Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NPM: From Nicaragua with Love

The nights are getting warmer, people are taking off their jackets, and Occupy is starting to appear in the news again. For those of you getting stoked for May Day, here are some pieces from Ernesto Cardenal's (1925 - ) From Nicaragua with Love collection (translated from the Spanish by Jonathan Cohen) to arouse your revolutionary spirit. The pieces in this edition were composed in the years between 1979 and 1986 -- after the Sandinista Revolution and during the Contra affair. (Historical context is very important here.)

Enjoy! ¡Viva la Revolución!

The Price of Bras

I have a niece who complains about the Revolution
because bras are so very expensive.
I don't know what it's like to have breasts
but I think I could go around without a bra.
My friend Rafael Cordova lives close to the village of Esquipulas
and he told me how many funerals used to pass on the road
               with tiny little coffins,
four, five, six, eight funerals
      every afternoon,
there were children's funerals
                     each afternoon.
The old people didn't die as often.
And a short while ago the gravedigger of Esquipulas visited him:
"Doctor, I've come to ask you for a little help,
              I'm out of work.
         There aren't any funerals in Esquipulas anymore."
Before, bras were not so expensive.
Now in Esquipulas there are hardly any funerals.
You tell me: What's better?

Economic Brief

I'm surprised that I now read
                   with great interest
things like
       the cotton harvest up 25%
from last year's crop
          U.S. $124.2 million worth of coffee exported
     up 17.5% from last year
a 13.6% jump in sugar is expected
             corn production dropped 5.9%
        gold dropped 10% because
of attacks by the contras in that region
likewise, shellfish...
When did these facts ever interest me before?
      It's because now our wealth,
                       meager as it may be,
        is intended
             for everyone.
                    This interest of mine
      is for the people, well,
                 out of love
        for the people. The thing is
now these numbers amount to love.
The gold coming out of the earth, solid sun
cut into blocks, will become electric light,
drinking water
              for the poor. The transluscent
mollusks, recalling to mind women, the smell of a woman
coming out of the sea, from their underwater caves
and colorful coral gardens, in order to become
pills, school desks.
                    The holiness of matter.
        Momma, you know the value of a glass of milk.
The cotton, soft bit of clouds,
            —— we've gone to pick cotton singing
               we've held clouds in our fingers ——
will become tin roofs, highways, and
the thing is now what's economic is poetic,
          or rather, with the Revolution
the economy amounts to love.

Among Facades

We're going through the streets of a neighborhood in New York,
small shops, a restaurant, Dry Cleaning,
apartment houses, three-, four-stories high,
made of red brick, concrete, grey brick,
                   then we pass through a hamlet in the Alps,
            cobblestone streets in a Mexican village,
then a river with a medieval mill,
               a dusty street in a town in the West,
        with its saloons, a window with broken glass,
on a hill an 11th-century castle,
and once again apartment houses, a bank, liquor stores
        in any city in the United States,
but if you knock on anything it sounds hollow,
                 everything is plasterwork,
        they're only the outside walls, there's nothing in back.
A policeman in the middle of the street, with his badge
                   and book for giving out tickets,
might be a real policeman or a famous actor.
And the producer (Ed Lewis) who is showing me everything
                                                  tells me:
"no director, no producer, nobody
                             runs the show in a movie,
           just the banks putting up the money."
And on leaving and seeing the banks, restaurants, Dry Cleaning,
I thought whatever I'd knock on would sound hollow,
Hollywood, all of Los Angeles, everything
                was merely walls
                                with nothing in back.

Empty Shelves

Yesterday I went into a supermarket
                      and saw shelves bare-empty;
most of them empty; and I felt a little
of the gloominess of the empty shelves,
    but more than that, the happiness
because of the dignity of our people plain to see
                                  on the empty shelves.
These shelves before just overflowing
with luxuries and necessities of all colors
or as they are in other countries. It's the price
we're paying, a small nation fighting
against the Colossus, and I see empty shelves
completely full of heroism.
       The price of independence. And because there are
thousands of Sandino's cubs* loose in the woods.
And just as those rows of colorful things are gone
so is the lady on the sidewalk pointing to her sores,
the little boy with eyes as white as marble, holding out his hand.
      The kids are playing in their neighborhoods;
                              the grownups, peaceful.
And the police in the street have no rubber clubs
for beating people,
           no tear-gas bombs
no water hose or anti-riot shields
because of those empty shelves.
                               Bare-empty shelves
without necessities or luxuries, but brimming with sacrifice
and pride.
Pride, arrogance if you wish, of a people:
these empty shelves.
                    It's not being sold or surrendered.
And I went out, feeling bad but glad because of
                                           the empty shelves.

*Cachorros de Sandino, the nickname of young draftees in the Sandinista army, plays on the double meaning of the word cachorros: cubs and pistols.

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