Adélia Prado: Our verbs are not eternal


Dear God,
don't punish me for saying
my life was so lovely!
We're human,
our verbs have tenses,
they're not like Yours,

Adélia Prado (1935—, Brazilian poet), "Woman at Nightfall" (2013), translated by Ellen Doré Watson

Ó Deus,
não me castigue se falo
minha vida foi tão bonita!
Somos humanos,
nossos verbos têm tempos,
não são como o Vosso,

"Mulher ao cair da tarde"



Photo by Barbara Jackson on Pixabay

Poniatowska: the death of a child is "an eternal anguish"

Grief statue x1klima flickr

For a mother, the disappearance of a child signifies a traceless torment, an eternal anguish in which there is no resignation, no consolation, no time for the wound to heal.
Elena Poniatowska (1932–), Silence Is Strong (translated from Fuerte es el silencio; if you know the translator, or have the original quotation in Spanish, please let me know.)
Image from a cemetery in Vienna, by x1klima on Flickr

Tetlapan Quetzanitzin: My heart knows how truly I weep for my friend

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 19.59.21


Alas, my friend, I was afflicted, I cried aloud on thy account to God. How much compassion hast thou for thy servant in this world sent here by thee to be thy subject for the space of a day on this earth!

However that may be, mayst thou so dispose my heart, that it may pass through this place of reckoning, without anger, without injury, and live a good life on earth.

My heart knows how truly I weep for my friend, how truly as it lives on earth it cries aloud for thee, my friend, to God....

Tetlapan Quetzanitzin, possibly the king of  Tlacopan, outside what is now Mexico City. He was an associate of Montezuma's, but managed to escape from the Spaniards when they seized Montezuma. From Ancient Nahuatl Poetry, tr. Daniel G. Brinton (1837–1899) (pub. 1890). In his introduction, Brinton writes of the provenance of the poems: "All of them are from a MS. volume in the library of the University of Mexico, entitled Cantares de los Mexicanos y otros opusculos, composed of various pieces in different handwritings, which, from their appearance and the character of the letter, were attributed by the eminent antiquary Don José F. Ramirez, to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries."


Aua nocnihue ninentlamatia zan ninochoquilia in monahuac aya yehuan Dios, quexquich onmitzicnotlamachtia momacehual cemamanahuac ontonitlanililo in ic tontlahuica tontecemilhuitiltia in tlalticpac.

Macazo tleon xoconyoyocoya ti noyollo, yehua cuix ic nepohualoyan in oncan nemohua yehua, in atle tlahuelli in antecocolia huel on yecnemiz in tlalticpac.

In quimati noyollo nichoca yehua huel eza ye nelli in titicnihuan, huellenelli nemoa in tlalticpac in tonicniuh tlatzihuiz yehuan Dios.


Borges: There is a mirror that has seen me the last time


There is a line of Verlaine that I will not be able to remember.
There is a street nearby that is widowed of my footsteps,
there is a mirror that has seen me for the last time,
there is a door that I have closed until the end of the world.
Among the books of my library (I am looking at them)
there is one that I will never open now.
This summer I will be fifty years old;
Death is wearing me away, relentless.

  --Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) wrote another version of this poem, but I prefer this one.

Hay una línea de Verlaine que no volveré a recordar.
Hay una calle próxima que está vedada a mis pasos,
hay un espejo que me ha visto por última vez,
hay una puerta que he cerrado hasta el fin del mundo.
Entre los libros de mi biblioteca (estoy viéndolos)
hay alguno que ya nunca abriré.
Este verano cumpliré cincuenta años;
La muerte me desgasta, incesante.

Helen Fisher: The love of King Hasaw Chan K'awil of the Maya


Perhaps the most poignant example of eternal love is a temple that still stands among the breadnut, palm, acacia, mahogany, and chicle trees in today's lowland Guatemala.

Here, on what was once a gracious boulevard now swallowed by grass and vines, King Hasaw Chan K'awil of the Maya was buried sometime between 688 and 720. He had stood more than six feet tall, is believed to have lived into his 80s, and was the grandest king of the grandest civilization of the Americas-- Tikal. He had loved his wife, who died young. So he built a temple for her. It stands in the jungle, facing his. And twice annually-- precisely on the spring and autumn equinox-- the sun rises behind his temple to cast its shadow directly across hers. Then as the sun sets on these special days, it casts the shadow of her temple across his tomb. These lovers still kiss with their shadows some 1,300 years later, from the grave.

       --Helen Fisher (1945- ) in the Chronicle Review of the Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 June 2008.

Pablo Neruda: When I die I want your hands on my eyes

When I die I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me one more timeAlone_on_beach_by_snaphappy_at_flickr
to feel the smoothness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
I want for your ears to go on hearing the wind,
for you to smell the sea that we loved together
and for you to go on walking the sand where we walked.

