Claudia Masin: Spanish Poetry in Translation

Poems by CLAUDIA MASIN
Translated from the Spanish by ROBIN MYERS

Poems appear in both Spanish and English 

Translator’s Note

When I translate Claudia Masin, I feel like I’m ice skating. This is not a foolproof metaphor, I know. But what I mean, mostly, is that it’s exhilarating. Her long, deft, elegant lines; her line breaks, both graceful and unpredictable; her limber back-and-forth between the broadly rhetorical and the minutely descriptive: all of this, all of her language, structure, and sense of timing, forms a surface, a gleaming expanse that I feel free—I want to feel free—to glide across. Fast enough for a sense of wonder, the illusion of ease; not so fast that I don’t notice what’s around me. Or beneath me: the inherent spookiness of ice, the shadows under the surface, the plants and creatures stilled but still living where we can sense more than see them.

            I love the two poems printed here, “The Frost” and “Magnolia,” in part because of this very interplay between adroitness and apprehension, confidence and risk. On a formal level, I try to absorb such tensions in the manufacture of the original poem and then to foster a kindred push-pull in the English translation. The sense of eager surging forward, the flash of holding back. The joy of a long, looping, acrobatic sentence before the quiver and halt. The changing breath.  

            A skater traces and retraces the surface of a single rink or pond, slicing proof of her presence wherever she goes. She leaves her mark and carries on. This is the sort of movement—contact, damage, transformation—we find again and again in Masin’s poems. She understands that harm and healing are in a sense a single process. Her work examines pain and loss, even cruelty, as inescapable elements of human interaction. Of love. In this sense, hers are poems of resignation. But not only that, not ever: they are resigned because they see pain as the beginning of the conversation, not the end. What coexists with pain, is born of it, responds to it, and transfigures it is, in a sense, everything else that’s worthwhile about what we can experience together: desire, love, intimacy, solidarity, respect, an honest kind of care.

They don’t want anything easy, these poems that seem to dart about so easily. They don’t settle or appease. I hope the coming day / will not be beautiful or even happy, Masin writes in “Magnolia”; please let it be / extraordinary.

—Robin Myers

 

La helada

Quien fue dañado lleva consigo ese daño,
como si su tarea fuera propagarlo, hacerlo impactar
sobre aquel que se acerque demasiado. Somos
inocentes ante esto, como es inocente una helada
cuando devasta la cosecha: estaba en ella su frío,
su necesidad de caer, había esperado
-formándose lentamente en el cielo,
en el centro de un silencio que no podemos concebir-
su tiempo de brillar, de desplegarse. ¿Cómo soportarías
vivir con semejante peso sin ansiar la descarga,
aunque en ese rapto destroces la tierra,
las casas, las vidas que se sostienen, apacibles,
en el trabajo de mantener el mundo a salvo,
durante largas estaciones en las que el tiempo se divide
entre los meses de siembra y los de zafra? Pido por esa fuerza
que resiste la catástrofe y rehace lo que fue lastimado todas las veces
que sea necesario, y también por el daño que no puede evitarse,
porque lo que nos damos los unos a los otros,
aún el terror o la tristeza,
viene del mismo deseo: curar y ser curados.

The Frost

Anyone who’s been hurt carries the damage with her,
as if her task were to propagate it, print
it onto anyone who comes too close. We’re
innocent in the face of it, as a frost is innocent
of devastating the harvest: its freeze was already
there, inside it, like its need to fall. It waited—
forging itself slowly in the sky,
in the center of a silence we can’t make sense of—
for its time to shine, to transpire. How could you stand
bearing such weight without the urge to unburden
yourself, even if your outburst blighted the earth,
houses, lives peaceably sustained
in the labor of protecting the world,
during long seasons divided between
the months of planting and the months of yield? I pray for the might
that can withstand catastrophe and remake what’s been harmed as many times
as necessary, and I pray for the damage that can’t be helped,
because whatever we give each other,
be it sorrow or fear,
comes from the same desire: to heal and be healed.

