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Elizabeth Reninger

Let Us Sing Together

By December 25, 2012

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Antonio Machado's beautiful poem in ten parts:
I Never Wanted Fame (translated by Robert Bly):

I

I never wanted fame,
nor wanted to leave my poems
behind in the memory of men.
I love the subtle worlds,
delicate, almost without weight,
like soap bubbles.
I enjoy seeing them take the color
of sunlight and scarlet, float
in the blue sky, then
suddenly quiver and break.

II

Why should we call
these accidental furrows roads,...?
Everyone who moves on walks
like Jesus, on the sea.

III

Let us sing together: know? We know nothing.
We come from a hidden ocean
and go to an unknown ocean.
And between those two mysteries
there is a third serious puzzle;
one key we know nothing of locks three chests.
The light illuminates nothing,
and the wise man teaches nothing.
What does human language say?
What does the water in the rock say?

IV

Oh, I daydreamed as a boy
about the heroes of the Iliad!
Ajax was stronger than Diomedes,
Hector stronger than Ajax,
and Achilles strongest of all; because
he was the strongest! . . . Innocent ideas of boyhood!
Yes, I daydreamed as a boy
about the heroes of the Iliad!

V

Put out on the fields
a physical laborer, a thinker, and a poet.
You will see how the poet is enthusiastic
and silent, the thinker looks and thinks ...
The laborer looks around, probably,
for blackberries or mushrooms.
Take them to the theatre
and only the laborer isn't bored.
The one who prefers what is alive over what is fakey
is the inward person, who writes, dreams, or thinks.
The head of the physical laborer
is full of fantasies.

VI

I love Jesus, who said to us:
Heaven and earth will pass away.
When heaven and earth have passed away,
my word will remain.
What was your word, Jesus?
Love? Forgiveness? Affection?
All your words were
one word: Wakeup.

VII

It is good knowing that glasses
are to drink from;
the bad thing is not to know
what thirst is for.

VIII

All things die and all things live forever;
but our task is to die,
to die making roads,
roads over the sea.

IX

To die ... To fall like a drop
of water into the immense ocean?
Or to be what I have never been:
one man with no shadow, and no dream,
a man all alone, walking,
with no mirror and no road?

X

Mankind owns four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars
and the fear of going down.

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