Thursday, March 14, 2013

Miguel Hernández - Lullaby of the Onion

Don Share saying something like, "Aw, don't take my picture..."

Far and away my best AWP moment (as the conference itself goes and why it was created in the first place) was Don Share reading his translation of Miguel Hernández's poem “Lullaby of the Onion.”  What to say.  Well, number one, I'd never heard it read before.  And number two, after it, when he said his own poems were not going to be able to stand up to it, I wanted to stand up and say, that's OK, none of our poems will either.  Here it is:

Lullaby of the Onion
Miguel Hernández

(dedicated to his son, after receiving a letter from his wife
in which she said she had nothing to eat but bread and onions)
Translated by Don Share from Miguel Hernández

The onion is frost
shut in and poor.
Frost of your days
and of my nights.
Hunger and onion,
black ice and frost
large and round.

My little boy
was in hunger's cradle.
He was nursed
on onion blood.
But your blood
is frosted with sugar,
onion and hunger.

A dark woman
dissolved in moonlight
pours herself thread by thread
into the cradle.
Laugh, son,
you can swallow the moon
when you want to.

Lark of my house,
keep laughing.
The laughter in your eyes
is the light of the world.
Laugh so much
that my soul, hearing you,
will beat in space.

Your laughter frees me,
gives me wings.
It sweeps away my loneliness,
knocks down my cell.
Mouth that flies,
heart that turns
to lightning on your lips.

Your laughter is
the sharpest sword,
conqueror of flowers
and larks.
Rival of the sun.
Future of my bones
and of my love.

The flesh fluttering,
the sudden eyelid,
and the baby is rosier
than ever.
How many linnets
take off, wings fluttering,
from your body!

I woke up from childhood:
don't you wake up.
I have to frown:
always laugh.
Keep to your cradle,
defending laughter
feather by feather.

Yours is a flight so high,
so wide,
that your body is a sky
newly born.
If only I could climb
to the origin
of your flight!

Eight months old you laugh
with five orange blossoms.
With five little
With five teeth
like five young
jasmine blossoms.

They will be the frontier
of tomorrow's kisses
when you feel your teeth
as weapons,
when you feel a flame
running under your gums
driving toward the centre.

Fly away, son, on the double
moon of the breast:
it is saddened by onion,
you are satisfied.
Don't let go.
Don't find out what's happening,
or what goes on.


At 3/14/2013 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That poem's got duende, baby. Excellent tie-in from the previous post, John. Aren't those 20th century Spanish poets (pardon my over-generalization) especially poignant and relevant to a political/economic/aesthetics/poetics discussion dealing with soul/spirit... with or against the crush and vagaries of a corrupted, unjust and oppressive system, et cetera? That's for sharing it. Now I want that new book on Hernandez (preferably gifted to me).

- Chris D'Errico


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