Sunday, 3 November 2013

I Would Like to Say My Name (Quisiera decir cómo me llamo) - León Felipe

For some time now, I have been searching for a poetic autobiography that is at the same time short, accurate and confessional. Short. Like a certificate, like an index card, shorter still, like a visiting card; like an inscription in a hard rock, like a call, like a name in the shadow. 

I am only seeking a name. My real name (not my Christian name nor my caste name), my rightful name, born from the steam of my blood, from my humours and from the old mud of my bones that is the same first mud of the Creation, from which my nails and wings appeared from. My name written with my footprints on the soft sand, until mixed once more with the sea, leaving an undying echo in the wind ahead of me, and the old voice that follows me behind me.  My real name that saves time for psychoanalysis, for the confessor, the reporter and the keeper of heaven or hell. A quick record to be able to say immediately before any suspicion: this is me. Nothing more than a name, to throw on the Great Judge’s table, for the last record of earth. My human voice, authentic and transferable, legitimate and communal; my name of today, of yesterday and tomorrow, tattooed on my palpitating body. My human name, so current, so old and so durable, like the groan and the cry, to proudly wear around my neck and to sound like a sheep’s bell in the world’s huge flock on the day of Final Justice. A name I have to receive and for which I must pay for; for which I have to answer to and for which I have to demand. Say nothing of memories. I have no memory. “Memories” tell of things that don’t matter. My great experience, my great secret, my great sin, that which I leave behind, that which waits for me in front and the colour of my conscience, I think they fit in the plain letters of this name.

There is a gesture in my body and a tone in my voice that says everything at lightning speed in this name I'm seeking, saying where I come from and where I'm going. And there is someone in the universe waiting for me to say this name, as an order for them to open the gate to me. My autobiography has to be this order. And at the Great Gate, still without any documents, and with all the roads rolled up under my arm like useless plans, we’ll all say the same word: Man. But only one will speak: the Poet. We’re all working for this and each one of us rolls up his roads... and searches for his name.

I want to say who I am to assert who I have been and to prepare myself for who I have to become.

My innermost self is formed of ancient mud, an urgent pulse and a distant glow.

Behind me are dirty footprints; in front, the wink of lightning amongst the shadows, and inside my heart, a burning desire to know my name.

From Ganarás la luz (You Will Earn the Light) 1943

Monday, 20 May 2013

Christ (Cristo) - León Felipe

I love you
Not because you fell from a star
But because you discovered for me
That man has blood,
To open light's closed doors.
Yes... you taught us that man is God...
A poor God sacrificed just like You.
And he who stands on your left at Golgotha,
The evil thief...
He too is a God!

From ¡Oh, este viejo y roto violin! (Oh, this old and broken violin!)

Give me your holy bread (Dame tu oscura hostia) - León Felipe

Do not take pity on me, Earthshine.
Give me your dark holy bread, your last piece of bread...
A memoryless, one-way dream.
Let me wallow in this cesspit,
Further below the mud and the larva...
Where life is a green phantom
That nobody has even seen.

From El ciervo (The Stag) 1958

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Game (Juego) - León Felipe

And this game, Archpriest,
this game with a white ball
and a black ball,
when will it finish?
This game
of noise and silence,
of laughter and crying,
of light and the night…
And there is one that asks: what is the night?

And this loose tear, Archpriest,
this loose tear that trickles and slips,
that dances and dithers
in the windmill
where will it stop?
And there is another that asks: but, gentlemen…
Why does it play here?

