After a few weeks’ delay, I have finished translating ‘Absenta’, by Juan Alberto Corrales, the poem mentioned in my previous post. I really enjoyed the process, and actually found it quite straightforward: my vocabulary is up to moving from Spanish into English; it’s the reverse that I still struggle with. Anyway, while I tried to stick pretty close to the literal meaning of the poem, I did end up bending some lines just a little… Or extending them, to be precise — Corrales’s strict end-stops felt stilted in English. I also diluted some of his more melodramatic imagery… For instance, “This is dark love” became “This is blind love; this is love in the darkness,” picking up on both the old “love is blind” cliché and previous stanzas’ references to intoxication and loss of sight. I realise that this changes both the rhythm and the meaning of the final line, but I just couldn’t bear to put “This is dark love” out into the world when the love-is-blind approach was clearly so much more subtle and nuanced.
(Of course, subtle and nuanced might not have been what Corrales was going for; perhaps I’m too wed to my own tastes to ever be much of a translator. But hey — I’m having a whale of a time attempting it, at any rate.)
by Juan Alberto Corrales
It is Sunday.
I rest my forehead on my right hand.
The afternoon is grey.
I have a gentle headache.
When I close my eyes, everything has changed:
I see you running through a summer afternoon,
following the paths of the wind.
I would like to follow you.
The afternoon is grey,
and it has started to rain.
My dreams are empty,
and yet there is still time.
Many choices remain.
I open my eyes,
and realise that time has ended.
The afternoon has gone shining down a path into the woods,
the wind has made bows-and-arrows of the trees,
and the red sky has extinguished itself at our backs. Snow falls around us.
And now all of this has disappeared.
It is night.
I rest my forehead in both of my hands.
I open my eyes,
and it is fresh again, morning again, when everything begins anew.
Then comes the shin of the afternoon, faint and golden.
I close my eyes.
There was something there like sunshine in winter,
her eyes, her hair like the sky,
a see-through afternoon like a plastic marquee.
I called her by different names:
pale sun, pollen-on-the-window;
inky river, light-on-the-lake. Fever and dream.
On the other side of the wall stood a wall.
My life filled my chest, and I didn’t understand it.
I knew that there were mountains, but I couldn’t make them out.
Across from the old house stood a cork tree, abandoned.
Reflections hovered in the windows of the living-room and attic.
That house might have called itself haunted, or enchanted.
I look for you between shadows. The peeling door, the eaten paint. The leaves creeping across the entrance.
This is blind love; this is love in the darkness.