Selections from section 6 of “from a red barn” by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez and Katherine M. Hedeen

Editor’s Note:
Each day from Monday to Saturday this week we’ll be publishing a selection from Section 6 of a long poem called “from a red barn” by the acclaimed Cuban poet Víctor Rodríguez Núñez and translated into English by Katherine M. Hedeen.  First, you’ll read the English text, and right below that, the Spanish original.
JA
____

3

commonplace aristocracy
the press in mourning
an immortal has just died
Prince Rainier

for more than half a century he ruled
the world’s smallest and most prosperous state
reclaimed land from the sea
for a race car course

on solid rock he raised a garden
where chance ceased to be a gamble
why enumerate the details of wealth

with a wealth of details
Hollywood films imitated his life
whose only snag was death

4

your mother’s the same age as Prince Rainier
had he met her
he wouldn’t have failed to notice her beauty
no marriage to Grace Kelly

no pampered princesses
you wouldn’t be here earning a death
instead someone else like you would inherit
the casino in Monaco

it’s true La Tour d’Argent doesn’t serve
boniatillo con coco soy mince
life would be a dream

if it weren’t for class struggle
the press doesn’t report these miracles
in Havana your mother’s surdying

5

you were one among the muzzled poor
you admit it at all eleven corners
though hardly a witness remains in the village
and the survivors

have seen it all before stone-blind
you believed in those who had faith
steadfast to the root in the Ebro
in the Sierra Maestra in Vietnam

it’s not the story of a crime
but one of a past with future
and what’s left for you

in a world of hourglasses
abacuses and masks
besides a good explanation?

6

they took it all away from you
even what you didn’t have
from the seven cardinal points
wind only shuffles the bills

absolutely nothing poetic condition
free of possessions
still your origin’s listed on the stock exchange
free of commitments

still your destiny’s approved in congress
at least you can be an indignado
who doesn’t spend the night at the Puerta del Sol

or piss in a park on Wall Street
to take up the rights of the reader
don’t anyone dare buy this sonnet

9
your neighbors deploy their flags
they’re scary people
the hour of discretion
open silence sound

hope its yellow corolla
in solitude rises in the triangle
of lawn just cut
that flower defies

the tractor’s spiral blade
that detail overlooked
by the hermetic owner

of the house with extremist lighting
you on a wooden box sow
something to make them shudder

11
from a red barn
jam-packed with things forgotten
though still useful
principles than can be sharpened

to start sowing
consciences ridded of their rust when you wield them
once more in the winnowing
from a red barn

leaning toward the left
seems to collapse but it won’t
soon to be taken over by the brambles

still it shelters
from snow and soot
if you don’t think so ask the swallows


3

aristocracia del lugar común
la prensa está de luto
acaba de morir un inmortal
el príncipe Rainiero

por más de medio siglo gobernó
el estado más pequeño y próspero del mundo
ganó la tierra al mar
para un circuito de carreras de automóviles

en la roca viva erigió un jardín
donde el azar dejó de ser un juego
para qué enumerar con lujo de detalles

los detalles del lujo
los filmes de Hollywood imitaron su vida
que tuvo solo la contrariedad de la muerte

4

tu madre es de la edad del príncipe Rainiero
de haberla conocido
él no hubiera pasado por alto su belleza
nada de matrimonio con Grace Kelly

ni princesas malcriadas
tú no estarías aquí ganándote la muerte
pero otro como tú heredaría
el casino de Mónaco

es cierto que en La Tour d’Argent no sirven
boniatillo con coco picadillo de soya
la vida sería un sueño

si no fuera por la lucha de clases
la prensa no registra estos milagros
en La Habana tu madre sobremuere

5
fuiste uno entre los pobres de callar
lo reconoces por las once esquinas
aunque casi no queden testigos en la aldea
y los sobrevivientes

se espantaran de cura sean ciegos de cañón
creías en los que tuvieron fe
se entregaron de raíz en el Ebro
en la Sierra Maestra en Vietnam

no es la historia de un crimen
sino la de un pasado con futuro
¿y qué te quedará

en un mundo de relojes de arena
ábacos y antifaces
además de una buena explicación?

