Two Poems by José Manuel Cardona, translated from Spanish by Hélène Cardona

Two Poems by José Manuel Cardona

Translated from Spanish by Hélène Cardona

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In Solitude Hurt by Love

to the painter Juan Alcalde

John of fire, of bread, of grieving sun.
John of crumb and large loaf, John of mourning.
John almost baker, John lean
like a wheat and seed field.
Quiet splendor, burning peace,
indecipherable omen, sign and fruit,
tribute to the ephemeral and sacrifice
enamored with ashes, oak, or fountain.
Wellspring is life or captivity
for the man in solitude. To think, to know
yourself an image of love or cruel mystery.
Image of love too, death
finds us among reeds. Baptistry.
Splendid gargoyle or lifeless dream.



También en soledad de amor herido

al pintor Juan Alcalde

Juan de lumbre, de pan, de sol doliente.
Juan de miga y hogaza, Juan de luto.
Casi Juan panadero, Juan enjuto
como campo de trigo y de simiente.
Esplendor del sosiego, paz ardiente,
augurio indescifrable omen, signo y fruto,
homenaje a lo efímero y tributo
de polvo enamorado, encina o fuente.
Manantial es la vida o cautiverio
del hombre en soledad. Pensar, saberte
imagen del amor o cruel misterio.
Imagen del amor también la muerte
nos emplaza entre juncos. Baptisterio.
Gárgola esplendorosa o sueño inerte.



Poem to Circe IX

Humanly I’m illuminated.
I’m amazed every day by the roaring
Song that overflows like erosive
Blackberry juice, by the joyful
And boisterous song of men.
Voices stretch like branches,
Footprints like branches, flesh
Kindred to my flesh, and life’s
Juicy wind ripens.
I reincarnate with their centuries old footprints,
Their secular voices, their joy
So often painful, like a sick
Child carried on one’s back.
Oddly it’s on this island, Circe,
I have the strength to live.
Here humanity is embraced and screams
Mixing laughter with its colors,
Speaking the same language with varied
Accents. Love’s display
Becomes a ritual we officiate.

We arrived and the miracle happened.
It was the sea and the wind in the bells.
We came from far, from years
Thirsty as dust, from humble
fishermen’s nets on barren shore.
We arrived and the miracle with us.
It has jumped into the net like a liquid fish
And it has multiplied for all
And we satiated ourselves, and all of us
We walk through the sand as one.
You see, Circe, the miracle occurs
Whenever man wants it. The search
That is the mystery of all things.



Poema a Circe IX

Iluminado soy humanamente.
Me sorprendo a diario con el canto
Que ruge y se desborda como un jugo
Erosivo de moras, con el canto
Alegre y tumultuoso de los hombres.
Se distienden las voces como pámpanos,
Las huellas como pámpanos, la carne
Semejante a mi carne, y es el viento
Jugoso de la vida el que madura.
Reencarno con sus huellas de hace siglos,
Sus voces seculares, su alegría
Tantas veces penosa, como el hijo
Enfermo que se lleva a las espaldas.
Es en esta isla, Circe, donde siento
La fuerza de vivir extrañamente.
Aquí la humanidad se abraza y grita
Mezclando con la risa sus colores,
Hablando el mismo idioma con acentos
Variados. La evidencia del amor
Se transforma en un rito que oficiamos.

Llegamos y el milagro se produjo.
Ha sido el mar y el viento en las campanas.
Veníamos de lejos, de los años
Sedientos como polvo, de las redes
De humildes pescadores en mar yerma.
Llegamos y el milagro con nosotros.
Ha saltado a la red como un pez líquido
Y se ha multiplicado para todos
Y nos hemos saciado, y todos, todos
Andamos por la arena como un solo.
Ya ves, Circe, el milagro se produce
Siempre que el hombre lo quiere. La búsqueda
He ahí el misterio de todas las cosas.




Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam, by José ManuelCardona, translated by Hélène CardonaThese poems appear in Birnam Wood / El Bosque de Birnam (Salmon Poetry, 2018), by José Manuel Cardona, translated by Hélène Cardona. The book reflects a social conscience and expresses great pain and love, in particular the poet’s love for his native island of Ibiza. It is also filled with literary influences. Its title, El Bosque de Birnam, is a metaphor drawn from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Birnam Wood speaks against abuse of power and for overthrowing all illegitimate governments. Lady Macbeth is foretold that she will have cause for worry when the Birnam Wood rises and marches against her, yet she does not heed the warning. Franco rose to power after a military coup launched a civil war against a republic democratically elected in peace and caused Cardona to flee his homeland. Birnam Wood stands for resistance to these illegitimate and illegal regimes. Learn more.


José Manuel CardonaJosé Manuel Cardona (July 16, 1928 – July 4, 2018) was a poet from Ibiza, Spain. He is the author of El Vendimiador (Atzavara, 1953), Poemas a Circe (Adonais, 1959) and El Bosque de Birnam: Antología poética (Consell Insular d’Eivissa, 2007). He was co-editor of several literary journals and wrote for many publications. He participated in the II Congreso de Poesía in Salamanca and belonged to the Cántico group. The Franco regime forced him into exile in France. He held PhDs in literature and humanities (University of Nancy) and political sciences (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva) and was an attorney, working for the United Nations most of his life.
Hélène CardonaHélène Cardona is the author of seven books, most recently the award-winning Dreaming My Animal Selves and Life in Suspension and the translations Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), winner of a Hemingway Grant, Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb. Her work has been translated into 16 languages. She co-produced the award-winning Femme: Women Healing the World and Pablo Neruda: The People’s Poet and is also an actor, appearing in such films as Chocolat, Star Trek: Discovery, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Jurassic World, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Happy Feet 2, and Serendipity.

Read one poem by Hélène Cardona appearing previously in

Header photo of Ibiza, Spain by GagliardiPhotography, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Hélène Cardona by Mark Savage. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.