Mothers and heroes

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Honduran poetry


pueblo contra el ejercito, by kilo (Honduras Indymedia)
pueblo contra el ejercito, by kilo (Honduras Indymedia)

Clementina Suárez (1906-1991) is not only Honduras’ preeminent woman poet, but a central figure in the Mexican literary and artistic scene of the mid-20th century. She was profiled in a wonderful biography by Janet Gold, which includes a generous selection of her poems in translation, and is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of feminism in Honduras. I thought of Clementina on Sunday when I watched videos and photos of indominable women punching soldiers and facing down armored vehicles in the streets.

Clementina Suárez

Yo soy un poeta,
un ejército de poetas.
Y hoy quiero escribir un poema,
un poema silbatos,
un poema fusiles
para pegarlos en las puertas,
en las celdas de las prisiones,
en los muros de las escuelas.
Hoy quiero construir y destruir,
levantar en andamios la esperanza.
Despertar al niño,
arcángel de las espadas,
ser relámpago, trueno,
con estatura de héroe
para talar, arrasar,
las podridas raíces de mi pueblo.

tr. by Dave Bonta

I am a poet,
an army of poets.
And today I want to write a poem —
a whistles poem,
a rifles poem —
to strike them in doorways,
in prison cells,
within the walls of schools.
Today I want to build and destroy,
to give hope a lift onto the scaffold.
I want to rouse the child,
archangel of swords,
to be lightning-flash and thunderclap
with a statue of a hero
to topple, to obliterate
the rotted roots of my people.

Honduras’ most famous and influential poet of all, without a doubt, was Juan Ramón Molina (1875-1908), a friend and contemporary of the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Darío, who joined him in rousing Spanish-language poetry out of its two centuries of slumber. Which is very much how they would’ve described it in the late-Romantic style they pioneered, modernismo. (See “Metempsícosis” at Moving Poems for a much grander Molina poem about reincarnation.)

While the narrator of “Combate” wanted to do away with heroes, the narrator of the following poem pines for a vanished heroic age — the archetypal conservative.

Juan Ramón Molina

¡Viviese yo en los tiempos esforzados
de amores, de conquistas y de guerras,
en que frailes, bandidos y soldados
a través de los mares irritados
iban en busca de remotas tierras.

No en esta triste edad en que desmaya
todo anhelo — encumbrado como un monte —
y en que poniendo mi ambición a raya
herido y solo me quedé en la playa
viendo el límite azul del horizonte!

tr. by Dave Bonta

Ah, that I had lived in times tested
by love, by war and by conquest,
when friars, soldiers and desperadoes
went off across unquiet seas
in search of distant lands,

and not in this pathetic age when longing
has grown faint, inaccessible as a mountain peak,
and holding my ambition in check,
wounded and alone I linger on the shore,
gazing at the horizon’s blue limit!

Roberto Sosa, by contrast, turns his gaze toward those most wounded by military adventurism. This is from his 1995 volume El llanto de las cosas, and was also translated by Jo Anne Englebert as “The Common Grief” in her book of the same name.

Roberto Sosa

hijas del verbo: madres, los esparemos.

Escúchenos, “vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos.”
Recuérdenlo en el nombre del padre, del hijo y del hermano
detenidos y desaparecidos.

Esperamos con la frente en alto
punto por punto unidas como la cicatriz a sus costuras.

Nadie podrá destruir ni desarmar nuestros pesares juntos.

tr. by Dave Bonta

we wait for them, daughters of the word. Mothers.

Hear this: alive they were taken, alive we want them back.
Remember it in the name of the father and the son and the brother
detained and disappeared.

We wait with heads held high,
joined stitch by stitch like a scar to its sutures.

No one shall destroy or disband this union of sorrows.


Incidentally, in case anyone’s wondering why I’m signing my name to each one of these, I’ve noticed that translations are a popular item to copy and paste around the web, and I thought I’d make it easier for people to do so without having to worry about adding the attribution, which for some strange reason often seems to be neglected where translations are concerned.

Series Navigation← Dogs and generalsMothers and fathers →


3 Replies to “Mothers and heroes”

  1. These poems are shared in such a time that everyone can appreciate their richness. War is raging all around and people are dying for a higher purpose. May we always remember. Great poem choices. Hope all is well.

  2. Thanks for reading, Dick and Michelle. Suarez is an author I didn’t translate the last time I put together a collection of Honduran poetry, so that first poem is particularly fresh for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.