From El ciervo (The Stag) 1958

What if my name were Prometheus? (¿Y si me llamase Prometeo?) - León Felipe

If Jonah is not currently alive, right now in my humours, in my blood and in the mud of my bones that is the same first mud of the Creation, this little poetic holy book would be no more than another Milesian tale[1];
If Job’s wounds are not mine and are no longer burning in my flesh, this dramatic book of the Scriptures in which the leper of the world shouts until the Lord wakes is no more than another pathetic and dialectical hoax;
If I cannot be the justification, the prolongation and the correction of Whitman (I have here a correction: Oh, Walt Whitman! Your word happiness has erased my tears), Poetry, all the world’s poetry, is no more than a paralytic song;
And if the large vulture has stopped devouring my entrails and those of all the other condemned poets of the world, Prometheus was only a decorative Greek motif in a fronton[2], in a metope[3]… and there were never any myths.
But there are myths. There are myths without beginning nor end. In the world’s flesh the myths were sown and in this same flesh they have to flourish. Because nothing has been achieved yet. And what is achieved will be for the will of the wind and the submissive and painful offer of man’s flesh. God will put on the light and we will put on our tears.

I was in the first mystical flash of the world; and I am now burning in the miracle of redeeming morning light.
And if I can say now without pride, I am the one who receives the song, who maintains it and transmits it, it is because you can also say it.
But who has said it?

“I change agony like clothes, I don’t ask the wounded how they feel, I turn into the wounded.
Their wounds become livid in my flesh whilst I observe them, leaning on my stick.
That man who sits on the dock and is accused of theft, is me; and that beggar is also me.
Look at me, stretching out my hat and asking embarrassed for alms...”

Yes, yes. Who has said that? The poet has said it, any one of the poets. The-funnel-and-the-Wind[4]. Now I repeat it myself. And I repeat it with my flesh and my conscience, no longer with my words. And if I am that thief convicted of theft, and that beggar who stretches out his hat and is embarrassed asking for alms, I am also Jonah and Job and Whitman and Prometheus and a lizard and an iguana... and much more. And whilst the poets cannot say this without pride or humility or without shocking anyone, as it is no more than a sign of presence and sympathy, with the anguish and hope of all Creation, Poetry will remain paralytic in the hands and at the judgement of all who proudly claims that their self, with the personal and mortal attributes of the temporary man, who is the generator and transformer of the world’s Poetry.

The poet is no more than burning flesh. And poetry, a relentless flame.

To me, the previous verse is the torch the poet I looked for ahead held in hand, and the verse that follows me is a light lighting another in the heavy shadows of the night, looking at my signals.

I say again:
I sing not of destruction:[5]
My lyre is based on the greatest poetic symbols.
Again I cry:
The blasphemous verse of my leprous bones will converse with the Lord from the whirlwind once more.
I also state that I come from the shadows and dreams.
And if I say:
My song flourishes in the convergence of the myths, I can add:
Here I am: Look at me! Stuck on this rock, with a vulture on my chest.
And this noise that you hear isn’t my lament, it is the daughters of Oceanus[6] lapping against my feet and moistening my eyelids.
The stars lean over the bitter waters to save me;
under the light, the sea works, it bites the rock, it smoothes the channels...
and when Prometheus awakes, our helmsmen will lead the keel of the Parnassus[7].

From Ganarás la luz (You Will Earn the Light) 1943

[1] The Milesian tale originates in ancient Greek and Roman literature. According to most authorities, it is a short story, fable, or folktale featuring love and adventure, usually being erotic and titillating.
[2] Fronton: a wall against which pelota or jai alai (Spanish ball games) is played
[3] Metope: (Architectural) a square space between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze
[4] Jonas represents the image of a funnel, of an empty container, which Felipe synthesises in the phrase ‘Yo no soy nadie’, or ‘I am nobody’(the name of another poem in this anthology). It appears to be more a lack of identity than a spiritual lack.
[5] This would literally be ‘I don’t sing destruction’, based on the sense of Virgil’s "Of arms and the man I sing". English doesn’t quite capture the same allusiveness that Spanish achieves.
[6] Oceanids- the daughters of Oceanus and Tethys; water nymphs associated with springs and rivers.
[7] Parnassus - the world of poetry, or a centre of poetic or other creative activity