Poet’s Journal

May 28

Adán V. Baca, this week’s featured poet is from Española, NM. When I first heard him recite his work, I thought to myself, “¡este vato se avienta!” Adán captures the spirit and essence of la gente del valle de Española with a profound eloquence steeped in tradition, culture, language, and an affirmation that bears witness to the resiliency of its people. His is an important voice in the manner that all voices are important when they cannot be silenced, when they speak above the noise of despair and constant negative depictions. He has been involved in the poetry community for several years, including hosting poetry readings and conducting poetry workshops. His poetry has been included in various publications. Adán works as a behavioral health therapist in Española and Santa Fe. Please help me welcome Adán to this week’s virtual podium.

April 14

In observance of National Poetry Month and the NM Poet Laureate program’s initiative to feature the work of poets, storytellers, dream weavers, truth seekers and other forms of expression that will inspire and provoke our senses, let us enter into a collective space of healing and nurturing. This week we continue our journey with Cuando la tormenta pase / When the Storm Passes, a poem by Mario Benedetti. Benedetti’s poem expresses so well the hope we have for the passing of the COVID 19 pandemic. The poem is written in coplas, the time-honored popular verse form (popular meaning “de la gente”). Most corridos are also written in this style of 8 syllable lines with abcb vowel rhyming. This poem could easily be sung. By writing in coplas rather than free verse, Benedetti is connecting at a deeper level with ancestral tradition. Mario Benedetti (1920-2009) was born in Uruguay. After dictators brutalized his country, he spent most of his life in exile in Madrid and Mallorca. He was a journalist, novelist, poet and an integral member of the Generción del ’45 of Uruguay. He is considered one of Latin America’s most important writers. Gracias a Enrique Lamadrid for bringing the poem to my attention and sharing his knowledge on the poem’s form. His best guess is that the “storm” is a metaphor for another pandemic, perhaps the H1N1 in 2008-2009. If that was the one, then this would be one of his last gifts to the world. It is a ray of hope for all of us. (English translation by Enrique Lamadrid and Levi Romero)

Cuando la tormenta pase

Mario Benedetti

Cuando la tormenta pase
y se amansen los caminos
y seamos sobrevivientes
de un naufragio colectivo.

Con el corazón lloroso
y el destino bendecido
nos sentiremos dichosos
tan sólo por estar vivos.

Y le daremos un abrazo
al primer desconocido
y alabaremos la suerte
de conservar un amigo.

Y entonces recordaremos
todo aquello que perdimos
y de una vez aprenderemos
todo lo que no aprendimos.

Ya no tendremos envidia
pues todos habrán sufrido.
Ya no tendremos desidia
seremos más compasivos.

Valdrá más lo que es de todos
que lo jamás conseguido.
Seremos más generosos
y mucho más comprometidos.

Entenderemos lo frágil
que significa estar vivos.
Sudaremos empatía
por quien está y quien se ha ido.

Extrañaremos al viejo
que pedía un peso en el mercado,
que no supimos su nombre
y siempre estuvo a tu lado.

Y quizás el viejo pobre
era tu Dios disfrazado.
Nunca preguntaste el nombre
porque estabas apurado.

Y todo será un milagro
Y todo será un legado
Y se respetará la vida,
la vida que hemos ganado.

Cuando la tormenta pase
te pido Dios, apenado,
que nos devuelvas mejores,
como nos habías soñado.


When the Storm Passes

Mario Benedetti

When the storm passes
and the roads have calmed
and we are survivors
of a collective shipwreck.

With our weeping hearts
and our destiny blessed
we shall feel fortunate
only because we’re alive.

And we’ll give a hug
to the first stranger
and we’ll praise our luck
for the friend we keep.

And we’ll remember then
everything that we lost
and at once will learn
all that we hadn’t learned.

We’ll no longer have envy
for all will have suffered.
We’ll no longer be neglectful,
we’ll be more compassionate.

What belongs to all is worth more
than what we never acquired.
We will be more generous
and much more committed.

We’ll understand how fragile
it means to be alive.
We’ll sweat our empathy
for who remains and who has gone.

We’ll miss the old man
asking for a dollar at the market,
whose name we never knew
and who was always at your side.

And I guess the poor old man
was your God in disguise.
You never asked his name
because you were hurried.

And all will be a miracle
And all will be a legacy
And life will be respected,
the life that we have won.

When the storm passes
I ask you God, despondent,
that you return us improved
as you had first dreamed us.