Mission Street Arts, in collaboration with the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), presents a long-form poem of Spanish New Mexico by Anon.
Sometimes translations do not only work from language to language, but from one time to another time. The historian is a translator, so, too, the poet. Translations convey movement, of turning experience into lively text. In Anon’s long form poem, the poet transliterates the Spanish people and the language of colonial southwest North America, enabling the reader to embrace long passed visions, now made accessible, now rendered translatable. PT
IMAGINE THE COAST FROM SPAIN
Imagine the coast from Spain
walking across gods know what
to get to El Morro in the territories,
imagine the diet,
coming from the Mediterranean
where everyone wakes wondering
what they can put into their mouths
And now the wind blows sand into your teeth,
the weather will get in
the sunlight turns off
and the blue stays,
trickle of water and slime on rocks,
off shining teeth, off bright eyes. Hands and feet.
What heart? Come out from Spain,
without knowing what you are in for.
Who could? who knows of the others who they were
hard handed, and among the three of us,
lettered. an artist.
Ortega might have done anything,
but he wouldn’t turn himself to it.
Tomás? He was a servant
and meant to be.
Arrellano? the artist,
sculpt something to last
of course I knew
about the edge of time and prayer.
why else would I have been off here
where these sights were?
my father was one before me
without the moisture of the mid-earth sea,
light reflects off rocks, What come to read but sculpted rock,
wind scribbed grass drawing on sand, eclipse of day and night and man.
Scoured the wind
arms on it,
delving through the body,
What then men
twisted shapes inside,
through the middle.
Long it was nights
sure as wind’s turn
Water dripped and the rock had the feel of personage
not lost in the not time
of these savages,
hoped here where passersby
had carved their names,
hoping, if someone were to come
they’d come here
him? his name would be
here. Such script
(what would you be remembered
by?) Felipe by his script.
Rough as he was,
what he had seen out here,
trickle of water, you could
stay alive then
They squatted right on the top of it
Built walls among the trickles
and that settled it
And the water was none
the worse for it
so we settled too
taking over with their metal
those swords, such shining
there were just the three of them
Steady as you could go,
three of them, a triangle
Ortega topping the girl
what wasn’t the same story
and then there was no place for…
But with the three corners,
someone had to sleep,
stand up anything if you
leant it upon triangles
someone had to sleep,
Ortega thought he could trust
that maiden (maiden)
may the virgin take me
under her wing
Nestle me against her bird feathered
side, conmfort me with pinions,
with smell of burning feathers,
with the three of them
someone could be at your back
this way, drawn up,
hoisting the ladder up,
taking one of the women up too
what had they to use
with the three?
Mary. Father, Son.
Virgen de Guadalupe
comfort me with your cloak
scoop me in your skirt of roses
That too was the way of suffering
And there wasn’t in it
for Chuy, the one hung up,
Virgin, hear me when I speak; your voice
against the wind
which sculpts these strange shapes.
The boy and I, the two of us,
there is no where for us to go
and no chance of getting there
he would let me make the decisions
Decisions? What does the stone say
to the wind from the hollows.
astringent roots, smoke under the skins
where the child roared like a bad wind
twist of blue in the corner of your eye
where was the red of roses
velvets of the internal crown
so soft you could taste it,
round as the curve of the earth
final as the movement of a knife
once the powder was fouled
which woman, was it spilled?
had it been contaminated?
At the ladder pulled up
that close to the sounds
Ortega below on the woman
voice her women’s voice angry.
I saved the eye of a boy
and he was mine, crippled but sighted
moon faced like flower petals
he it was who knew the roots,
he was but a child
sleeping there in the skins,
during the day he helped his sister
Virgin where is the blood of your roses?
where is the trickle
from the cleft which feeds
which lead the track
across the sand to turn
against these rocks
where the water pools
Nino afloat in the sea of velvet
Virgin mother, fold coat
with your petaled eyes.
The boys eyes are not the same
after the cleaning with sulfur
but he sees now
and is mine
He is not of these people
the Manahoj. traded to them
crippled for their crops
good-luck these bulging lumps
those ball joints
when wind silts us in.
But we dig out the spring
from the sand screen skins
for what will it do but run away
and even now we cannot remain here
these people only against the water
and now at a distance
strong parties seen far off
camping at a distance
but untrustworthy after dark.
Better to rest far off
and not contest
but who might pass?
word would come long before
it is months of travel terror
not one would live
through travel in the country
of these people
Harder than Cataluña
where water rode the wind
where light had promise in it
and wind brought seasons and weather.
Food and the sun, the days passed,
one desperation to another
for some smoke
from one of them
what is in that plant?
Is this the same root
when the fever raged
and the feathers
and the sweat took the demons away
the moon waves blue
and her roses tumble
petals and lips, birth blessing,
hard dark, sudden in choke-throat?
Virgin draw to this water
word of some other
chance one can stop looking back
the way toward home
Tomás wouldn’t mind
he keeps his warm,
Ortega exposed out side to it,
those berries look slightly different,
perhaps it is the season,
the long storage,
the leather bag is no longer
in the rafters
Virgin may I die without sin,
forgive me mother my sins,
and praise my god I could
be in at the crushing of these demons,
I could be in at, I, the night was long
and other than bones broken
life was fear, three of them
might have made it,
too simple, two, no one sleeping,
no one gets the rest,
turn your back to the wind, put your back against it,
lean safely only against thick brick,
fire could start below you
Virgin keep these dreams
Leave you here,
order you to stay,
will not allow you to come home,
outpost, deserted, forgotten,
assigned to a foreign post,
may as well make the worst of it out here,
After the thing that night
life at home, no such thing,
a hell. he’d cut that possibility.