 

Magnolia  

Amo las flores desquiciadas del verano, esas

que no terminamos de decidir

 si son increíblemente hermosas o simplemente raras. Demasiado
excéntricas, demasiado llamativas, un estallido, una mancha
que se abre, blanco o rojo sobre verde, el monótono verde

que de repente arde. Ay, si fuéramos así, no las personas
tímidas y temerosas que se expanden sobre su propio miedo
como si el miedo fuera la savia, la sangre, el alimento, la raíz
que nos agarra con firmeza a la tierra

y a la vez que nos mantiene vivos, nos mata lentamente,
porque la muerte por miedo nunca es rápida:

años y años desgajándonos

 hasta que no queda más que el tallo desnudo,
 
desamparado. Si fuéramos así, te dije, como esas flores,

el día en que conocimos el dolor sería un día más,

no el originario, la fuente
 
de todo lo que vendrá después, el hecho
 
sagrado y necesario sobre el que montaremos
 
una casa que sirva para encerrarnos y evitar
 
una vez más ser dañados. Si fuéramos así, un día

 diferente a todos sería, en cambio, nuestra casa. El día

en que pasó algo que desafió las leyes de la lógica,

eso que no tendría que haber pasado, lo que no puede

pasar, lo que sólo en las películas
 
y en los sueños pasa. Yo ansío

 la violencia de lo que llega sin aviso, la piedra que rompe

el espejo de agua, las ventanas, el rayo que entre todas las cosas
del mundo, elige tu cabeza para descargarse. Ansío
ese encuentro que causa un dolor nuevo, insoportable y nos
 desprende
del dolor viejo como de una vieja crisálida, una gasa
arrancada de un tirón. Ansío que me perdones

 y ser perdonada por todo lo que no sabemos, por todo
lo que no podemos darnos, y que después sea posible
curarnos al sol como los caballos lastimados

o las flores pisoteadas, sin esperar nada más
 
que el calor sobre los pétalos

 marchitos, sobre el lomo cuarteado. Que el día por llegar
no sea hermoso, ni siquiera feliz, que sea
 
extraordinario.

Magnolia

I love the brazen flowers of summer, the kind
we think are either beautiful or weird; we’re never sure. Too
showy, too eccentric, an explosion, a stain
unfolding, white or red on green, the humdrum green
suddenly burning. If only we were like that too, and not
the shy and fearful people that we are, expanding in our fear
as if fear were the sap, the blood, the food, the root
that tethered us to earth
and somehow both kept us alive and killed us slowly,
since death by fear is never quick:
years, years of fissuring and breaking off
until we’re just a naked stalk,
defenseless. If we were like those flowers, I said to you,
the day we first felt pain would be another
ordinary day, and not the nucleus, the source
of everything that followed, the sacred,
necessary fact, the bedrock of the house
we’ll build to lock ourselves away and keep
from being damaged once again. If we were more like them, a different
day entirely would be our home. The day
when something happened that defied the laws of logic,
a thing that never should have happened, cannot
happen, happens only in the movies
or in dreams. I crave
the violence of what shows up unannounced, the stone that cracks
the mirror of the wake, the windowpanes, the lightning bolt
that could unleash itself on any object in the world and picks your skull.
I long for the encounter that will cause a new, intolerable pain,
uncoupling us from prior hurt as from a chrysalis, a swath
of gauze wrenched off. I long for your forgiveness,
to be forgiven for the things we never know, for everything
we don’t know how to give each other—and I long to recover,
later, in the sun, like injured horses, trampled flowers,
expecting nothing but
warm light on withered
petals, on cracked hide. I hope the coming day
will not be beautiful or even happy; please let it be
extraordinary.

 

Claudia Masin was born in Resistencia, Chaco, Argentina, in 1972. She is a writer and psychoanalyst. She is the author of eleven poetry collections: Bizarría (1997), Geología (2001), La vista (2002), Abrigo (2007), El secreto (2007), El verano (2010), La plenitud (2010), La cura (2016), La siesta (2017), Lo intacto (2018), and La desobediencia (2018), a volume of her collected poems. She lives in Córdoba, Argentina.

Robin Myers is a Mexico City-based poet and translator. Her translations have appeared in the Kenyon Review, the Harvard Review, Two Lines, The Offing, Waxwing, Asymptote, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Tupelo Quarterly, among other publications. Recent book-length translations include Lyric Poetry Is Dead by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg (Cardboard House Press, 2018), Animals at the End of the World by Gloria Susana Esquivel (University of Texas Press, 2020), and Cars on Fire by Mónica Ramón Ríos (Open Letter Books, 2020).

Claudia Masin: Spanish Poetry in Translation

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