Establishing Enthusiasm

marco antonio photo

[NOTE: This is a poem from the great late Mexican poet (1935-2009) Marco Antonio Montes de Oca, whom I met and learned so much from on my first extended visit to Mexico in the early 1960s, at the age of 21 or so. A totally committed, ardent, inspired visionary poet and painter (a kind of creative sideline for him), with a real and deep natural ability to conjure connections between disparate images and essences and in a kind of magisterial, Baroque and somehow ancient Mexican Indian “tongue,” both elaborate and raw, he could bring a world of associations to life. This is one of his early poems, and I’ve cherished it over the many years, trying my hand at translating it, but always open to amendments and corrections (please make comments if you can). I’m never quite sure I’ve gotten the grammar just right, or the tone and “exact” word. If such can be, in translation…  which I totally believe in, from any language… with all its failings.)

O enthusiasm, singer! You crack the crypt of trills
with loudest racket and greediest song!
Your power the sunrise that unfurls its flags over a hill,
the sky that dumps its purple baskets over a ravenous precipice,
the foliage of bells you ignite in an enchanted wood.
For you who lights up my confidence,
I clear brambles away from the path and remove traps as they turn green.
This time, for you who bobs on the great ocean swell
as frail as a turtledove’s bones,
as vulnerable as a wall of geraniums,
as fragile as a warrior who defies an avalanche
with the radiant holy wafer of his shield,
I braid my enamored offering.
For you who possesses the necessary password to rule in the Southern Cross,
the first to hurl yourself between creaking rafters
and escape from the night of the world by a frayed cable,
for you, unique word, solar incarnation of all miracles,
I stretch the stalactites of poetry all the way to the ground
and ignite the heart of mankind with strange bolts of lightning.


Oh entusiasmo cantor, tú rompes la bóveda de trinos
con el bullicio más alto y la canción más ávida.
Tu fuerza es el amanecer que flaquea sobre la colina,
el firmamento que descarga sus moradas cestas en el hambriento precipicio
y el follaje de campanas que prendes en la selva encantada.
Para ti que iluminas mi confianza,
desbrozo el camino y retiro las verdeantes trampas.
Para ti que fluyes en la gran marejada,
que eres tan débil como un hueso de tórtola,
tan vulnerable como la barda de geranios
y frágil como el guerrero que desafía el alúd
con la sola y brillante oblea de su escudo,
trenzo esta vez mi ofrenda enamorada.
Para ti que posees la contraseña requerida para reinar en la Cruz del Sur;
que te lanzas el primero entre las vigas crujientes,
que escapas de la alta noche del mundo por un cable luido;
para ti, palabra única, encarnación solar de todos los milagros
estiro hasta el suelo las límpidas estalactitas de la poesía
y toco con extrañas ráfagas el corazón del hombre.

Categories: Poems