I want for what I love to go on living
and as for you I loved you and sang you above everything,
for that, go on flowering, flowery one,

so that you reach all that my love orders for you,
so that my shadow passes through your hair,
so that they know by this the reason for my song.

        --Pablo Neruda, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. Cien Sonetos de Amor. Plaza y Janés. Ave Fénix 205-2. Sexta edición, junio 1998.


Cuando yo muera quiero tus manos en mis ojos:
quiero la luz y el trigo de tus manos amadas
pasar una vez más sobre mí su frescura:
sentir la suavidad que cambió mi destino.

Quiero que vivas mientras yo, dormido, te espero,
quiero que tus oídos sigan oyendo el viento,
que huelas el aroma del mar que amamos juntos
y que sigas pisando la arena que pisamos.

Quiero que lo que amo siga vivo
y a ti te amé y canté sobre todas las cosas,
por eso sigue tú floreciendo, florida,

para que alcances todo lo que mi amor te ordena,
para que se pasee mi sombra por tu pelo,
para que así conozcan la razón de mi canto.

Amable O'Connor D'Arlach: the alabaster lamp: your memory


When the sun sets, when the moaning
breeze talks to me of dying without glory,
in the twilight of my pain I light
my inseparable lamp,
alabaster lamp: your memory.

When I follow my tragic and defeated
caravan of wandering griefs
in my crystal soul I take up
my inseparable lamp,
alabaster lamp: your memory.

When the singing leaves breathe out
their song, fleeting as was your story,
drops of mourning well up and embed themselves
in my beloved lamp,
lamp of alabaster: your memory.

Only my withered betrothed,
death the redeemer,
will one day extinguish
the light of that lamp,
alabaster lamp: your memory.

           --Amable O'Connor D'Arlach (1888-1973), Bolivia


Cuando se pone el sol, cuando gimiendo
me habla la brisa de morir sin gloria,
en la penumbra de mi pena enciendo
mi inseparable lámpara,
lámpara de alabastro: tu memoria.

Cuando sigo mi trágica y rendida
Caravana de duelos migratoria,
en mi alma de cristal llevo prendida
mi inseparable lámpara,
lámpara de alabastro: tu memoria

Cuando cantan las hojas que se arrastran
su aria fugaz, como lo fue tu historia,
brotan gotas de llanto que se engastan
en mi querida lámpara,
lámpara de alabastro: tu memoria

Solo la mustia prometida mía,
la muerte redentora,
ha de apagar un dia
la luz de aquella lámpara,
lámpara de alabastro: tu memoria

La Llorona, the weeping woman

I don't know what's wrong with the flowers, llorona, Ps_weeping_woman
the flowers in the graveyard.
because when the wind moves them, llorona,
it looks as if they are crying.

Alas for me, llorona, llorona,
llorona, take me to the river.
And cover me with your shawl, llorona,
for I am dying of cold.

Two kisses I bear in my soul, llorona,
that never leave me….
the last one from my mother, llorona,
and the first one I gave you….

    --Mexican folk song. "Llorona" means a weeping woman. There are many legends of La Llorona, but the one I prefer is that she is Malinche, the clever young Indian woman who helped Cortez conquer Mexico. Malinche was a real person, enslaved by the Aztecs.  Cortez called her Doña Marina. She later had a son with Cortez and he provided for her, but she died young. Because she helped the Spaniards conquer Mexico, she is said to wander through the land weeping. These are just some of the many verses of the song.

No sé que tienen las flores, llorona,
las flores del camposanto
que cuando las mueve el viento, llorona,
parece que están llorando.

Ay de mí, llorona, llorona,
llorona, llévame al rió....
y tápame con tu rebozo, llorona,
porque me muero de frió.

Dos besos llevo en el alma, llorona,
que no se apartan de mí….
el último de mi madre, llorona,
y el primero que te dí….

Nezahualcoyotl: The fleeting pomp of this world is like a green willow


“The goods of this life, its glories and riches, are but lent to us, its substance is an illusory shadow, and the things of today shall change on the coming of the morrow. Then gather the fairest flowers from thy gardens to bind round thy brow, and seize the joys of the present ere they perish.” In another song handed down by memory through the generations, Nezahualcoyotl said of the present, “The fleeting pomp of the world is like a green willow,….but at the end a sharp axe destroys it, a north wind fells it.”

  --Flute of the Smoking Mirror, a Portrait of Nezahualcoyotl, by Frances Gillmor (1903-1993) Albuquerque, UNM Press 1949)

[Nezahualcoyotl , "Hungry Coyote," (1402-1472) was king of Texcoco, in what is now Mexico, and a famous poet]