Open Letter

Sonnets of Dark Love [Sonetos del Amor Oscuro]

Federico Garcia Lorca

Translated by Scott Tucker


Sonnet of Dark Love

Oh secret voice and song of a dark love!
Oh lowing without lambs! Oh hidden wound!
Oh needle of bile, cankered camellia!
Oh storm without a sea, town without walls!
Oh nights of iron darkness that descend
on mountains of mourning, proud peaks of grief!
Oh hound in the heart, the heart's forbidden cry,
song ripening in silence without end!
Fly from my throat, you voice of burning ice,
yet don't abandon me here in the wild
where flesh and sky mate without bearing fruit.
Don't haunt the heavy ivory of my skull--
take pity and strip off this strangling shroud,
I who am love, I who am nature's child!

Sonnet of Sweet Lament

I fear to lose the glory of your gaze,
a god's eyes heavened in a sculptured head;
to wake at night and not to feel unfold
the lone rose of your breath upon my face;
to be a limbless trunk on this far shore;
but even more than losing you, I dread
lacking a flower, a fruit, or some rich loam
to feed the worm that makes my heart its home.
If you are the gold I dive for on the reef,
if you are my cross and stigma running red,
if I am dog and slave to lord and master,
don't count up my poor gain and spend it all,
don't decorate the dark drift of your river
with the once-green bounty of my brilliant fall.

The Poet Begs His Love for a Letter

Love is this living death, and love's the knife
that twists my innards. I wait for one word
and wonder if this bloom can last the drought,
if losing you would gain me back my life.
The air is everlasting, and the stone
knows neither light nor shade nor where it's thrown.
The heart at home has no hunger nor need
for the frozen honey which the moon pours out.
But I feed my heart to a double beast,
raked by a tiger and pecked by a dove,
a duel between the cactus and the lily.
Send me a word, then, to fill up that wound,
or let me live in peace and without love,
and find an orbit in dark space alone.

The Poet Talks by Telephone with His Love

My chest was dune and drought, your voice was water;
that wooden cabin ceased to be my coffin.
At the south pole of my feet the crocus sprang,
at the north pole of my brow the bramble bloomed.
A pine of light sang through each crack and corner,
sang with no seed sown in the earth nor dawn;
for the first time my cry flew like an arrow,
pinning a crown of hope upon the roof.
Sweet and distant voice coursing toward me,
sweet and distant fountain of my pleasure,
distant and sweet like a sunken river!
Distant as a half-hidden, wounded fawn,
sweet as a sobbing draught from snowy fields,
distant yet sweetly lodged in my own marrow!

The Poet Asks His Love About
the Enchanted City of Cuenca

Did you like the city where drop by drop
the water worked and carved amid the pines?
Did you see spirits and faces, wander roads
and wind-whipped ramparts, dolorous in ruin?
Did you see the blue crack in the antique moon,
crystals spilled on the river while birds trilled?
Did your fingers feel the kiss of cactus spines,
love's crown of thorns on the remotest rock?
Did you remember me during your descent
into the silence suffered by the serpent,
shadowed in deep cells, shackled under lock?
And did you find suspended in the air
a sunflower that sheds both pain and pleasure
which my own hot heart ordered to be there?

Sonnet in the Style of Gongora
in Which the Poet Sends His Love a Dove

From Turia I'm sending you this dove
with eyes so sweet and plumes so white: a prize
greater than Grecian laurel, an emblem
and ember of the fire stoked where I stay.
Its simple heart and tender throat are caught
in the birdlime of twofold heat and spume;
tremor of frost and mist, tremor of pearl
signal the absence of your mouth and kiss.
Softly stroke its whiteness and discover
how the snowiest melodies are strewn,
poured in goblets over your gorgeousness.
And that is how my heart, each night and day,
locked in the prison of a shadowed love,
weeps without emptying its emptiness.

Sonnet of the Garland of Roses

A garland, quick, a wreath: I come and die.
Braid flowers as they fade. Sing, cry, and sing!
Heart in my throat, a storm swelling a gorge
shadowed and silvered by a thousand falls.
Between your own desire and my desire
the space is starry, each step quakes the ground,
and forests of anemones will spring
to round the year, making their secret sound.
Lovers in my wound's landscape, overjoyed,
can watch the reeds bend in the crossing currents,
can drink from red pools in the honeyed thigh.
But hurry, let's entwine ourselves as one,
our mouth broken, our soul bitten by love,
so time discovers us safely destroyed.

Night of Sleepless Love

The night arched over us. The moon was full.
And you, while I gave in to tears, were laughing:
a god in mocking glory, while my pleas
were mortal moments and doves bound in chain.
The night flowed under us. Crystal of pain,
you wept in waves from fathomless, far seas.
They stand so still, stones of my agonies;
your heart is sand that shifts and drifts apart.
Dawn yoked and yielded us upon the bed,
our mouths pressed open round the frozen spout
of blood which overflows but won't run out.
And the sun slipped through the shuttered balcony,
the coral came to life with branches spread
like open arms above my shrouded heart.

Love Awake and Love Asleep

You'll never know my vigil and my love,
sheltered in my soul, sleeping by my side.
I found you crying like a cornered creature
when you were at the sword-point of their voice.
Law violating flesh and stars alike
now trespasses my heart and preys on pain,
and tongues that sharpen at our backs have clipped
the wings your spirit once spread in its pride.
A mob has gathered, trampling down the garden,
waiting to watch my frenzy and your corpse
dragged by green-maned horses fast as light.
But sleep, sweetheart, they won't disturb your dreams.
Hear my blood strung like strings on violins!
See how they wait and watch all through the night!

Stigmata of Love

A light which lives on what the flames devour,
a grey landscape surrounding me with scorch,
a crucifixion by a single wound,
a sky and earth that darken by each hour,
a sob of blood whose red ribbon adorns
a lyre without a pulse, and oils the torch,
a tide which stuns and strands me on the reef,
a scorpion scrambling, stinging in my chest--
this is the wreath of love, this bed of thorns
is where I dream of you stealing my rest,
haunting these sunken ribs cargoed with grief.
I sought the peak of prudence, but I found
the hemlock-brimming valley of your heart,
and my own thirst for bitter truth and art.

The Poet Tells The Truth

I want to cry my pain, cry till I call
you from yourself to cry love and my name
amid the nightfall of the nightingales,
with a dagger, with kisses, with all your all.
I want to kill the solitary witness
to the assassination of my flowers,
to transform every bead of sweat, each tear
into a timeless mountain of durum wheat.
Dear, there will be no exit from this maze
of loving each other year after year
with salt and shouts, old moons and blazing days,
and the gift you give I can't refuse or claim
is a death with no death, no shade, no retreat
for this flesh trembling with love, transfixed by fear.