J O S É M A R T Í
NOT RHETORIC OR ORNAMENT
Translated by Mark Weiss
Not rhetoric or ornament
But a natural verse. Here a torrent
Here a dry stone. There a gilded bird
Shining in green branches,
Like a nasturtium among emeralds.
Here the fetid, viscous trace
Of a slug: its eyes mud-blisters, its belly
drab, greasy, foul.
In the treetop, higher still, alone
In the steel sky a constant
Star; and here, below, the oven
The oven that cooks the earth.
Flames, struggling flames, with
eye-like sockets, arm-like tongues,
A man's fury, sword-sharp: the sword of life
That blaze upon blaze conquers the earth at last!
It climbs, roaring from within, destroying:
Man begins in flame and finishes in flight.
At his triumphal passage the dirty
The vile, the cowardly, the defeated,
Like snakes, like lap dogs, like
Crocodiles with their double rows of teeth,
From here, from there, from the tree that shelters him
From the soil that holds him, from the ditch
Where he slakes his thirst, from the very anvil
Where bread is shaped, they howl and toss him,
Bite at his foot, his face covered with dust and mud;
Thus can a man be blinded on his path.
With one beat of his wing he sweeps the world aside
And rises through the burnt atmosphere,
Dead, like a man and like the serene sun.
Thus must noble poetry be:
Thus, as life is: star and lap dog;
The cave with teeth of flame,
The pine in whose fragrant branches
A nest sings by the moon's light,
A nest sings to the splendor of moonlight.
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