Mar 29, 2020
Despite the fact that the Sunday service of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston has moved online, we are continuing some bilingual elements in our service. This week we included a reading by the Uruguayan poet Amanda Berenguer (1921-2010). The author of many books, she was an honorary member of Uruguayan National Academy of Letters. “Limo” can be found in antología de la poesía hispanoamericana actual, ed. Julio Ortega (Mexico City: siglo veintiuno editores, s.a. de c.v., 1987).
I worked with Alma Viscarra, First Houston’s Membership and Communications Coordinator, to translate the poem. Alma’s a native Spanish speaker and while my Spanish is reasonably good, it is wonderful to be able to collaborate with someone who is both fluent in the language and has a terrific poetic sensibility. We went through three drafts. I did a first translation, trying to pay attention to not just the literal meaning of the words but the overall sense of the poem. Alma then read my translation alongside the original and suggested alternative interpretations and pointed out things I might not have understood because they are colloquial expressions. I then went back and made the final edits. I think that working together we got a much better English version than I would have produced by myself. It is an enjoyable process for both of us.
I have included the Spanish version below the English translation, in case anyone is interested.
Silt by Amanda Berenguer
The fire tells me that the flame is the truth,
and the ancient sea, that seafoam is the truth:
the truth of the song that is the wind,
the truth of the dying river.
The sky tells me that the cloud is the truth,
and the sailor tells me
that the star is truth:
the truth of blood’s everyday journey through the body,
the truth of the soul fleeing in darkness.
That the truth is hope--they told me.
Let the heart soar! Let the dream soar!
Let scarves and oblivion soar!
What is the truth--I ask myself again--
since dawn, I have asked myself...
And nighttime has slowly crawled up,
And I wanted to say it, and I haven’t known how.
Limo por Amanda Berenguer
Me dice el fuego que es verdad la llama,
y el mar antiguo que es verdad la espuma:
verdad del canto que es lleva el viento,
verdad del río que se va perdiendo.
Me dice el cielo que es verdad la nube,
y el marinero que es verdad la estrella:
verdad del viaje usual de toda sangre,
verdad del alma huyendo en las tinieblas.
Que es verdad--me dijeron--la esperanza.
¡Al aire el corazón! ¡Al aire el sueño!
¡Al aire los pañuelos y el olvido!
Que es verdad--me repito--desde el alba...
Y ha llegado la noche despacito,
y lo quise decir, y no he sabido.