Image credit: Maddison Colvin, "Untitled (Clover)," mixed media

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[The transparent light at midday]

The transparent light at midday
was filtering through the window’s parallel
borders, and the outline of fruits—
or of your skin—was shining.

Slumber of siesta: distance
of the island. In the inconstant twilit
sky, or in the opaque veil’s
red and orange, shown

another glow, another glow. Sleeping
in a humble seaside home:
copper lamps

were tracing slow spirals in the air
over the white tablecloth, shadow casting
the theorem of that other geometry.

 

 

[Not the footstep of the god, but the footprint]

To Gerardo Mello-Mourão

Not the footstep of the god, but the footprint
written between the dark-green and porous
lines of the stone. Still the ivy
preserves his footsteps, still the contour

of his body gleams over the sanguineous
and wine-colored reds: in the fragmented,
scattered glasses. Not the footsteps
of the god, but the footprints; not the eyes:

the gaze. Not the text, nor the plot
of the voice, but the ocean that decants them.
In his tomb—the islands, ideogram

of this moveable page where so much
phrase, not well recorded, spills—
submerged, your blind statue, sings.

 

 

“Rothko”

To Andrés Sánchez Robayna

Not the colors, nor the pure form.
Memory of ink. Sediment
that decants light from its pigment,
beyond the canvas and its framework.

Not the lines, not the shadow or texture,
nor the brief illusion of movement;
nothing more than silence: the feeling
of being in its presence. The Painting

between parallel fringes whose mist
crosses the intact canvas, though tinged
with cinnabar, with wine that fades;

purple, vermillion, orange…
The red of spilled blood
sealed his exploration. And also his life.

 

 

“Recounting”

Today, I’m not like yesterday, time passes.
My verse has turned transparent.
In the afternoons, come to me
sudden longings to go home.

Consuming passion, passion that burns
left me; now its my mind
that delights, indifferent night,
in those bodies that day turns away.

I do not deplore love, now left for someone else;
only desire, which redeems, inverts
and alters all it touches.

Writings, passions, and poison
were missing in my life and my death.
And the touch of some hands, and a mouth.



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[La transparente luz del mediodía]

La transparente luz del mediodía
filtraba por los bordes paralelos
de la ventana, y el contorno de los
frutos -o el de tu piel- resplandecía.

El sopor de la siesta: lejanía
de la isla. En el cambiante cielo
crepuscular, o en el opaco velo
ante el rojo y naranja aparecía

otro fulgor, otro fulgor. Dormía
en una casa litoral y pobre:
en el aire las lámparas de cobre

trazaban lentas espirales sobre
el blanco mantel, sombra que urdía
el teorema de la otra geometría.

 

 

[El paso no, del dios, sino la huella]

A Gerardo Mello-Mourão

El paso no, del Dios, sino la huella
escrita entre las líneas de la piedra
verdinegra y porosa. Aún la hiedra
retiene las pisadas, aún destella

de su cuerpo el contorno sobre rojos
sanguíneos o vinosos: en los vasos
fragmentados, dispersos. No los pasos
del dios, sino las huellas; no los ojos:

la mirada. Ni el texto, ni la trama
de la voz, sino el mar que los decanta.
En su tumba –las islas ideograma

de esa página móvil donde tanta
frase, no bien grabada, se derrama–,
sumergida, tu estatua ciega, canta.

 

 

“Rothko”

A Andrés Sánchez Robayna

No los colores, ni la forma pura.
Memoria de la tinta. Sedimento
que decanta la luz de su pigmento,
más allá de la tela y su armadura.

Las líneas no, ni sombra ni textura,
ni la breve ilusión del movimiento;
nada más que el silencio: el sentimiento
de estar en su presencia.

La Pintura en franjas paralelas cuya bruma
cruza la tela intacta, aunque teñida
de cinabrio, de vino que se esfuma;

púrpura, bermellón, anaranjada…
El rojo de la sangre derramada
selló su exploración. También su vida.

 

 

“Recuento”

Ya no soy el de ayer, el tiempo pasa.
Mi verso se ha tornado transparente.
Por las tardes me viene de repente
Bruscos deseos de volver a casa.

La pasión que ensimisma y la que abrasa
se alejaron de mí; ahora es la mente
quien disfruta, nocturna indiferente,
con los cuerpos que el día me rechaza.

No deploro el amor, que me fue ajeno;
sino el deseo, que redime, invierte
y modifica todo lo que toca.

Escrituras, pasiones y veneno
faltaron a mi vida y a mi muerte.
Y el roce de unas manos, y una boca.

Translator Notes

In the original Spanish, these sonnets are echo chambers of intensely charged phonemes calling back to their variations in jocular, (sometimes) subtle jabs. Often, in Sarduy’s sonnets, rhyme does more than create music; it hints at a coy speaker enunciating his double-pronged innuendo. To translate such music takes time and requires rule breaking. I have chosen not to follow the end-rhyme form, but rather to insert it throughout the lines in order to preserve as much meaning as possible while still celebrating the music for which Sarduy was so well known.


David Francis

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