Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ernesto Cardenal . . .


                       That top secret flight at night.
We might have been shot down. The night calm and clear.
The sky teeming, swarming with stars. The Milky Way
so bright behind the thick pane of the window,
     a sparkling white mass in the dark night
with its millions of evolutionary and revolutionary changes.
We were going over the water to avoid Somoza's air force,
                    but close to the coast.
The small plane flying low, and flying slowly.
First the lights of Rivas, taken and retaken by Sandanists,
            now almost in Sandanist hands.
Then other lights: Granada, in the hands of the Guard
                                                (it would be attacked that night).
Masaya, completely liberated. So many fell there.
Farther out a bright glow: Managua. Site of so many battles.
(The Bunker.) Still the stronghold of the Guard.
Diriamba, liberated. Jinotepe, fighting it out. So much heroism
glitters in those lights. Montelimar--the pilot shows us--:
the tyrant's estate near the sea. Puerto Somoza, next to it.
The Milky Way above, and the lights of Nicaragua's revolution.
Out there, in the north, I think I see Sandino's campfire.
            ("That light is Sandino.")
The stars above us, and the smallness of this land
but also its importance, these
tiny lights of men. I think:  everything is light.
The planet comes from the sun.
                       "Let there be light."
There is also darkness.
There are strange reflections--I don't know where they come
      from--on the clear surface of the windows.
A red glow: the tail lights of the plane.
And reflections on the calm sea: they must be stars.
I look at the light from my cigarette--it also comes from the sun,
         from a star.
And the outline of a great ship. The U.S. aircraft carrier
sent to patrol the Pacific coast?
A big light on our right startles us. A jet attacking?
No. The moon coming out, a half-moon, so peaceful, lit by the sun.
      The danger of flying on such a clear night.
And suddenly the radio. Jumbled words filling the small plane.
The Guard? The pilot says: "It's our side."
                     They're on our wavelengths.
Now we're close to León, the territory liberated.
A burning reddish-orange light, like the red-hot tip of a cigar:
the powerful lights of the docks flickering on the sea.
And now at last the beach at Poneloya, and the plane is coming in 
           to land,
the stream of foam along the coast gleaming in the moonlight.
     The plane coming down. A smell of insecticide.
And Sergio tells me: "The smell of Nicaragua!"
It's the most dangerous moment, enemy aircraft
                     may be waiting for us over this airport.
And the airport lights at last.
We've landed. From out of the dark come olive-green-clad comrades
to greet us with hugs.
We feel their warm bodies, that also come from the sun,
that also are light.
                     This revolution is fighting the darkness.
It is daybreak on July 18th. And the beginning
          of all that was about to come.


trans. Jonathan Cohen

fr. Zero Hour and Other Documentary Poems
[New York: New Directions, 1980]

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