Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday's poem: Claribel Alegria

My footsteps are leading
toward quiet solitude
toward the star-silence
that has no more questions.

     Claribel Alegria

Nocturnal Visits
by Claribel Alegria

I think of our anonymous boys
of our burnt-out heroes
the amputated
the cripples
those who lost both legs
both eyes
the stammering teen-agers.
At night I listen to their phantoms
shouting in my ear
shaking me out of lethargy
issuing me commands
I think of their tattered lives
of their feverish hands
reaching out to seize ours.
It's not that they're begging
they're demanding
they've earned the right to order us
to break up our sleep
to come awake
to shake off once and for all
this lassitude.

(Translated by D. J. Flakoll)

The Return
Claribel Alegria

How will the return be?
My parents won’t be there
I won’t climb the volcano
with them
to gather orchids.
The jasmine won’t be there
nor the araucaria.
Nor will there be a fortress
in front of my house
nor children
flaunting their misery
nor mud shanties
with tin roofs.
I have never seen
my mother’s tomb
my childhood
next to her
my first seedbed
of memories
my rainbow arch
sinking roots
peopling me with birds.
They were times of peace
those distant times
of somnolence
and peace.
Now is a time of war
of steps leading upward
of love that seeds dreams
and shakes one.
Return obsesses me
Faces fly by
through the open fissure.
Once more there’ll be peace
but of a different kind.
The rainbow glimmers
tugs at me
not that inert peace
of shrouded eyes
it will be a rebellious
contagious peace
a peace that opens furrows
and aims at the stars.
The rainbow shatters
the sky splits open
rolls up like a scroll
of shadows
inviting us to enter
and be dazzled.
Come, love, let’s return
to the future.

Translation by Darwin J. Flakoll. 
Claribel Alegria

In the sixty-eight years
I have lived
there are a few electrical instants:
the happiness of my feet
skipping puddles
six hours in Macchu Pichu
the ten minutes necessary
to lose my virginity
the buzzing of the telephone
while awaiting the death of my mother
the hoarse voice
announcing the death
of Monsignor Romero
fifteen minutes in Delft
the first wail of my daughter
I don't know how many years
dreaming of my people's liberation
certain immortal deaths
the eyes of that starving child
your eyes bathing me with love
one forget-me-not afternoon
and in this sultry hour
the urge to mould myself
into a verse
a shout a fleck
of foam.

(Translated by D.J. Flakoll)

Claribel Alegría  is a Nicaraguan poet, essayist, novelist, and journalist and a major voice in Central American literature.
Alegria was born in Nicarauga in 1924, the year US marines occupied the country. Her father opposed the US intervention and his life was in danger, so the family were forced into political exile to El Salvador the following year. As a young child she saw from her window peasants with their thumbs tied behind their backs being herded onto the army base, and later heard the shots.  
She left El Salvador  in 1943 and attended college in the United States and lived in Mexico, Spain, and various South American countries and never returned.
In more than 40 books of poetry, testimony, fiction and non-fiction Alegría has spoken for justice and liberty.
Alegria sees the poet (and writer) as having a responsibility to provide a voice for the voiceless-those who don't have a voice or those who have lost or are denied voice in social economic and political struggles. In this context, poetry can be a weapon against repression, oppression, exploitation, and injustice
Poems and articles about Claribel Alegri are here, here, here and here.

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