Your heart is a frozen orange
Your heart is a frozen orange.
No light gets in; it is resinous, porous,
golden: the skin promises
good things to the eye.
My heart is a feverish pomegranate
of clustered crimson, its wax opened,
which could offer you its tender pendants
But how crushing it is to go
to your heart and find it frosted
with sheer, terrifying snow!
On the fringes of my grief
a thirsty handkerchief
hovers, hoping to drink down my tears.
The poet Don Share translated this early poem and the other poems by Miguel Hernández in I have lots of heart, Selected Poems. This bilingual Spanish-English edition was published by Bloodaxe in 1997. I came across this poet by chance: visiting his birthplace Orihuela in Spain. Hernández was a self-educated goatherd and is now one of the most revered poets in the Spanish-speaking world.
After fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, he was imprisoned in several of Franco’s jails, where he continued to write until his death from untreated tuberculosis. He was only 31. Below is the original poem in Spanish with its wonderful rhymes. This poem inspired my poem Flight of swallows, murmuration of starlings which was first published in the anthology Drifting down the lane (2013), along with the painting by Malgorzata Lazarek.
Tu corazón, una naranja helada
Tu corazón, una naranja helada
con en dentro sin luz de dulce miera
y una porosa vista de oro: un fuera
venturas prometiendo a la mirada.
Mi corazón, una febril granada
de agrupado rubor y abierta cera,
que sus tiernos collares te ofreciera
con una obstinación enamorada.
Ay, qué acometimiento de quebranto
ir a tu corazón y hallar un hielo
de irreductible y pavorosa nieve!
Por los alrededores de mi llanto
un panuelo sediento va de vuelo
con la esperanza de que en él lo abreve.
Flight of swallows, murmuration of starlings
A long line of scarecrows was no defence.
Each day at dusk more words arrived.
Small words with soft downy feathers, large
words that made strange gurgling sounds
Litany, Lamentation. They roosted
on telegraph wires, fences round his fields.
His wife had been a word collector. She kept
thousands in small paper boxes called books.
These boxes were lined up in coloured rows
in cases, on wooden shelves and tables.
She had taken the books with her when she left
calling him spineless and an empty well.
His neighbour Charlie, the old lion tamer came
with his black boots, his long whips. The birds
hissed and pecked at Charlie’s hat. Feral words.
He remembered his mother telling him stories
about loaves and fishes, storms of locusts.
The local preacher came in his long black coat.
His booming sermon scared away the clouds.
The words spread their feathers, glinting
in the sun; closed their small fierce eyes.
That night a small red hen walked into his dream.
She had made hundreds of prints in the fresh snow.
The hen stood on a book with his wife’s name on it.
The next morning, he drove into town, bought the only
poetry book in the remainder shop. A poet who had taught
himself, a goat herd from Orihuela, Miguel Hernandez.
Poems of love, loss, war; poems of prison.
Miguel died in prison not yet 32.
The telegraph wires pinged. The words watched.
Your heart is a frozen orange. A bird on the wing
like a thirsty handkerchief hovers, hoping to drink tears.
The old farmer, for the first time in his life, crying.