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Susquehanna University Press

     

 

Excerpts from Destruction or Love
Translated and Illustrated by Robert G. Mowry

Within the extensive and varied poetic output of Vicente Aleixandre, La Destruccion O El Amor constitutes a uniquely personal challenge to the fates, a powerfully original expression of a worldview in formation. Throughout its fifty-four independent yet intimately related compositions, tensions created by dualities and multiplicities within the poet's soul, in the interpersonal domain, and between mankind and widely ranging manifestations of nature are portrayed resolving themselves through the confluence and interpenetration of mutually attracting entities of all kinds: meteorological (moon, stars), geological (rocks, lava), zoological (beetles, tigers), products of human industry (sheet, metal, glass), as well as various constituents of the human body (lips, breasts)--all obedient to a universalized erotic impulse that simultaneously fulfills and obliterates each participant in the process. The very title of the volume displays this polarity: "destruction" on the one hand, "love" on the other, with the associative use of the conjunction "or" to suggest the identity of the two terms.

I strove painstakingly throughout to produce a consistent elliptical English style that would hint at the forced cadences and conceptual dynamics of the original text, incorporating as well a sprinkling of neologisms as a device for mirroring some of the syntactic liberties regularly taken by Aleixandre. Above all, I have endeavored to fashion a verbal work of art in its own right, yet one that closely adheres to the spirit and content of the original. The accompanying brush drawings that form an integral part of my response to the text attempt to capture the oneiric impact of the poetry, while echoing the recurrent motifs of birds, flowers, hearts, waves, etc.

As one becomes more familiar with the Aleixandrean vision, a coherence emerges beneath the apparent chaos--a remarkable emotional and conceptual manifestation of the spirit of our age.

"Unity in Her"
Fortunate body flowing between my hands,
beloved face in which I contemplate the world,
where graceful birds, in fleeting mimicry,
are flying toward the land of unforgetfulness.

Your outward form, diamond or hardened ruby,
brilliance of a blinding sun between my hands,
crater calling me with its inner music,
with your teeth's impenetrable summons.

I will die because I am plunging in, because I want to die,
because I want to live inside the fire, for mine is not this outer air
but heated breath burning at my approach
and gilding my lips within its depths.

Let me gaze and gaze, tinged with love,
my face flushed by your purple life,
let me gaze at the deep tumult of your core
where I will die and forever relinquish living.

I want love or death, I want to die completely,
I want to be you, your blood, the roaring lava
bathing your beautiful extremities
while sensing in its confinement life's glorious limits.

This kiss on your lips like a slow thorn,
like a flown-away sea made into a mirror,
like a wing's luster,
is still a pair of hands, a stroking of your rustling hair,
a crackling of avenging light,
light or death-dealing sword poised threatening above my neck,
but never able to destroy this world's unity.

"Light"
Sea, land, sky, fire, wind,
enduring world we live in,
remotest stars nearly imploring us,
at times nearly become a hand caressing our eyes.

Arrival of light reposing on our foreheads,
Where do you arrive from, where do you come from, loving form
I feel breathing,
feel like a breast enfolding a melody,
feel like the sound of angelic harps,
nearly transparent now like murmuring worlds?

Where do you come from, celestial gown in shining beam figure
caressing a forehead alive and suffering, and loving like all that lives?;
where from, you who seem as ready to be the memory of a fire glowing
like a branding iron,
as to settle calmly on the weary being of an understanding head?

Your unlamenting touch, your smiling arrival like lips from above,
your secret's whisper in the waiting ear
wounds or sets to dreaming like pronouncing a name
only gleaming lips can speak.

Contemplating this very moment the tiny delicate animals spinning
round across the earth,
bathed by your presence or your soundless scale,
revealed to their existence, protected by a silence
broken only by many bloods throbbing.

Watching this skin of ours, our body visible
because you reveal it, light whose sender is unknown to me,
light still arriving as though lips had spoken you,
in the form of teeth or an entreated kiss,
with a warmth of skin still loving us.

"There Is More"
Joyful kiss, carefree dove,
whiteness between our hands, sun or cloud;
heart not trying to fly because warmth is enough,
a wing combed by lips already alive is enough.

Day can be felt toward the outside; only love exists.
You and I feel being born on our mouths what is not alive,
what an indestructible kiss is when mouths are wings,
wings smothering us while our eyes are closing,
while golden light remains inside our eyelids.

Come, come flee with me like love in silence;
life like the warmth of everyone alone,
of soft music quivering beneath our feet,
unique flying world, with light from a living star,
like one body or two souls, like a final bird.