Left then. how we are to make it.
Three against the Demons,
some of them are beautiful, the girl of Tomás is smooth, Ortega didn’t wait
for one of them to come to him.
I was in command. Three of us,
back against the world
the ones who knew they would would
Virgin of my prayers
envelope me in your radiance,
Entrenched among the people
encamped, in command.
Four thousand demons,
white faces lost in the numbers,
not so white anymore.
Weight. Iron, steel,
three so one can sleep,
so one can walk and one can stray,
Naweisuna had me,
son of my great king, great chief
beyond the waters,
beyond the waters, indeed,
where were these far off peoples,
some left-over hell,
some other place, some other time.
Naweisuna had me in his brother’s house,
the other two slept below,
I sat in the sun window,
my room a prince’s view,
the sun warm and the food plentiful.
Ortega’s eyes went on their own
restlessly, not sly, searching,
as if he smelled something,
he couldn’t get off his intensity,
his heart led him where demons rule,
Virgin hear my voice as one of yours
Ortega couldn’t keep his eyes,
the daughter had a chosen,
these people have old ways
the window of the sun,
they watched the sun of the scene
like a calendar,
his carved on a stick,
a totem to him now
Virgin please forgive me,
Ortega hadn’t made it to three hundred,
winter and we being inside,
something maybe got his brain,
it may have been the root
in the tea,
the boy will make up a fire
and get water.
It was winter before three-hundred
And Ortega pressed on the daughter,
squashed her and ploughed her,
as he said, exulting, winded.
You could hear the voices.
The boy and I came away
at the demand of Neiwansuma,
we had seen them with the knives,
cleaning the flesh from the bones,
protein wasn’t for throwing away,
rattled her. slammed her. wasted her by the well,
Ortega wouldn’t have one of the others
who come in the dark, who climb the ladder
the breath close beside you,
who climb the ladder silently,
who know about the rafters,
too late now even after Ortega.
Child of me and all Christians
come to me in your help,
lift me into your heavens,
Suspend me above this scene
and make me see.
Virgen, mother of the Niño,
born both of you into miracle
you with your blanket of sorrows
the child rising from the light,
rotten these screaming urchins,
thieving, rock-throwing, noisy.
Ortega cornered into the rocks
in the first notches, not a month into it,
he could throw rocks too, he said,
once he got started you could hear their noises,
Many were listening,
and their eyes filled with hate
but none of them threw stones.
Ortega worked a flute
of one of the reeds
his call curled among the rock faces,
sometimes he found the tune in it
and all the sounds and feels and smells
of home come rushing,
and I could hate Ortega those times,
no sense looking across the sea,
what family doesn’t have its troubles?
how could he oppose his brother Carlos?
the new world! but what stretch?
this world was old as greed
and lust and anger and hate and envy.
the people knew them
as well as we Christians,
but still they didn’t mean anything
in the eye of God,
Virgin thanks you for the blessing
of the life which you have given me,
I can do nothing,
Niño and mother hear from this waste
your voice rise in prayer.
He sang the evening before the girl,
played the flute all day before sucked a stem
the women had given him,
stared off with them
from the stone towers,
led in underground,
showed the chamber of initiates,
traced with this finger
the mark on the wall,
the chamber ran N/S,
the smoke had a particular scent,
it weighed heavy in the limbs,
drew the shoulders down,
the face they could see he saw,
they let him.
Ortega would flute over it,
make it a song,
and they wouldn’t.
These people perform a sort of chant,
old voices, women’s voices, men’s offices
off the rocks
wall faces and rock faces, faces of the sun,
faces of the wind,
blast any rose that wind,
waste any flower that sun,
wither any blossom that breath,
Ortega lost… I left, Tomás with me,
the boy pointed us to another point on the compass,
along the angle toward the valleys far to the south,
we are come that way now.
That day as the two of us
climbed the rock face opposite
Ortega shouted for a time,
his voice changed later and the voices
changed, and we couldn’t climb fast enough
to get out of the sound
Women’s voice made your flesh crawl.
Tomás and I shivered under the stars,
it was the wrong time for it,
they could use his hide,
Ortega knew about the knife on the bone.
So we came here, to an outpost,
smoky with the villages
over the broad valley where the river
exhausts itself into this neverland,
trickle of water, mosses and coolness,
birds among the ferns
talk of the day
of the new child, husband,
Rabbit skin was superior, supple but soft,
easier to work with.
My day stick was somewhere before 300
When we left the cave villages and brick towns
for this time in the waste,
scant light shining on this lost land,
carvings of the Virgin
occupy my hands,
Juan Agostini grinds with stone
and scrapes with flint,
would that he would come among these people
(Can you know this? In spirit, but you need to check the fact.
The second day one we knew from the village
overtook us by the fourth old of mountains on the low trail,
he could keep us from being killed.
He carried of Ortega, a book. IbnArabi.
Tomás couldn’t read
though god knows he would have saved it,
it’s among the things the boy
I see him sometimes opening the leaves
as he has seen me do,
and as he must have seen Ortega do,
though I knew nothing of it,
or what his name might really be.
The Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP) supports new voices that break borders.