By the East River and the Bronx
boys sang, stripped to the waist,
along with the wheels, oil, leather and hammers.
Ninety thousand miners working silver from rock
and the children drawing stairways and perspectives.
But none of them slumbered,
none of them wished to be river,
none loved the vast leaves,
none the blue tongue of the shore.
By East River and the Queensboro
boys battled with Industry,
and Jews sold the river faun
the rose of circumcision
and the sky poured, through bridges and rooftops,
herds of bison driven by the wind.
But none would stop,
none of them longed to be cloud,
none searched for ferns
or the tambourine’s yellow circuit.
When the moon sails out
pulleys will turn to trouble the sky;
a boundary of needles will fence in memory
and coffins will carry off those who don’t work.
New York of mud,
New York of wire and death.
What angel lies hidden in your cheek?
What perfect voice will speak the truth of wheat?
Who the terrible dream of your stained anemones?
Not for a single moment, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
have I ceased to see your beard filled with butterflies,
nor your corduroy shoulders frayed by the moon,
nor your thighs of virgin Apollo,
nor your voice like a column of ash;
ancient beautiful as the mist,
who moaned as a bird does
its sex pierced by a needle.
Enemy of the satyr,
enemy of the vine
and lover of the body under rough cloth.
Not for a single moment, virile beauty
who in mountains of coal, billboards, railroads,
dreamed of being a river and slumbering like a river
with that comrade who would set in your breast
the small grief of an ignorant leopard.
Not for a single moment, Adam of blood, Male,
man alone on the sea, Walt Whitman, lovely old man,
because on penthouse roofs,
and gathered together in bars,
emerging in squads from the sewers,
trembling between the legs of chauffeurs
or spinning on dance-floors of absinthe,
the maricas, Walt Whitman, point to you.
Him too! He’s one! And they hurl themselves
at your beard luminous and chaste,
blonds from the north, blacks from the sands,
multitudes with howls and gestures,
like cats and like snakes,
the maricas, Walt Whitman, maricas,
disordered with tears, flesh for the whip,
for the boot, or the tamer’s bite.
Him too! He’s one! Stained fingers
point to the shore of your dream,
when a friend eats your apple,
with its slight tang of petrol,
and the sun sings in the navels
of the boys at play beneath bridges.
But you never sought scratched eyes,
nor the darkest swamp where they drown the children,
nor the frozen saliva,
nor the curved wounds like a toad’s belly
that maricas bear, in cars and on terraces,
while the moon whips them on terror’s street-corners.
You sought a nakedness like a river.
Bull and dream that would join the wheel to the seaweed,
father of your agony, camellia of your death,
and moan in the flames of your hidden equator.
For it’s right that a man not seek his delight
in the bloody jungle of approaching morning.
The sky has shores where life is avoided
and bodies that should not be echoed by dawn.
Agony, agony, dream, ferment and dream.
This is the world, my friend, agony, agony.
Bodies dissolve beneath city clocks,
war passes weeping with a million grey rats,
the rich give their darlings
little bright dying things,
and life is not noble, or sacred, or good.
Man can, if he wishes, lead his desire
through a vein of coral or a heavenly nude.
Tomorrow loves will be stones and Time
a breeze that comes slumbering through the branches.
That’s why I don’t raise my voice, old Walt Whitman,
against the boy who inscribes
the name of a girl on his pillow,
nor the lad who dresses as a bride
in the shadow of the wardrobe,
nor the solitary men in clubs
who drink with disgust prostitution’s waters,
nor against the men with the green glance
who love men and burn their lips in silence.
But yes, against you, city maricas,
of tumescent flesh and unclean thought.
Mothers of mud. Harpies. Unsleeping enemies
of Love that bestows garlands of joy.
Against you forever, you who give boys
drops of foul death with bitter poison.
Against you forever,
Fairies of North America,
Pájaros of Havana,
Jotos of Mexico,
Sarasas of Cádiz,
Apios of Seville,
Cancos of Madrid,
Floras of Alicante,
Adelaidas of Portugal.
Maricas of all the world, murderers of doves!
Slaves to women. Their boudoir bitches.
Spread in public squares like fevered fans
or ambushed in stiff landscapes of hemlock.
No quarter! Death
flows from your eyes
and heaps grey flowers at the swamp’s edge.
No quarter! Look out!!
Let the perplexed, the pure,
the classical, noted, the supplicants
close the gates of the bacchanal to you.
And you, lovely Walt Whitman, sleep on the banks of the Hudson
with your beard towards the pole and your hands open.
Bland clay or snow, your tongue is calling
for comrades to guard your disembodied gazelle.
Sleep: nothing remains.
A dance of walls stirs the prairies
and America drown itself in machines and lament.
I long for a fierce wind that from deepest night
shall blow the flowers and letters from the vault where you sleep
and a negro boy to tell the whites and their gold
that the kingdom of wheat has arrived.
Federico García Lorca, 1929-1930
Translation by A. S. Kline