Miguel Ángel Asturias (translation by Robert W. Lebling)



In the Light of the Goldthinking-Stars



The Night, Nothingness and Life,
the Immense Widows,
and the Twohanded Tattooer of worlds
that HE created with his eyes
and tattooed with his sunflower stare,
created with his hands, one real and one dream,
created with his word, a tattoo of resounding saliva,
worlds that he, though blinded,
redeemed from the silence with the snail-curl of his ears
and from the luminous murk
with his extinguished constellation touch,
with his fingers bejeweled with numbers and hummingbirds.

The Night, Nothingness and Life,
the Immense Widows
in the light of the Goldthinking-stars,
Emissaries who lost their way in the nickel sky
without revealing their message
and the Twohanded Tattooer
blinded by the threadlike rain of eyes.

The rain scorched the whites of his eyes,
the quicklime corneas,
in the presence of those who bejewel the earth
with water tattoos,
tattoos in motion, navigable tattoos,
Fluvial Tattooers;
before those who pearl the fields with tearful dust,
Tattooers of the Dew;
before those who set out to tattoo the beaches
with snails, sponges and sargassos,
the raucous skeleton of the sea,
Oceanic Tattooers;
before those who steal from serpentariums
tattoos that shorten distance
and move away the near,
Tattooers of Roads;
before the Tattooers of the Dusk,
their hands with handfuls of sunset clouds...
Before the Tattooers of the Night,
their hands with amulets of fire...

The Night, Nothingness and Life,
those Immense Widows
in the light of the Goldthinking-stars,
Emissaries who lost their way in the nickel sky,
without revealing their message,
and the Twohanded Tattooer
with his hollow pupils,
craters of extinct volcanoes
in the cemetery of his corneas,
on the move - Blinded by Fresh Rain,
those Blinded by Fresh Rain see what they dream -
in all the white shadow his steps provided,
his countless feet moving beneath the tunic woven
with amnesia of silkworms,
the silver-dust cloak in the wind at his shoulders,
to keep from losing the thread of the tattoo
when crossing the shadowy world
where touch is demagnetized
and one must dodge, transformed into dream,
jaguars forged of fire,
blue turkeys forged of sky,
corals of coral vipers,
breathless jades,
women cut into islands,
masks pockmarked with rubies,
skulls with teeth encrusted with jadeites,
horoscopes of breeze
and cities of white copal ,
until one emerges at respiration,
at respirations,
at scent,
at pollen,
at the calendar of ashes,
at the hailstorm of hieroglyphics...

Ceiba-tree fingers
combed the cottony memory,
and from it fell dialects
with the roar of woodpecker rains
and all the sounds
of terrestrial words...
The words,
workers of the light...

The fingers combed
the memory of lake tresses,
from which fell lacustrine languages,
syllabic, tattooed with bubbles,
and all the sounds
of aquatic words...
The words,
workers of the light...

The fingers combed
the memory of sun tresses,
from which fell languages of astronomies
spoken throughout the stars
and of marimbas with mirror keyboards
that pounded great elastic raindrops
into calendar dates festooned with hornpipes and drums,
and all the sounds
of celestial words...
The words,
workers of the light...

The Night, Nothingness and Life,
the Immense Widows,
the immense widowhood of the heavens
after each lightning flash
and the sobbing and weeping of the turtledove
for what the Emissaries kept secret,
a message of which only reflections remain,
tresses of the Goldthinking-stars
spread on the azure plates.

The sobbing and weeping of the turtledove
for a life without message,
life tattooed blindly
by the Twohanded Tattooer
who decanted, from one world to another,
living immensities,
universes,
dynasties of iguanas,
aquariums,
tails of comets,
floating gardens,
markets of words,
oils,
stars,
fire beetles,
butterflies...
A Twohanded Tattooer
who, after peopling his blindness,
created with his touch,
created with his breath—
the sound from his face
colliding against his heart—
those who would be entrusted
with the raising of beings,
things and sounds of dream.