6
te lo quitaron todo
incluido lo que nunca tuviste
desde los siete puntos cardinales
el viento solo trasiega facturas

nada de nada condición poética
libre de posesiones
pero aún tu origen se cotiza en la bolsa
libre de compromisos

pero aún tu destino se aprueba en el congreso
al menos puedes ser un indignado
que no pasa la noche en la Puerta del Sol

ni se orina en un parque en Wall Street
asumir los derechos de lector
nadie vaya a comprar este soneto

9
tus vecinos despliegan sus banderas
son gente de temer
suena la hora de la discreción
el abierto silencio

la esperanza su corola amarilla
se alza solitaria en el triángulo
de césped acabado de segar
esa flor que resiste

la cuchilla en espiral del tractor
ese detalle que pasó por alto
el hermético dueño

de la casa con exaltadas luces
tú en una caja de madera siembras
algo que hace temblar

11
desde un granero rojo
atestado de cosas olvidadas
pero útiles aún
principios a los cuales se puede sacar punta

y ponerse a sembrar
conciencias que pierden el orín cuando las vuelves
a usar en el despaje
desde un granero rojo

que se inclina a la izquierda
parece derrumbarse pero no
y empieza a ser tomado por el monte

pero que aún resguarda
de la nieve y el tizne
pregúntale si no a las golondrinas

The Author

Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (Havana, 1955) is a poet, journalist, literary critic, translator, and scholar. Among his books of poetry are Cayama (1979), Con raro olor a mundo (1981), Noticiario del solo (1987), Cuarto de desahogo (1993), Los poemas de nadie y otros poemas (1994), El último a la feria (1995), Oración inconclusa (2000), Actas de medianoche I (2006), Actas de medianoche II (2007), tareas (2011), reversos (2011), deshielos (2013), and desde un granero rojo (2013). Anthologies of his work have come out in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, and Spain, most recently Cuarto de desahogo (2013), and desde un granero rojo: poesía reciente (2014). Book-length translations of his work have been published in Chinese, German, English, French, Italian, Macedonian, Serbian and Swedish, and a wide selection of his poems has appeared in another twelve languages. He has been invited to read his work in more than thirty countries. His most recent publications in English are With a Strange Scent of World: Early Poems (Diálogos, 2014) and thaw (Arc Publications, 2013). Translations into English of his work have appeared in Asymptote, The Brooklyn Rail InTranslation, Circumference, Denver Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, New England Review, New Letters, The New York Quarterly, and Poetry, among many others. His poetry has long been the recipient of major awards throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including the David (Cuba, 1980), the Plural (Mexico, 1983), the EDUCA (Costa Rica, 1995); and in Spain, the Renacimiento (2000), the Fray Luis de León (2005), the Leonor (2006), the Rincón de la Victoria (2010), the Jaime Gil de Biedma (2011), the Alfons el Magnànim (2013), and most recently the Loewe Prize (2015). In the eighties, he was the editor of Cuba’s leading cultural magazine, El Caimán Barbudo, where he published numerous articles on literature and film. He has compiled three anthologies that define his poetic generation, as well as another of 20th century Cuban poetry, La poesía del siglo XX en Cuba (2011). He has brought out various critical editions, introductions, and essays on Spanish American poets. With Katherine M. Hedeen, he has translated poetry from Spanish into English (Juan Gelman and José Emilio Pacheco, among others) and from English into Spanish (Mark Strand and John Kinsella, among others). He co-edits the Latin American Poetry in Translation series for the British publisher Salt and is the co-director of the Mexican literary journal, La Otra. He divides his time between Gambier, Ohio, where he is currently Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College, and Havana, Cuba.

The Translator

Katherine M. Hedeen is a specialist in Latin American poetry and has both extensively written on and translated contemporary authors from the region. Her book-length translations include published collections by Rodolfo Alonso, Juan Bañuelos, Juan Calzadilla, Marco Antonio Campos, Luis García Montero, Juan Gelman, Fayad Jamís, Hugo Mujica, José Emilio Pacheco, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, and Ida Vitale. She is an associate editor of Earthwork’s Latin American Poetry in Translation Series for Salt Publishing and an acquisitions editor for Arc Publications.  She is the recipient of a 2009 and a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Project Grant. She resides in Ohio where she is Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College.

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