beads balance
when he joins in, adding one more.
Dollar bills on fire
a hip on fire
a hand on fire
beading on fire
invoice price on fire.
I dress in that chain,
unbreakable, made of touch
as if an anchor
submerged in your depth
an invisible leather
moored fast into your earth.
How do I break you?
(*)TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: Even though the Oxford English Dictionary records the word “tahalli,” indicating as erroneous the form “tahali,” J. G. Lockhart’s translation of The Spanish Ballads (1822 publication) leaves it in the original Spanish except for the accent: “Of gold-wrought robe or turban — nor jewelled tahali.” (“The Zegri’s Bride”). John Parkinson does the same in his poem “The Death of Khalid Ibn Walid. ‘The Sword of God.’”: “Not thus, / Not thus should Khalid die. What ho! my spear, / My mail, and helm, and gleaming tahali;” (Parkinson, John. Lays of Love and War. Ardrossan: Arthur Guthrie & Sons, 1890, 46-50). Likewise, H. W. Longfellow uses the Spanish word, printed with the Spanish accent (1856 & 1886 editions: “tahalíes”) and without the accent (1835 edition): “A band of Moorish knights gayly arrayed in gambesons of crimson silk, with scarfs of blue and jewelled tahalies, […]” (“Ancient Spanish Ballads.” Outre-mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea. New York: Harper, 1835, 1-26). Now, among such noble company and upon considerable reflection, this translator feels compelled to leave the original Spanish “tahalí” in her English translation—accent included—as the best word to render the Spanish-Moorish voice it evokes, and the mystical depth revealed by its meaning.
My gratitude to all the librarians who facilitated my research for the title of this poem in translation. Special thanks to Jennifer Schwartz, Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian, John T. Richardson Library, DePaul University, whose enthusiasm, knowledge, and guidance led this amazing team: Susan Bazargan, Research and Reference Librarian, DePaul University; and Kathy Young, University Archivist/Curator of Rare Books, Loyola University Chicago Archives & Special Collections. No wonder Jorge Luis Borges envisioned Paradise as a library!
Poesia tradotta e letta da Erzana Hallidri (Università degli Studi di Trento)
Istruzioni per una lunga assenza
Quando navi da Anzio vedrai partire,
porta colombe in sacrificio ai templi di Marte.
Cento incontri nostri le battaglie dureranno
e il corpo, affaticato, non avrà riposo
se non nella tua folle pelle acerba.
Ma se gloriosamente soccombo e la notizia
della morte ricevi,
sgozza il messaggero che l’avviso ha portato,
lui ha visto la tua alcova,
dall’alba febbrilmente per le strade.
Poema leído por el autor
Instrucciones para una larga ausencia
Cuando las naves en Anzio veas partir,
sacrifica palomas en los templos de Marte.
Cien veces nuestro encuentro durarán las batallas
y el cuerpo, fatigado, no hallará su reposo
sino en tu joven piel de enamorado.
Mas si gloriosamente sucumbo y las noticias
recibes de mi muerte,
degüella al mensajero que te trajo las nuevas,
él conoce tu alcoba,
febrilmente las calles desde el alba.
(Los jardines en ruinas, Bajamar, Gijón, 2019)
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