The ones entrusted:

Those of the songs soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of poetry,
clearvigilant, clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the stones soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of sculpture,
clearvigilant, clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the colors soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of painting,
clearvigilant, clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the darkness soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of gourdcarving,
clearvigilant, clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the feathers soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of the art of plumagery,
clearvigilant, clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the sounds soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of music,
clearvigilant, clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the metals soaking,
smelters, goldsmiths, gemsetters,
clearvigilant, clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the songs soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of poetry,
spewed mirror water from their lips
to see and make seen
things soaked as in dreams...
clearvigilant,
Clearsleeping, clearwaking.

Those of the stones soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of sculpture,
floated eyeless at the bottom of the azure jewel-case,
their touch exposed to the pecks of the light of the air,
clearwaking, clearvigilant, clearsleeping.

Those of the colors soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of painting,
swept away reality with feathered brooms
to clear a path for enigma,
clearwaking, clearvigilant, clearsleeping.

Those of the darkness soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of gourdcarving,
set loose the blade-smoke drifting
through the black-varnish night,
clearwaking, clearvigilant, clearsleeping.

Those of the feathers soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of the art of plumagery,
restored the wing of the quetzal
to candescent flight
in the gemstone of the wind
and in the tufts of plume,
guardian of the temples,
clearwaking, clearvigilant, clearsleeping.

Those of the metals soaking,
smelters, goldsmiths, gemsetters,
mined gold from the light of the air,
silver from the lunar light,
gems from the water's light,
clearwaking, clearvigilant, clearsleeping.

Those of the sounds soaking,
clearvigilant shamans of music,
spoke for the sun,
the sun whose tongue the eclipses consumed,
they spoke for the sun
with the sound of stone,
marimba wood,
ocarina,
drum skin,
pierced reed,
fish scale,
tortoise,
rattles of the rattlesnake,
clearsleeping, clearvigilant, clearwaking.

But the word does not grasp,
the music does not enclose,
voice and sound soak the porous space
of the vast blue jug
and vanish through its pores.

Not so the fastening magics,
those that keep the tremor of the substances
in temples, altars and monuments
tattooed with warriors,
priests,
name days,
presences,
astronomic dancers,
and in the ceremonial robes
tattooed with butterfly wings,
and in the jewels tattooed with stars,
and in the bark of the amatl
tattooed with colored calligraphies
in equinoctial boil.

In calculation lies the substance of the star,
just as in these magic tattoos
of lines, forms and colors,
lies the substance of the Universe,
of the Universe visible
and immobile.
And for those cagers of creation,
the ones who raised beings,
things and sounds of dream,
the sketchers,
painters,
sculptors,
engravers,
goldsmiths,
gourdcutters
(so fine is the cutting edge of the flint
that it turns to thread in the varnish of the gourd cup),
plumists and weavers of huipils
with tendrils of silk measuring
fruitlike breasts and hips;
for these clearvigilant magicians
assisting the Twohanded Tattooer,
the earth,
the light,
the wind,
the sky,
the water,
the sun,
the air,
weep in the cage of the perforated night,
blindness without exit.

Canina,
the Eagle of the Rabid Dogs,
flung himself against the Twohanded Tattooer.
"Everything's eroded by your sketchers!"
—he cried, his frill rising in a circular fan,
his eyes nougats of glass,
his claws soaked with glacial sweat—
"Everything's eroded by your sketchers
or missing from the canvases of your mirror-painters!
If you weren't a blind chewer of shadows
you'd know the work of your artists!
I hate your gourdcutters, I hate them,
from the gourd in their hands come cups and platters
entangled in spiderweb sketches!
And your sculptors and stonecutters
who capture the laughter of the stones
in the light and shadow of the bas-relief!
Your goldsmiths and jewelers! They have gems
in place of fingertips,
so much precious stone passes through their hands!
Your potters, through them the clay tells lies!
Your plumists, their beautiful plumagery art
humanizes the swift wing!...
I hate everything your artists create
in the artificial light that is the night without tresses."

Then and there he destroyed him,
he destroyed them,
he shattered the Twohanded Tattooer,
he shattered the reality and the dream of the blind artists,
not the Eagle,
not the Eagle of the Rabid Dogs...
Someone else...
Someone overcame him with a claw...
...in the light of the Goldthinking-stars...

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