Si Mis Manos Pudieran Deshojar by Federico García Lorca
— With English Translation
Yo pronuncio tu nombre
En las noches oscuras
Cuando vienen los astros
A beber en la luna
Y duermen los ramajes
De las frondas ocultas.
Y yo me siento hueco
De pasión y de música.
Loco reloj que canta
Muertas horas antiguas.
Yo pronuncio tu nombre,
En esta noche oscura,
Y tu nombre me suena
Más lejano que nunca.
Más lejano que todas las estrellas
Y más doliente que la mansa lluvia.
If My Hands Could Defoliate
I pronounce your name
on dark nights,
when the stars come
to drink on the moon
and sleep in tufts
of hidden fronds.
And I feel myself hollow
of passion and music.
Crazy clock that sings
dead ancient hours.
I pronounce your name,
in this dark night,
and your name sounds
more distant than ever.
More distant that all stars
and more doleful than a calm rain.
Will I love you like then
ever again? What blame
has my heart?
When the mist dissipates,
what other passion may I expect?
Will it be calm and pure?
If only my fingers could
defoliate the moon!
Federico García Lorca
Many recognized his homosexuality from the start, but for decades Spain’s literary establishment, and even his own family, refused to acknowledge that the country’s best loved poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, was gay. His biographer, Ian Gibson, has conclusive evidence that Lorca’s poetic achievements sprang from his lifelong frustration at concealing his homosexuality.
In Lorca y el mundo gay (Lorca and the Gay World), published in Spanish on Monday, Gibson describes how the poet’s works were censored to conceal his sexuality. It was not until the late 1980s that Lorca’s sexual identity became grudgingly acknowledged, in the face of denials and evasions. Gibson blames the decades of silence on a deep-seated Spanish homophobia. “Spain couldn’t accept that the greatest Spanish poet of all time was homosexual. Homophobia existed on both sides in the civil war and afterwards; it was a national problem. Now Spain permits same-sex marriage that taboo must be broken.”
Some academics who recognized the truth “suggested the poet’s homosexuality was alien to his poetic creativity”, Gibson writes of the man he’s studied for 40 years. Scholars colluded in the cover-up for fear of losing access to the poet’s archives, or antagonizing the family, he says. “All his poetry turns around frustrated love. His tormented characters who can’t live the life they want are precisely the metaphor for his sorrow. He was a genius who turned his suffering into art.”
After Lorca was assassinated by death squads in August 1936, at the start of Spain’s civil war, his brother Francisco and sister Isabel made every effort to expunge any trace of homosexuality from his life and work, Gibson claims.
A family spokeswoman, Laura Garcia Lorca, says they never talked of her uncle’s homosexuality when her father was alive. “We didn’t want his murder to be considered a sexual crime but to stress it was a political crime. It was difficult for my father to accept the homosexuality of his brother. However my Aunt Isabel [who died in 2002] spoke openly in her later years about homosexuality, and came to accept it as something natural. I imagine my father spoke of it among friends, but never publicly,” she said recently.
As late as 1987, a long introduction to a standard textbook of Lorca poems, The Poet in New York, contained not a word about his sexuality. But that US trip in 1929, which produced an explosion of anguished creativity, was the result of a failed love affair with the sculptor Emilio Aladrén, Gibson reveals. The beautiful sculptor abandoned the poet to marry an English woman, Elizabeth Dove, which plunged Lorca into a deep depression.
Poems written shortly before his death were finally published in the mid-1980s. But the title, Sonnets of a Dark Love (to read this sonnet, click “Read more” below), was softened to Love Sonnets, even though the verses clearly referred to a man: “You will never understand that I love you/ because you sleep in me and are asleep./I hide you, weeping, persecuted/ by a voice of penetrating steel.” The masculinity is clear in Spanish, in which nouns have gender.
Gibson says he went back to the beginning and re-read all of Lorca’s earliest poems for this latest book. “I discovered an anguished, tortured – gay – love … Those who deny his homosexuality must now shut up, or at least question their prejudices. It’s a relief after so many decades of obfuscation and silence, to reveal the truth.”
Oh secret voice and song of a dark love!
Oh lowing without lambs! Oh hidden wound!
Oh needle of bile, cankered camellia!
Oh storm without a sea, town without walls!
Oh nights of iron darkness that descend
on mountains of mourning, proud peaks of grief!
Oh hound in the heart, the heart’s forbidden cry,
song ripening in silence without end!
Fly from my throat, you voice of burning ice,
yet don’t abandon me here in the wild
where flesh and sky mate without bearing fruit.
Don’t haunt the heavy ivory of my skull–
take pity and strip off this strangling shroud,
I who am love, I who am nature’s child!