The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Rosario Castellanos: 3 Poems Published in Translation

Poem by Rosario Castellanos (Mexico)

Translated by Vicky Cox (UK)

Published in The Ofi Press issue 49

Presencia/ Presence

Presencia

 

Algún día lo sabré. Este cuerpo que ha sido

mi albergue, mi prisión, mi hospital, es mi tumba.

 

Esto que uní alrededor de un ansia,

de un dolor, de un recuerdo,

desertará buscando el agua, la hoja,

la espora original y aun lo inerte y la piedra.

 

Este nudo que fui ( de cóleras,

traiciones, esperanzas,

vislumbres repentinos, abandonos,

hambres, gritos de miedo y desamparo

y alegría fulgiendo en las tinieblas

y palabras y amor y amor y amores)

lo cortarán los años.

 

Nadie verá la destrucción. Ninguno

recogerá la página inconclusa.

Entre el puñado de actos

dispersos, aventados al azar, no habrá uno

al que pongan aparte como a perla preciosa.

Y sin embargo, hermano, amante, hijo,

amigo, antepasado,

no hay soledad, no hay muerte

aunque yo olvide y aunque yo me acabe.

 

Hombre, donde tú estás, donde tú vives

permaneceremos todos.

 

Presence

 

One day I will know it. This body that has been

my shelter, my prison, my hospital, is my tomb.

 

That which I have united around a longing,

a pain, a memory,

will turn its back in search of the water, the leaf,

the original spore and even the inert and the stone.

 

This knot that I was (of furies,

betrayals, hopes,

sudden glimpses, desertions,

hungers, cries of fear and helplessness

and happiness shining in the darkness

and words of love and love and loves)

will be cut by the years.

 

No one will see the destruction. None

will pick up the unfinished page.

Between the handful of scattered

actions, thrown at random, there will not be one

that is set apart like a precious pearl.

And yet, brother, lover, son,

friend, forefather,

there is no loneliness, there is no death

though I may have forgotten and though I may be gone.

 

Sir, where you are, where you live

we will all remain.

 

Falsa elegía/ False elegy

Falsa elegía

 

Compartimos sólo un desastre lento

Me veo morir en ti, en otro, en todo

Y todavía bostezo o me distraigo

Como ante el espectáculo aburrido.

 

Se destejen los días,

Las noches se consumen antes de darnos cuenta;

 

Así nos acabamos.

 

Nada es. Nada está.

Entre el alzarse y el caer del párpado.

 

Pero si alguno va a nacer (su anuncio,

La posibilidad de su inminencia

Y su peso de sílaba en el aire),

Trastorna lo existente,

Puede más que lo real

Y desaloja el cuerpo de los vivos.

 

 

False elegy

 

We shared no more than a slow disaster

I see myself die in you, in another, in everything

And still I yawn or am distracted

As if before a dull performance.

 

The days unwind,

The nights are consumed before we realise;

 

And like that we die.

 

Nothing exists. Nothing is here.

Between the rise and fall of an eyelid.

 

Yet if something should be born (its omen,

The possibility of its imminence

And its weight like a syllable in the air),

It disrupts the existing,

Is stronger than the real

And dispossesses the bodies of the living.

Ser río sin peces/ To be a river without fish

Ser río sin peces

 

Ser de río sin peces, esto he sido.

Y revestida voy de espuma y hielo.

Ahogado y roto llevo todo el cielo

y el árbol se me entrega malherido.

 

A dos orillas del dolor uncido

va mi caudal a un mar de desconsuelo.

La garza de su estero es alto vuelo

y adiós y breve sol desvanecido.

 

Para morir sin canto, ciego, avanza

mordido de vacío y de añoranza.

Ay, pero a veces hondo y sosegado

se detiene bajo una sombra pura.

Se detiene y recibe la hermosura

con un leve temblor maravillado.

 

To be a river without fish

 

A river without fish is what I have been.

And cloaked in foam and ice I go.

With me the whole sky is a drowned and broken thing

and the tree is brought to me badly damaged.

 

On either shore of the yoke of pain

flows my river to a sea of despair.

The heron of its estuary is a soaring

and a goodbye and a brief fading sun.

 

To die without song, blind, he advances

bitten by emptiness and longing.

Alas, but sometimes brooding and peaceful

he stops beneath a pure shadow.

He stops and takes in the beauty

with a slight tremor of wonder.

About the Poet

Rosario Castellanos was born in Mexico City in 1925. One year after her birth, her family returned to the Chiapas village, near Guatemala, where they had originally come from. At 16, the family moved back to Mexico City, having left the ranch and lands where they had lived as these were seized in the government’s land reform programme of the 1930s.

Castellanos began writing poetry in 1940 and her work was imbued by the Chiapan identity and spirit. 
Initially she tried to please her parents by studying law, but she soon abandoned that career, and in 1950 obtained her master’s degree in philosophy, from the Universidad Nacional de Mexico. Her thesis, Sobre cultura femenina, became the point of departure for the women’s movement.

In 1952, she worked with the Instituto Indigenista.

She was a prolific writer, producing volumes of poetry, novels, several short stories, plays, and collections of essays. In most, she explored the double reality of being a woman and a Mexican.

She is perhaps best known for her collection of stories Ciudad real, an informed portrait of the world of the Chamula Indigenous peoples. In order to write it, Castellanos spoke to anthropologists and doctors who were fighting to solve the problems of the region.

Many of her works have been translated to English, amongst other languages.

Biographical information taken from the BBC World Service Website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/arts/features/latinamericanwords/mexico/pop_cast.shtml