N  a  p a  l  m     H  e  a  l  t  h     S  p  a  :     R  e  p  o  r  t     2  0  0  9

 

 

RON RODRIGEZ

 

 

[Three Poems by Luis Pales Matos, translated by Ron Rodriguez]

 

Prelude in Boricua

 

Tuntun of raisin and kinky hair

And other black African vanities.

Uproar of black secret societies

Where its warm tobacco water

Supports the wild Congolese drums.

 

With the cackling of the maraca

And the deaf growl of the gong,

The island curtain detaches

A drunken aristocracy

Based on funche and mondongo.

 

The solemn Haitian shaman

Opposes the habanera rumba

It’s serenade of shoulders and thighs,

Meanwhile the black Cuban

Tames the wild mulatta.

 

From your drinking spree through the runways

Cuba flies, it’s sails let loose,

Recovering in its thighs

Its golden Niagara of tourists.

 

(Tomorrow they will be shareholders

Of any ingenious cane grower

And will carry on with the money…)

 

And in a corner- the land, the bay,

The embankment or sugarcane field-

The Negro drinks his cold sorrow

Stupefied in the melodies

That comes from faraway.

 

Jamaica, that fat mandinga,

Reduces her lingo to a spicy stew.

Santo Domingo dresses up

And in an impotent civic gesture

Its heroic muse replies

With a hundred odes to the president.

 

With his wagon full of sesame seeds

And his magical white eyes

Towards the market comes Haiti.

 

 

Prelude in Boricua

 

The windward Antilles

Have tremendous anxiety

Beating out the cyclones

With fly swatters from the palm trees.

 

And Puerto Rico? My desert island,

For you everything has finished.

In the wilderness of a continent,

Puerto Rico lugubriously

Bleats like a stuffed goat.

 

Tuntun of raisin and kinky hair,

This book that goes towards your hands

With Antillean ingredients

Composes a day…

 

…and in summary, wasted time,

That my boredom ends.

Something foreseen or foretold,

Not visibly real

And very much a story or a lie.

 

 

 

Candombe

 

The negroes dance, dance, dance,

Before the blazing fire.

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

Before  the blazing fire.

Below the coconut grove, next to the surf,

Lewd ferocious teeth,

Bodies of mud and molasses,

Hanging bosoms, steaming armpits,

And dark brilliant eyes

Dazzled by the profound gong.

The negroes dance in the night.

 

Before  the blazing fire.

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

Before  the blazing fire.

Who is the strongest chief?

Who is the fairest maiden?

Where does the fiercest caiman sleep?

What kind of witchcraft has killed Babissa?

The sweaty negroes dance.

Before  the blazing fire.

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

In the solitude of the island.

 

The moon is a silver turtle

Swimming in the tranquil night.

Who shall be the daring fisherman

Who brings the colorful catch in his net:

Sokola,Babiro,Bombassa,

Yombofre,Bulon or Babissa?

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

Before  the blazing fire.

 

Look at the moon,the silver fish

The old maligned turtle

Throwing towards the water of the night

It’s juice that puts one to sleep and bewitches…

Seize the moon, seize the moon,

Imprison her with a fish hook.

The negroes dance in the night

Before the blazing fire.

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

Before  the blazing fire.

 

 

Candombe

 

We have the teeth of the dingo,

Great Grandfather of the Great Babissa;

We have the teeth of the dingo

And a nail from the lizard…

Against everything bad they can,

Of everything they can immunize us.

We have the teeth of the dingo

And a nail from the lizard…

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

Before  the blazing fire.

 

Manasa,Cumbalo,Bilongo,

Fish for this putrid moon

That poisons our night

With it’s stinking yellow light.

Fish for the moon, fish for the moon,

The pale monster that curses

Our house and our women

In the solitude of the island.

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

Before  the blazing fire.

 

Brave negroes of the palm trees,

Come, Babissa waits for us,

The Great King of the Caiman and the Coconut,

Before the blazing fire.

Tum-cutum, tum-cutum,

Before  the blazing fire.

 

 

 

Mulatta of the Antilles

 

In you now mulatta,

I receive the warm sea of the Antilles,

Sensual and slow water of molasses,

Port of sugar, hot bay,

With the sunlight resting

Gilding the clean waves,

And the sleepy buzzing of the crowds

That thickens the traffic on the shore.

 

In you now mulatta,

I cross the sea of the islands.

Small electric currents

In your curves are lengthened and curled up,

Meanwhile over my boat the pensive night

Keeps falling from your eyes.

 

In you now mulatta…

Oh to wake up gloriously in the Antilles!

Wild color that reaches my chest,

Red music fills me with happiness,

And hot aromatic chants

-Lime-tobacco, pineapple-

Numbing the senses

Your intoxicated voices of delight.

 

You are now, mulatta,

Everything of the land and the sea of my islands.

A symphony of fruit, whose scales

Furiously break in your melodies.

Behold here, the custard apple in its green dress

With its fine and bland pantaloons

Of muslin; behold here the star apple

With its infantile milk, behold here the pineapple

With its soprano crown… All

The fruits. Oh mulatta! You offer me

In the clear bay of your body

By the suns of the tropical burnish.

 

 

Mulatta of the Antilles

 

Under your command, the plantain and the coconut,

That appoints your golden artillery

The transient ship that leaves us

Its blond contraband of tourists.

In a wild horse of a hurricane you go on singing

Your Creole song, dark valkirie,

With flickering spur of lightning bolts

I ride the green Valhalla of the islands.

 

You are immensely free and without limitations,

You are love without shackles and without hurries;

In your womb my two races conjugate

Your vital expansive potencies.

Love, torrid love of the mulatta,

Cock of rum, melted sugar,

Coconut shell kissed through the marrow,

With the essence of sandalwood and myrrh.

With voices of the Chanter of Chanters,

You are dark because the sun looks at you.

 

Below your tongue there is milk and honey

And ointment spilled on your pupils.

Like the tower of David, your neck,

And your breasts like twin musk deer.

Flower of Saron y lily of the valleys,

Mare of Faraon, Oh Salamita!

 

Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico,

Foggy and sensual land of mine.

Oh the hot rums of Jamaica!

Oh fierce gumbo of Martinique!

Oh fermented night of Haitian

Drums impenetrable and vuduistic!

Dominica, Tortola, Guadalupe,

Antilles, my Antilles!

 

 

 

[A poem with translation by the author]

 

 

LA MAĄANA

 

 

LA MAĄANA

 

DESCUBRE LA MUERTE

 

DE TUS MANOS REBUSCANDO

 

MIS OJOS

 

PARA UN SITIO IDEAL

 

DONDE NO HAY COSTUMBRES

 

DE CULEBRAS HERIDAS

 

POR CALLES

 

DE LADRILLOS INFERNAL

 

QUEMANDO LOS QUE PASAN

 

LA CUESTA DE ORO

 

BESANDO EL RELAMPAGO

 

DE UN GUZANO

 

RESANDO AL SOL OSCURO

 

 

THE MORNING

 

 

THE MORNING

 

DISCOVERS THE DEATH

 

OF YOUR HANDS SEARCHING

 

MY EYES

 

FOR AN IDEAL PLACE

 

WHERE THERE ARE NO CUSTOMS

 

OF WOUNDED SNAKES

 

THROUGH STREETS

 

OF INFERNAL BRICKS

 

BURNING THOSE WHO PASS

 

THE GOLDEN COAST

 

BLESSING THE LIGHTNING

 

OF A WORM

 

PRAYING TO THE DARKENED SUN