Tree, Tree


Tree, Tree

dry and green.


That girl with the honey face

she’s picking hazelnuts.

The wind, sweetback of towers,

snatches her at the waist.

Four riders passed,

within a Detroit Tin Lizzie,

draped down in blue and green suits,

heavy with bold and eager stripes.

“Come to Chicago, little sister.”

That girl, she don’t listen.

Three jukers passed,

slim at their waists,

togged with fiery orange suits,

and well-used brass horns.

“Come to Harlem, little sister.”

That girl, she don’t listen.

When the afternoon turned

violet, with scattered light,

a young striver passed wearing

roses and myrtles of the moon.

“Come to Philadelphia, little sister.”

And that girl, she don’t listen.

That girl with the honey face

she keeps on picking hazelnuts,

with the gray arm of the wind

tight upon her waist.

Tree, Tree,

dry and green.




New Songs

Ol’ afternoon says: ‘How I thirst for some shadow!’

And Ol’ Man Moon, he say: ‘I thirst for the constellations!’

The crystalline source, she asks for parched lips

and the wind, it sighs.


Well I thirst for smells and for laughter,

I thirst for new songs

without rivers to cross and without chariots to carry me,

and without dead loves gone on.


A song of tomorrow that quakes

of the quiet backwaters

of the future. And filled with resting hope

in its waves and its fine dark silt.


A bright and clear singing

full of ruminations that are, finally,

innocent of sorrow and of anguish

and innocent of daydreams.


To sing without carnal lyrics that fill

minstrel laughter with silence

(a flock of blind doves

released to the mystery).


To sing that we finally going to the soul of things

and the soul of the winds

and that it rests, it rests, at the ends in joy

of a heart forevermore.




Porch Door


Big Ma, she say, “If I die

Keep the porch door open


The boy eats oranges

(From my porch door I see him)


That grim reaper, he mowing down wheat

(From my porch door I feel it)”


So she say, “If I die

Keep the porch door open”



Twenty Three Keys


The sax,

makes dreams weep.

The sob of souls


escape from your round


And like a tarantula

that weaves a big star

to hunt sighs,

which floats in your black

cistern of brass.

Arbolé, Arbolé


Arbolé, Arbolé,

seco y verdé.


La niña del bello rostro

ésta cogiendo aceituna.

El viento, galán de torres,

la prende por la cintura.

Pasaron cuatro jinetes

sobre jacas andaluzas,

con trajes de azul y verde,

con largas capas oscuras.

“Vente a Córdoba, muchacha.”

La niña no los escucha.

Pasaron tres torerillos

delgaditos de cintura,

con trajes color naranja

y espadad de plata antigua.

“Venta a Sevilla, muchacha.”

La niña no los escucha.

Cuando la tarde se puso

morado, con lux difusa,

pasó un joven que llevaba

rosas y mirtos de luna.

“Vente a Granada, muchacha.”

Y la niña no lo escucha.

La niña del bello rostro

sigue cogiendo aceituna,

con el brazo gris del viento

ceñido por la cintura.

Arbolé, Arbolé,

seco y verdé.




Cantos Nuevos

Dice la tarde: '¡Tengo sed de sombra!'
Dice la luna: '¡Yo, sed de luceros!'
La fuente cristalina pide labios
y suspira el viento.

Yo tengo sed de aromas y de risas,
sed de cantares nuevos
sin lunas y sin lirios,
y sin amores muertos.

Un cantar de mañana que estremezca
a los remansos quietos
del porvenir. Y llene de esperanza
sus ondas y sus cienos.

Un cantar luminoso y reposado
pleno de pensamiento,
virginal de tristeza y de angustias
y virginal de ensueños.

Cantar sin carne lírica que llene
de risas el silencio
(una bandada de palomas ciegas
lanzadas al misterio).

Cantar que vaya al alma de las cosas
y al alma de los vientos
y que descanse al fin en la alegría
del corazón eterno.




El Balcón 


Si muero 

Dejad el balcón abierto 


El niño come naranjas 

(Desde mi balcón lo veo) 


El segador siega el trigo 

(Desde mi balcón lo siento) 


Si muero 

Dejad el balcón abierto 



Las Seis Cuerdas 


La guitarra, 

hace llorar a los sueños. 

El sollozo de las almas 


se escapa por su boca 


Y como la tarántula 

teje una gran estrella 

para cazar suspiros, 

que flotan en su negro 

aljibe de madera. 

Translator's Note

This translation (or reinterpretation) reflects two influences of my narrative and academic lives.  I was first introduced to Federico García Lorca’s poetry as a Literature major at UCLA.  The summer after my sophomore year, I studied abroad in Spain and backpacked Western Europe.  During my primary stay in Granada I visited Lorca’s home, paying tribute to a man that had literally died for using his voice.   I was only nineteen, but I was forever impacted.  It was nearly the turn of the millennia, and I was haunted by the fact that this young poet who’d written so beautifully could have been executed for his views, for his hope, and perhaps for whom he’d simply chosen to love.  I remember thinking he did not know me, this braided African-American girl on the adventure of a lifetime.  Yet I wholeheartedly felt a beneficiary of his legacy, and I was intent upon consciously recognizing the opportunity I have to exist and to voice, no matter the circumstances or struggles.

            I am also extremely intrigued by the Harlem Renaissance, an epoch that produced a socially engineered civil movement via the arts and creative expression.  This translation pays homage to the spirit of The Great Migration when thousands of black Americans moved from the rural south to the north (and later west) to seek opportunity; and for the purposes of this translation specifically those that moved during the height of the Renaissance during the 1920’s.  As I was very much inspired by Lorca’s pastoral girl: this beauty picking olives, captured by nature’s wind and immune to the pull of the cities, my version focuses upon a young black girl in the south—Tennessee to be exact, and her current relationship to the land.

            Because of this shift in time period and landscape, this translation does make modifications in diction and voice.  For example: La niña del bello rostro ésta cogiendo aceituna, became: That girl with the honey face she’s picking hazelnuts.  My narrator injects African-American English and inflection into the observation of this girl.  She not “the girl,” but “that girl.”  You know—“that” one, the one all the boys fall over; mmmm hmmm, Her.  Being in Tennessee, she’s also picking hazelnuts as opposed to olives, and her face is the slang-term “honey.”  The rendition features other such adaptations: Andalusian ponies are a Detroit Model T (aka Tin Lizzie), swords are jazz band horns, capes are pinstripes, bull fighters are Juke Joint musicians, and the great cities of Spain become the beacons of hope in the American East and Midwest. 

            However, I hope the translation remains true to the overall tone and inquisitive nature of the original.  Lorca’s seemingly simple piece evokes nuanced observations about the dichotomy of man and nature, relationship to place, and the questionable inevitability of change.  Because of his attention to these themes I want to know more about Lorca’s girl and thus my own Harlem Renaissance young woman as well.  What holds her to the land?  What does her loyalty to it say about her reconciliation with her own identity, agency, and persona?  Moreover, does she ultimately stay in Tennessee?  And if she does migrate, what or who captivates her to do so?  But until that time I imagine her swept by the wind, steadfast beneath the trees, gathering the fruit of the earth.

Caroline Collins


In the Classroom