Miguel Ángel Asturias (translation by Robert W. Lebling)



Hidden Crafts (excerpt)


The poets, anonymous amanuenses, the heels
of the Magician of Song in the house of the North,
carried their complaint to the petaled flower
of the ear of the Celestial Hunters:

"The motionless flight of poetry and its unfoldings
in ritual song, warrior dance, word play,
conversation of deified hearts, this is our secret.
To hear seedbeds of syllables sprout and transplant them
with salivations of the golden strophe,
this is our role as thinkers with music.
We know the pulse of the lashing rains
in the calendrical drawing and the colored, polychrome calligraphy
of symbols and astrological prophecies;
but, passed over by the Magician of Song,
we can't be more than wordcadavers,
our tongues perforated with metaphor arrows."

Onto what liana of silence do they fasten bells,
drops of water, fish scales, fragments of glass,
pieces of wood, fingernails of metal,
in tests of new resounding rains,
those who are the Invisible Back of the Visible Magician,
he of the Copal of Music, in his house of the South?
What canes, toasted over low flame, do they pierce
in search of the pathetic trill?
What stones polished with tobacco
do they use to iron the drum skins?
In what millennial liquor do they soak the ocarina,
the tortoise, the snail, the stone
for the keys of the marimbas?
Silent is the lament of anonymous musicians in the questions
that fly to the ear of the Celestial Hunters.

They walked in the house of the luminous cactus,
the painters, statues without feet,
only eyes, like the Magician of Color
in his house of the East... Anonymous and absent
they are, and this their lament at the ear of the Hunters,
those who entered and exited from the blues
of wood dye, from the bleeding achiotes ,
from the divine purples robbed from crustaceans
of the Southern Sea, from the oily blacks,
the limestone whites, the ochres of mud,
the yellows, pollen or gold dust,
the greens of ground emeralds,
the ruddy lands,
the tawny guapinoles ...
Theirs is the secret of the porous woods,
of the tablets of hairless surface,
treated with honey, wax or serum,
and theirs is the secret of the flexible skins
and the terror-struck skins that stretched death...
Silent, anonymous, absent,
the luminous cactus in their pupils,
the lament in their painting...

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