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Once More, with Feeling

Luis Cernuda
From our old friendship 
I never thought I'd ever remember again
How a whole tribe, such a strange group 
To me and maybe no less strange to you, 
Adopted you. 

                                  But one of that tribe, 
A professor and, according to him and others
Over there (which shows how far our land has fallen),
A poet, called you "my prince." 
And I ask myself what you ever did that he 
Could have come to think of you as his prince. 

Academic claptrap? His writings are full of clichés 
And conventional thinking. But his rapturous rhetoric 
Does nothing to clarify our understanding 
Of the mystery in your work, even though he's also called 
A critic of our contemporary poetry. 

The appropriation of you, which you wanted 
Nothing to do with when you were alive, 
Is what now seems to me so utterly strange. 
The prince of a toad? Isn't it enough 
For your countrymen to have killed you? 

And now stupidity succeeds the crime.

From Desolation of the Chimera by Luis Cernuda, translated by Stephen Kessler. Copyright © 2010 by Luis Cernuda and Stephen Kessler. Used by permission of White Pine Press. All rights reserved.

Luis Cernuda

by this poet

The French—or was it the English?—government placed a plaque
On that house at 8 Great College Street, Camden Town, London, 
Where in a room Rimbaud and Verlaine, a peculiar couple, 
Lived, drank, worked, and fornicated 
For a few brief stormy weeks. 
No doubt the ambassador and the mayor attended the dedication
If the Arab musician
Plucks the lute strings
With an eagle quill
To awaken the notes,

What hand plucks 
With what bird's quill
The wound in you
That awakens the word?
The whole day's heat, distilled 
Into a suffocating vapor, the sand releases. 
Against the deep blue background of the night 
Like an impossible drizzle of water, 
The frozen splendor of the stars 
Is proudly aligned alongside the full moon 
Which, from a great height, disdainfully illumines 
The remains of