Sonnet XXI, from Liturgia de la Voz Abandonada, by Enrique Barrero Rodríguez, translated by John Poch

September 12, 2013 · 1 comment

I am small, Lord. I am but loam,

clay turned into a soul who yearned

to steer my craft to run aground

and drench myself in your coastal foam,

 

but reflection of another light, lowly

water that yearns to be ravine or stream,

but the soil waiting like a dream

where a seed was growing slowly.

 

I am but a flash, that reflection

remaining from the light relenting,

an image in a mirror, a projection,

 

the steady shadow of a bruise, and joys.

Just look at me here, unbending,

fighting to lift my grateful voice.

 

Spanish:

Yo soy poco, Señor. Soy sólo arcilla,

barro trocado en alma que quisiera

poder varar mi barca en tu ribera

y empaparse en la espuma de tu orilla,

 

reflejo de otra luz, agua sencilla

que añora ser arroyo o torrentera,

tierra que aguarda en la tranquila era

que crezca lentamente la semilla.

 

Soy tan sólo un destello, ese reflejo

que queda de la luz desvanecida,

imagen proyectada en un espejo,

 

gozo y sombra constante de una herida.

Pero mírame aquí, lucho y no cejo

en levantar la voz agradecida.

 

Enrique Barrero Rodríguez’s book, Liturgia de la Voz Abandonada, is a collection of devotional sonnets. They are Italianate with only two rhyming pairs in the octave and three in the very distinct sestet. These poems plumb the depths of a human soul speaking to God, the poet’s voice held up as an offering. The landscape, when it appears, is Andalucían: her coastal plains, her rivers and inlets, her beaches, her silver olive trees and golden grapes burgeoning in the sultry air. The open sky of the Spanish South is available for visions of starlight, sunrises, sunsets, and the shifting light between.

The paradoxes that complicate these sonnets harken back to the immaculate rhetoric of Donne’s holy sonnets and, more importantly, Jesus’s own teachings that constantly reveal to us that our inadequate vision is in constant need of renewal. Coming to terms with Barrero’s “abandoned voice” makes one realize that giving up a voice is very much like giving up one’s life in some small way. As Jesus said, “You must lose your life to find it.”

The humility of translation is in keeping with the Christian concept of love. Instead of writing one’s own poems to find a self in the language of poetry, one honors another’s poems instead, laying down one’s own voice, and one finds not a diminishment but a paradoxical increase in the awareness of all language and, perhaps not least, one’s own work. My writing and my self have been changed through the performance of these translations, and I am thankful to partake in such artistry.

john-poch-photo-sept2013

John Poch, M.F.A., teaches at Texas Tech University. He is the author of several poetry collections: Dolls (Orchises Press, 2009), Two Men Fighting with a Knife (Story Line Press, 2008; winner of the Donald Justice Award), and Poems (Orchises, 2004), as well as The Essential Hockey Haiku (St. Martin’s Press, 2006).

  • http://www.lift-the-lid.org/how-it-works/who-we-are/ Sara Goff

    The sonnet and John Poch’s tender reflections lend a power to our voices which we might not at first consider powerful. We learn that verbally or in written word we are able to give ourselves away for a moment, to let go of our immediate needs and focus on our Creator. When we become strong enough to lose ourselves in order to find God, we become strong enough to express love and let it into our lives.

    Lift the Lid encourages self-expression through writing at the schools we sponsor. Our hope is that the students will feel free to SHOUT in their essays and poems, to SING OUT and SCREAM and PROCLAIM who they are, and what they want, and how they feel. Thank you, John, for reminding us of another way of using our voices, one that, in the end, will reveal our true selves.

    Sara

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