“A Memory,” “El Viejo Son Oscuro,” and “Sonnets To The Rain”

Translated from Spanish by Janet McAdams and Katherine Hedeen


A Memory

Happiness is solemn like the sea.
It’s like the face of the newly wedded
who process gravely through the unsullied chapel.
Like a sailboat, round with wind, plowing
through quiet waters, filled with its own joy.
Happiness keeps quiet, like the child
playing in the corner, lost in her game. Scarcely
do the hours with their black bat flights
graze the hands chosen
to raise the boat caught in a rain
misty as an ancient mirror.
As a girl, at my father’s hand, I felt
his coolness across my cheeks.
“Look, these are my children,” he told
an august old friend we were afraid of.
For the first time I knew how we were
the world for him, that our fragile
children’s hands on his tired
face meant more than conversations
with friends, than the lofty
books that walled him in, distanced him
like a god. And I felt, a little sadly,
the sweet fire rising, troubling.
Happiness is solemn like the sea.

1953

El Viejo Son Oscuro

old shadowy sound.
Keats

Life, water breaking
low among the rocks, come,
rain, come, erase these letters
raindrops teardrops
bouncing against these too dark
stones, against these
small gray caves where
white iris lingers
yours, mine, jumbled together,
whispering a shadowy sound.

1982

Sonnets to the Rain

1

This rain makes my heart old.
Now, by turns, I am the musician and the sounds
and the one from far off listening. Chatter
from a family sounding an uncertain murmur.

What cleaves me from the dream of life
toward an other language I take hold of once seen?
Are you strumming me too? Are you unsettled
by life’s nocturnal nature?

O the beauty and sadness of it. Like a ship
the violet intimacy of the house closed-up
plays for me that music I am and cannot contain.

And that light . . .outside? stirred by my memory
untouching, says to me: I am far away
and fleeting. It’s ever raining. Rains . . .

2

I listen to that eternal harp which is to watch from afar:
the family in the sitting room gathered.
Is that light now past giving the old furniture
a dull, unbound brightness? I breathe in

Casal. It’s the best evening, the nocturnal evening
I know so well; it will leave with my life,
it’s the voice that digs my well-deserved tomb,
the never-ending destiny, so I won’t be late.

Who sweetly tinges that ensemble
so distant and so lovely with golden needles.
Who will hang on to the faded charm of its “vámonos”

and the simple happiness of its far away world.
And for me to not be in the shadow you draw,
ash, you stay where we used to be!

1951



Six Poems from Frayer

In houses all alike women embroider / your future on moccasins sold / to tourists. It's as if the light is waning.


Poems from "Blackbird'

A Memory Happiness is solemn like the sea. It’s like the face of the newly wedded who process gravely through the unsullied chapel. Like a sailboat, round with wind, plowing through quiet waters, filled with its own joy. Happiness keeps quiet, like the child playing in the corner, lost in her game. Scarcely do the […]