Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Brittle Snap

When I first read “Life by Halves," a poem by Mexican poet Alberto Blanco, the ending gave me a corresponding brittle snap in the heart. On this rainy day, here it is, from his bilingual collection, A Cage of Transparent Words:


We were in such a rush and it was raining …
a few rays of light filtered through
the dark branches of the trees.

The rusted chain was cold
and the padlock weighed like a heart
in the middle of the night.

You stuck the key into the lock
and began to force it.

A few minutes later
– and after a brittle snap –
you showed me the broken key.

The small stupidities
that seem to happen without warning
concentrated in a gesture of impatience.

Such is life:
a house locked up with chains,
one half of the key in our hand,
the other half in our chest.

– Alberto Blanco
– Translated by Elise Miller

A Cage of Transparent Words was published in 2007 by The Bitter Oleander Press. The pieces appear in both the original Spanish and, on facing pages, in English translations by Judith Infante, Joan Lindgren, Elise Miller, Edgardo Moctezuma, Gustavo V. Segade, Anthony Seidman, John Oliver Siimon, and Kathleen Snodgrass.

W.S. Merwin wrote one of the blurbs:

Alberto Blanco’s poems, over several decades, have revealed with precision and delicacy an original imaginative landscape, in language and imagery that are at once intimate, spacious, and rooted in the rich ground of Mexican poetry. There should certainly be a bilingual selection that represents his full range.

“Life by Halves” is reprinted here with the permission of Alberto Blanco and Bitter Oleander Press. I was honored to have my book, Stirring the Mirror, come out from BOP the same year as Alberto’s.

The photograph of a key that belonged to my grandmother was taken 10/26/08.


Pam said...

Wow -- the rain does strange things to our hearts. The key in the chest-wow!

Christine said...

Hi, Pam -- yes, that little intake of breath at the end of the poem ...