Look, let us stop for love

Mira, vamos a salir

Mira, vamos a salir

de tanto ser tú y ser yo.

Deja tu cuerpo dormido,

deja mi cuerpo a tu lado,


Vamos a probarnos árboles;

dos árboles que aunque tengan

muy apartados los troncos,

se buscarán por arriba,

se encontrarán con sus hojas,

se tocarán con la flor.

Vamos a probarnos olas

que corren una tras otra,

separadas y jugando,

hasta que en la arena tibia

se les acaba el ser dos.

Look, let us stop

This long being You and this long being Me.

Leave your sleeping body;

Leave my body with yours,

Leave them

Let’s try being like trees

two trees that, though a great distance

their trunks does separate

will search for one another above,

will find one another with their leaves,

Will touch one another with their flowers.

Let us try being like waves

That run one after another,

separated and playing,

until in the warm sand

they stop being two.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day I decided to post a poem. The excerpt above is by Pedro Salinas, a member of the Generación del 27 …but you can read about him by visiting the provided link. The complete poem is much longer so please visit a bilingual presentation of it on youtube.

The idea behind this post is the difficulty of love, the difficulty of translation which, like love, tries to convey compressed emotions in so little time and in so little space; and like love, the misplaced word can do damage to the beauty of the idea behind the thought. The wrong word can destroy and the right word can repair. In life and love as in art as in life we try and fail, and try and fail, and try again.

The economy of words in Salinas’s original and the syntactical felicity of the lines in relation to each other are tough to transfer into English.  Look at these two lines, for example:

dos árboles que aunque tengan

muy apartados los troncos,

There is such beauty in such seeming simplicity.  The first line is nine syllables, whereas the second is eight (thought you could make it nine syllables if you break up ‘muy’ into two syllables). The lines are lean yet brimming.  Notice the use of the verb ‘tener’ where I have had to use the verb ‘to be’ in English. Please note that ‘trunks’ is not the subject in that stanza, the trees are.  The trunks (los troncos) are the direct object of the verb  ‘tener,’ which I have retained by making ‘trunks’ the direct object of the verb ‘to separate.’

Let’s go up to the first stanza and this short, packed line:

de tanto ser tú y ser yo.

The ‘tanto’ is integral and must be translated.  Again, I point out the economy of words and the beauty inherent in that economy and in the thought expressed in their total of eight syllables.

The last line of the last stanza:

se les acaba el ser dos.

In this instance, I had initially misinterpreted the verb ‘acabarse,’ which, in this context, means ‘to finish,’ or to ‘to stop.’  Notice the use of the plural indirect-object pronoun ‘les’ here.  What you see in the poem is a common use of the verb.  For example:  ‘Se me ha acabado la leche’ (I have run out of milk.) In Spanish ‘milk’ is the subject, while the person who has run out of milk is the indirect object. In English, the person who has run out of milk is the subject and milk, in this case, the object of a preposition.  My initial translation had had the two waves separating when in fact the goal was to become one again on the warm sand.  The poem is indeed a lovely evocation of two souls merging as one.

A friend corrected my mistakes with love, and in those small mistakes I had learned — rather I was reminded why I am not a poet and why poetry is so needed in this world. We can afford mistakes. I learned from mine.

I just reread this post. I smile and in my mind I think of that sentence about running out of milk in Spanish. I ask, ‘What if I had run out of love?’ In one language ‘love’ would be the subject and ‘I’ would be the indirect object. Shouldn’t it be that way for one day — that Love should be the subject and not require any preposition?


About gabrielswharf

gabriel’s wharf is a blog on the random thoughts and writings of author Gabriel Valjan. His stories continue to appear online and in print journals. Winter Goose Publishing publishes his Roma Series.
This entry was posted in Poetry, Writers from Around the World and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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