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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1119-1121
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Yesterday, the tree before me
was little more than a dark
A few hours of water
beneath the sky
and already its branches are opening
like naked arms
toward all places,
toward all signs,
like soaked children
suspended in space
like those simple leaves
that assemble a green crown
In the center is the trunk,
gracious and golden,
stripped of streaming light,
finding its balance,
and waiting perhaps for new waters
or a new nakedness
that here they call autumn.
Among green foliage in peace
surprised blades of grass pulse [End Page 1119]
and branches breathe
the fine water,
that's been falling since dawn.
The human eye takes flight,
crosses the curtain
of water transformed into colorless dance,
moving to the rhythm of these violins
that Haydn brought through the window.
Autumn will fall on all things green,
diligent, human, gathered up, distant
in their diffuse transparency.
My green isn't here.
Here I can only find green in high places,
And what if Plácido were to come here
seeking the clean background
of his coffee trees?
Autumn will come to clean
the immobile trail of waters,
and the silenced poets,
wandering in their sleep,
will take up
that flying pen of sunsets again
the return of autumn,
an autumn that can no longer wait for anyone...
The waters remain still,
and there's a light over their zenith--
high songs at dawn,
like the first fire of lullabies
and the gentle waves of Lake Waban.
The waters are still
and a light encircles them . . . [End Page 1120]
Good Lord! Forgive me!
But what are my eyes seeing?
How'd that black head get here,
the one with a patch of fog between its eyebrows,
rising in the center of a patch of fog?
Where's it from--
that black man's round, felt-covered head
and woolen hair,
trembling like someone about to drown,
the first one to drown in autumn
in the still waters of the lake?
Lake Waban, your waters
have bathed the tenebrous dreams
of this drowned man who reappears
amidst your still waters:
a drowned man,
and a water-ghost who drags his head
and the impossible oblivion of his name
amidst the still waters
that the ghost pushes toward the shore.
what sort of exile do I carry within,
coming from so far away,
as I yearn for the music of some immemorial
fiddlers amidst your still waters
while I stroll the garden's solitudes?
your waters remain still
and there's a light the autumn devours.
--Translated by Steven F. White
Nancy Morejón, Cuban scholar and poet, is Director of Caribbean Studies at Cuba's premier cultural studies institute, Casa de las Americas. She is the author of Mutismos (1962), Amor, cíudad atribuída (1964), Richard trajo se flauta (1967), Parajes de una época (1979), Poemas (1980), Elogio de la danza (1982), Octubre imprescindible (1983), and Cuarderno de Granada (1984), in addition to critical works focusing particularly on Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén (1974) and translations of poems by Paul Eluard, Jacques Roumain and Aimé Césaire.
Steven F. White's study and translations of contemporary Afro-Brazilian poetry have appeared in Callaloo 18.4, 19.1, and 20.1. He is the co-author with Edimilson de Almeida Pereira of "Brazil: Analysis of the Interactions and Conflicts in a Multicultural Society" in Cultural Cartographies: Comparative Studies in Race, Ethnicity and Nationhood. He also translated the subtitles for the feature-length film Cruz e Sousa: O Poeta do Desterro (1999) by Brazilian director Sylvio Back. White's CD Transversions (2001) includes his translations set to music of poetry by Latin American and Spanish writers. His most recent volume of poetry is Fire that Engenders Fire/Fuego que engendra fuego. He teaches at St. Lawrence University.