Alonso Quesada trans. Dan Eltringham: from Peaceful Ways of the Memory

from Peaceful Ways of the Memory / Caminos de Paz del Recuerdo


(Playa. Lunes gris.
Hora del alba.)

Amanecer de Octubre.
La playa tiene
la vanidosa gracia
del arco iris.
Ha caído del cielo
esa lluvia infantil y tímida
que no quiere llegar al invierno
porque aún tiene rayos de sol que la acarician.
Todo el amanecer
es de una extraña pureza antigua.
El arco iris,
con una brillantez de alegoría
curvaba con su seda el vientre enorme
del agrio nubarrón encadenaba al día.
El mar es como un sueño de mañana
––tal su borrosa paz íntima––
como ese sueño blanco y breve
del hombre de oficina
que quiere dormir siempre
un epílogo de sueño
antes la ablución sacrílega.

Mi corazón que es ya apenas
importante en la línea
sentimental de las cosas,
sin embargo sentía
una discreta emoción marinera
y casi una tentación metafísica.
Pero quedóse al pronto
tan turbado y triste
porque volvieron los pasados días
a recordar las horas solitarias
frente a esta playa perdida…
Y entonces fue como una sombra extraña
entre la turbia claridad dormida.
¿Era el recuerdo?… ¿Mi camino, entonces,
mayor dolor y soledad tenía…?


(Beach. A grey Monday.

An October dawn.
The beach reflects
the rainbow’s
vain charm.
That childish, timid rain,
wishing to avoid winter
–still caressed by the sun’s last rays–
has fallen from the sky.
All of the breaking day
is drawn from a strange old purity.
With the brilliance of allegory
the rainbow cast
its enormous silk stomach over
the bitter storm cloud binding the day.
The sea is like a dream of morning
–such is its vague and intimate peace–
like that brief, white dream
of an office worker
who longs to sleep forever,
a dream epilogue
before the sacrilegious ablution.

My heart, which hardly matters
in the sentimental
thread of things,
felt, still, the faint pull
of a seafaring longing
and an almost metaphysical temptation.
But at once it stuck
so sad and bewildered
for the last days came back
as memories of lonely hours
before this bygone beach…
And then it was as a strange shadow
among the vague and languid clarity.
Was it the memory?…My way, then,
held yet greater pain, and more solitude?


(Regreso de la aldea.
Final de la noche desolada.)

Grito de mi cabeza
que estás rebotando loco
entre las recias paredes
del cráneo maldito,
¿qué mano es esa, misteriosa,
que oprime de pronto
la invisible boca
y en pensamientos extraños
te ahoga,
y hace de ti, grito,
mar de sonoridades silenciosas…?


(Return from the village.
The last of the desolate night.)

Yell in my head
you’re bouncing mad
between the solid walls
of my cursed skull,
what is that mysterious hand
that suddenly smothers
the invisible mouth
and drowns you
with strange thoughts,
and dissolves you, yell,
in a sea of silent sounds…?


Rafael Romero Quesada (1886-1925), who wrote under the pen name Alonso Quesada, was a Spanish poet, dramatist, fiction writer and journalist from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Along with his friends Saulo Torón and Tomás Morales, he was one of the major figures of Canarian modernism (in Spanish, postmodernismo). After the early death of his father, he was forced to take up journalism and clerical work in order to support his family. He worked for the Banco de España, then for two British banks, Elder Dempster and the Bank of British West Africa. Later, he worked for the Port Authority in Las Palmas, and in his last years in a bookshop. The banal demands of work frustrated him, as did the distance between his literary dreams and the quotidian realities of his compromised, ‘insular’ existence. In 1920 he married the young protagonist of his play Llanura (Plain), Rita Suárez, and the couple had a daughter together. Apart from a trip to Madrid in 1918, Quesada barely left Las Palmas. Perhaps because of this, Quesada never achieved much recognition beyond the ambit of Canarian letters. He left most of his work uncollected at his early death from tuberculosis, selections of which have been posthumously published through Canarian cultural institutions between 1944-1988.

Dan Eltringham is a poet and academic based at the University of Sheffield. His critical work has recently appeared in Green Letters and Textual Practice. His poetry and translations have appeared in translations in the anthologies Wretched Strangers: Borders Movement Homes and The World Speaking Back…To Denise Riley (both Boiler House Press, 2018), and in journals including Blackbox Manifold, Datableed, Cumulus, Plumwood Mountain, Colorado Review and Zarf. A chapbook of his translations of Alonso Quesada’s Scattered Ways was published by Free Poetry (Boise, 2019). His collection Cairn Almanac, a book of poems about field work, time and climate change, was published by Hesterglock Press in 2017. Between 2016-2018 he co-organised the Electric Arc Furnace readings in Sheffield. He co-curated the exhibition Trespass! (Sheffield Institute of Arts, 2018) and collaborated with artist David Walker Barker on the text-image cabinet installation Searching for Jossie (In The Open, Sheffield Institute of Arts, 2017). He co-edits Girasol Press, a small publisher that explores handmade poetics and experimental translation.

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