Ballad of the Great War & Office and Accusation

By Federico García Lorca
Translated from the Spanish by Julia Bogen

Ballad of the Great War
I had a son whose name was Juan.
I had a son.
He was among the arches on the Friday of All Souls
I saw him play on the staircase the last mass
and throw a small tin pail at the heart of the priest
I’ve beaten at the coffins.  My son! My son! My son!
I’ve brought out a hen’s foot from behind the moon and later
I understood that my daughter was a fish
over where the carts disappear
I had a daughter.
I had a dead fish under the ashes of the censer
I had an ocean.  Of what? My God! An ocean!
I went up to strike the bells, but the fruits were filled with worms
and extinguished matches
were devouring the first spring wheat.
I saw the transparent stork of alcohol
shaving the dark scalps of tormented soldiers
and I saw the rubber booths
where full glasses of tears were swirling
In the anemones of the offertory I will find you, my love!
when the priest raises the mule and the ox with his burly arms,
to scare away the nightly frogs that circle the frigid landscapes of the chalice.
I had a goliath of a son,
but the dead are more powerful and know how to consume the very substance of heaven
If my son had but been a bear,
I would not have feared the stealth of the caimans,
nor would I have seen the sea tied to trees
to be raped and wounded by the wandering regiments
If my son were only a bear!
I shroud myself in this rough canvas to not feel the frigid cold of the mosses
I know very well they will give me a sleeve or a tie
but I will smash the rudder in the middle of the mass and then
to this rock will come the madness of penguins and gulls
and will make the sleeping and those singing on the corners say:
he had a son
A son! A son! A son
who was no one’s but his, because he was his son
A son! A son! A son!

Office and Accusation

To Fernando Vela

Under product
there’s a drop of duck’s blood
Under quotient
there’s a drop of sailor’s blood
Under total, a tender river of blood;
a river that lyrically flows
through the bedrooms of the suburbs
and it’s silver, cement or breeze
in the lying mind of New York.
The mountains exist, I am aware.
And in the eye-glasses of wisdom,
I realize. But I haven’t come to see the sky.
I’ve come to see the cloudy blood,
the blood that carries cogs and wheels over the waterfalls,
and the spirit onto the cobra’s tongue.
The daily murder rate in New York is
four million ducks
five million pigs
two thousand doves at pleasure of dying men
a million cows
a million lambs
and two million chickens
who tear the sky to shreds.
Better to cry, sharpening your razor
or slaughter dogs in hallucinatory hunts
than stop in the early morning light
the endless trains of milk
the endless trains of blood
and the arrival of bound roses
destined for the manufacture of perfume.
The ducks and the doves
and the pigs and lambs
put their drop of blood down
under the calculations;
and the terrible moans of the stampeding cows
fill the valley with pain
where the Hudson gorges itself on oil.
I denounce all of you
who ignore the other half,
the irredeemable half,
who raise their mountains of cement
where the hearts beat
of those forgotten animals,
of where we will all fall
in the last celebration of drills.
I spit in their faces.
The other half hears me,
consuming, pissing, soaring in their purity
like children of office workers
who carry fragile little sticks
in the pit where rust
collects on the antennae of insects.
It’s no hell, it’s only a street.
It’s not death, it’s a fruit stand.
There’s a whole world of broken rivers and impassable distances
in a single cat’s paw crushed by a car
and I hear the song of the worm
in the hearts of so many girls.
Rusty, fermented, quaking earth.
The same earth in which you swim through the numbers of offices.
What should I do? Arrange every landscape?
Sort the lovers who after turn into photographs,
those who turn out to be pieces of wood
and mouthfuls of blood?
No, no, no, no; I speak out,
I speak of this plot
of these empty offices
that disguise the hidden torments,
that erase nature’s plans,
and I offer myself as a meal to the stampeding cattle
when their lowing voices fill the valley
where the Hudson gorges itself on oil.

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