I cherish Poeta en Nueva York, and back in college I translated this poem for an introductory poetry class. My translation was abysmal—Greg Simon and Steven F. White show how it’s done.
Never finding itself,
traveling through its own white torso,
the air made its way!
Soon it was clear that the moon
was a horse’s skull,
and the air, a dark apple.
Behind the window,
with whips and lights, I felt
sand struggling with water.
I saw all the blades of grass arrive
and I threw a bleating lamb
to their little teeth and lancets.
The first dove, encased
in feathers and plastic,
flew inside a single drop.
Here comes the grass, son.
Its spit-swords ring
through the empty sky.
Hold my hand, my love. The grass!
Through the house’s broken windows,
the blood unleashed its waves of hair.
Only you and I are left.
Prepare your skeleton for the air.
We’re the only ones who remain.
Prepare your skeleton.
Hurry, love, hurry, we’ve got to look
for our sleepless profile.
Federico García Lorca, one of Spain’s greatest poets and dramatists, was born in a village near Granada in 1898 and was murdered in 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
Laird Gallagher is an editorial assistant at FSG.