Ricardo Maldonado on “Un pájaro para Felipe, un pájaro para Damián / A Bird for Felipe, a Bird for Damián”
Un hombre muere en algún mundo por el puño
de un árbol, más que por nuestro amor.
Cuando yo era pequeño, se labró un músculo en piedra
de su mineral
para ser perdonado.
Y sin embargo, ante el saludo de los pájaros, amé la labor,
su respiro, que escribía con la mugre
de nuestas ansias.
Llueve como septiembre en este mundo. Tengo más
por su desgaste.
¿Quién soy yo para ser suyos en este siglo
compulsorio, sino un padre, pero sin posesivo?
Amé. Amé. Yo amo. Tengo su bandera insoslayable. Ese oficio
para nosotros como fósforo en el frío en un cuarto de septiembre
con nuestros huesos blancos, húmedos
por la melancolia. Queda más nada que hacerlo
vuestro. Esperaba con mi lámpara para inventar un pájaro
para ustedes e impulsarlo
como cuando pequeño, para entenderlo, como el agua fresca
que me dejó las manos.
A man dies in some other world by the hand
of the trees, more than by our love.
When I was young, muscles were carved from the stone
of that mineral
to be forgiven.
And yet, by the greeting of the birds, I loved the work,
its respite, on which I wrote with the dirt
of our fears.
It rains this September in our world. I've gained more
from the wear.
Who am I to be yours in this compulsory
century, but a father, without possessive?
I loved. I loved. I love presently. I fly its unavoidable flag. That trade
is a match for us in the cold, in a room for September
and our whitening bones, humid
in our melancholy. There's nothing more to do but to make it
yours. I waited with my lamp to make a bird
for you, and then release it,
as if I were a child, but to understand it, like the fresh water
that washed over my hands.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
On "Un pájaro para Felipe, un pájaro para Damián / A Bird for Felipe, a Bird for Damián"
There are a few facts about the composition of this poem I want to disclose: that the idea of the poem, if not the thing itself, came to me in December, as my plane landed in Puerto Rico; that I turned my phone on to watch a video of my nephews during the descent; that I also do this on my way to work and my way back to Brooklyn, where I live now; that there is no other work I've consumed more since September than that video; that I am writing this some four months after the power grid collapsed; that I count days every morning, every evening, I know the tally by heart; that I wrote my poem in Spanish then translated into English; that a part of me believes the days of writing solely in English are over; that the process of translating the poem into English dictated some changes in the original, yet at no time were concessions made to the langue of the Empire; that I was born there, en mi isla, raised there; that fact became a refrain in September, more than before, but so has this: millions there don't have power still; that most of my family does have power, but my older brother doesn't, four months after; that I think of this often, their powerlessness; that there is more to write about Puerto Rico than just that; that my love for my nephews, to whom this poem is dedicated, escapes my comprehension; that each instant of their speaking, as in the video, is an invitation for me to love more thoroughly than before, perhaps beyond my words; yet in those words I find proof and a livable version of our survival.
Ricardo Maldonado contributed this piece in conjunction with LA BENDICIÓN: A ONE-DAY CELEBRATION OF LATINX-CARIBBEAN POETRY IN THE UNITED STATES at New York University on February 8th, 2018.
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