September 24, 2008

I want to sleep the sleep of the apples

I just read that earlier this week Federico García Lorca's family dropped their "longstanding objections to unearthing the mass grave where the poet's remains are believed to lie".

Lorca, widely considered one of Spain's greatest poets of the 20th century, was shot to death at age 38 by Nationalist militia at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and thrown into an unmarked grave somewhere between Víznar and Alfacar, near Granada.

More than half a million people are thought to have been killed during the civil war of 1936-39, triggered by Franco's armed uprising against the democratically elected Republican Government. After Franco's victory, historians say that 50,000 Republicans were executed by Franco's forces and tens of thousands locked up. His iron rule lasted until his death in 1975. More than 500,000 people were killed during the Spanish Civil War

Although the Nationalist dead were honoured and given proper burials during Franco's rule, Republican victims have lain in unmarked mass graves for seven decades. After Franco's death, political parties agreed to put the past behind them, granting a blanket amnesty for crimes committed under the dictator's rule. For years, Spaniards subscribed to an unwritten “pact of silence” about the past in an attempt to let the country's new democracy take root.
And so, at this time a poem by Lorca (as translated by Robert Bly):
Gacela of the Dark Death

I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
I want to get far away from the busyness of the cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

I don't want them to tell me again how the corpse keeps all its blood,
how the decaying mouth goes on begging for water.
I'd rather not hear about the torture sessions the grass arranges for
nor about how the moon does all its work before dawn
with its snakelike nose.

I want to sleep for half a second,
a second, a minute, a century,
but I want everyone to know that I am still alive,
that I have a golden manger inside my lips,
that I am the little friend of the west wind,
that I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.

When it's dawn just throw some sort of cloth over me
because I know dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me,
and pour a little hard water over my shoes
so that the scorpion claws of the dawn will slip off.

Because I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
and learn a mournful song that will clean all earth away from me,
because I want to live with that shadowy child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea

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