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Hélène Cardona – Birnam Wood

Profile Helene Cardona LE P&W Dec V One 2018

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The following poems, Poem to Circe III and Poem to Circe XII, are from Birnam Wood/El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry, 2018),
by José Manuel Cardona, translated by Hélène Cardona.

Hélène Cardona is a poet, literary translator and actor, the recipient of numerous awards and honors including a Hemingway Grant and the International and Best Book Awards. Her books include three bilingual poetry collections, most recently Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry, 2016) and Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013); and four translations, Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona, Salmon Poetry 2018), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, White Pine Press, 2016), Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux, Éditions du Cygne, 2014), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb (2016). She holds a Master’s in American Literature from the Sorbonne, worked as a translator / interpreter for the Canadian Embassy in Paris, and taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University. Publications include World Literature Today, Washington Square Review, Poetry International, Dublin Review of Books, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Asymptote and The Warwick Review. Her work has been translated into 16 languages.

José Manuel Cardona (July 16, 1928 – July 4, 2018) was a poet from Ibiza, Spain. He is the author of El Vendimiador (Atzavara, 1953), Poemas a Circe (Adonais, 1959), El Bosque de Birnam: Antología poética (Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007). He was co-editor of several literary journals and wrote for many publications. He participated in the II Congreso de Poesía in Salamanca and belonged to the Cántico group. The Franco regime forced him into exile in France. He holds PhDs in literature and humanities (University of Nancy), and political sciences (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva). He wrote his thesis on the Mexican revolution at the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica de Madrid and is an attorney (University of Barcelona). He worked for the United Nations most of his life, in Geneva, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Belgrade, Sofia, Kiev, Tbilisi, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Panama, among many places.

Poem to Circe III

You are not mine either even though I love you.
You are like earth, like the island.
I share you with no one, love, no one.
I cannot say: that is mine.
This island where we love belongs to no one.
What is owed doesn’t belong to anyone.
I prefer it this way, because love
Is that language of fire or scattered
Universe in vines everywhere.

Flesh is subsequent, the very embers,
What one looks for and loves and composts.
Fleeting truth of an opaque moon
Cruelly scratching the burning bramble,
Awakening to the mystery of hands,
The touch of the mouth and kiss.

Circe, you are flesh, fertile land,
Like the one I don’t have on this island.
I close the palm in fist and bury
The seed beneath soft and red earth.
Sadness and I walk hand in hand.
Flesh is thirsty as a mastiff
With vine shoots of cream for breasts.
A crooked swordfish, crystal sharp,
I must open my thirst and empty myself.

Poema a Circe III

Tampoco tú eres mía aunque te amo.
Eres como la tierra, como la isla.
Con nadie te comparto, amor, con nadie.
Yo no puedo decir: aquello es mío.
Esta isla donde amamos no es de nadie.
Lo que se debe a alguien no es de uno.
Y lo prefiero así, por que el amor
Es cual lengua de fuego o universo
Desparramado en vid por todas partes.

La carne es lo ulterior, la brasa misma,
Lo que se busca y ama y estercola.
Fugitiva verdad de luna opaca
En arañazo cruel de zarza ardiendo
Despertando al misterio de las manos,
Al tacto de la boca y a los besos.

Circe, carne eres tú, tierra fecunda
Como la que no tengo en esta isla.
Cierro la palma y el puño y la semilla
Entierro bajo tierra roja y blanda.
Paseamos la tristeza mano a mano.
La carne es un mastín para la sed
Con pámpanos de nata como senos.
Curvo alfanje con filo de cristales
He de abrirme la sed y vaciarme.

Poem to Circe XII

Then I dreamt of you in my way.
Distance is a colt galloping
In the opposite direction at full speed.
I dreamt you and made you in my size.
I’m the one who created you, but not how you are.
Because mud escapes and you are a trace
Broken free from the potter’s love
Except love itself was making you.
I created you, Circe; humanly
I keep recreating me in your image,
I keep recreating you and living
My creation in you, until I don’t know
Or confuse, by dint of knowing,
Where you, reality, start
And where I, desire, end.

Exalted were you in my dreams,
Almost inaccessible like an island
Sought and sought for years.
I saw you in the Sierra Peaks,
In the lilial mountain snow
Emerge like an eagle from my dreams.
Like an eagle you stared
At the sun, your jet black plumage
Open winged, messenger.
I made you thus of my flesh. Saliva
Soaked in your feverish dust,
I kept recreating you in my image.

Exalted you opened my painful wound
Lancing the skin until you found yourself,
Heart, created in my side.
Time was an olive tree like those
Of the chalice and surrender. I was the man
Attending to the sacrifice. I was the wait.
All is consumed, Circe, and I live.

Poema a Circe XII

Entonces te soñaba a mi manera.
La distancia es un potro que cabalga
En sentido contrario a rienda suelta.
Te soñaba y te hacía a mi medida.
Fuí yo quien te creé, no como eres.
Porque el barro se escapa y eres huella
Escapada al amor del alfarero,
Sino como el amor te iba haciendo.
Te he creado, Circe; humanamente
He ido recreándome en tu imágen,
He ido recreándote y viviendo
Mi creación en tí, hasta ignorar
O confundir, a fuerza de saber,
Dónde empezabas tú, realidad,
Y dónde terminaba yo, deseo.

Alta eras en mis sueños,
Inaccesible casi como una isla
Que se busca y se busca durante años.
Te veía en los Picos de la Sierra,
En la nieve lilial de la montaña
Emerger de mis sueños como águila.
Como águila quedabas fijamente
Mirando al sol, abierto tu plumaje
Negrísimo y alado mensajero.
Te hice así de mi carne. La saliva
Se mojaba en tu polvo enfebrecido
Y te iba recreando a imagen mía.

Alta me abriste herida dolorosa
Lanceando la piel hasta encontrarte
Creada corazón en mi costado.
Era el tiempo un olivo como aquellos
Del cáliz y la entrega. Yo era el hombre
Que atiende al sacrificio. Era la espera.
Todo se ha consumado, Circe, y vivo.

© Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry, 2018), by José Manuel Cardona, translated by Hélène Cardona