Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Song Verses

Soleares Verses

Here are some soleares verses — traditional, copied from written sources, rendered in andaluz dialect:

SOLEARES

Si er queré que puse en ti
lo hubiera puesto en un perro
se biniera etrás e mi.

(If the love I gave you
I had given to a dog
it would follow me everywhere.)

No igas que m’has querío;
di que has querío a una piera
y en er mar s’ha sumergío.

(Don’t say you loved me;
say you loved a stone
that sank into the sea.)

En un cuartito los dos,
beneno que tu me dieras,
beneno tomara yo.

(The two of us in a room;
If you gave me poison
I’d take it.)

Er quere que me mostrabas
era porbito y arena
que el aire se los yebaba.

(The love you gave me
was dust and sand
that the wind blew away.)

Dises que soy mar gacho
siendo yo mas jitaniyo
que las costiyas e Dios

(You call me a bad payo
and I’m more Gypsy
than the ribs of God.)

Anda y no presumas más
si t’has e tira ar poso
pa que miras er broca?

(Get out of here with your posturing;
If you’re going to throw yourself in the well
why stand there looking at the rim?)

Una nochesita e luna
he bisto ar seporturero
cabando mi seportura.

(On a moonlit night
I have seen the casket maker
working on my coffin.)

Voy como si fuera preso;
etrás camina mi sombra,
elante mi pensamiento.

(I walk along like a prisoner;
behind me my shadow,
ahead, my thoughts.)

Te den una puñalá
que er Pare Santo e Roma
no te puea curá.

(I hope they stab you so badly
that the Holy Father of Rome
couldn’t cure you.)

Hijito e mala mare,
criaíto en malas tripas,
reguerto en malos pañales.

(Son of a bad mother,
grown in a bad belly,
raised in dirty diapers.)

Ven aca, mujé, no jables;
que has tenío nueve meses
dentro e tu cuerpo mi sangre.

(Come here, woman; don’t talk;
For nine months you’ve had
my blood in your body.)

Tengo yo un poso en mi casa
y yo me muero e se
porque la soga no arcansa.

(I have a well in my house
and I’m dying of thirst
because the rope doesn’t reach the water.)

Quien se fía de mujeres
muy poco del mundo sabe,
que se fia de unas puertas
de que todos tienen llaves.

(Those who trust in women
know little of this world;
They are trusting in doors
to which every man has a key.)

Dices que me quieres mucho
ay es mentira, que me enganas;
en un corazón tan chico
no pueden caber dos almas.

(You say you love me deeply
but it’s a lie, a deception.
Two souls would never fit
in such a small heart.)

Yo enterré mi amor un dÍa
creyendo que estaba muerto
y de sus secas raices
otras plantas florecieron.

(One day I buried my love,
thinking it was dead;
and from its dry roots
other flowers grew.)

Dos besos tengo en el alma
que no se apartan de mí;
el ultimo de mi madre
y el primero que te dí.

(I have two kisses in my soul
which will always be with me;
The last from my mother,
and the first I gave to you.)

Brook Zern

February 2, 2014   No Comments

Flamenco: For the Purist It’s a Ritual, Not a Spectacle – 1972 New York Times Article by Brook Zern

From the New York Times, Nov. 19, 1972

FLAMENCO:  FOR THE PURIST IT’S A RITUAL, NOT A SPECTACLE

by Brook Zern

Fiery, foot-stomping dancers, fierce, dark-eyed señoritas, phenomenal artistry on the guitar, not to mention clacking castanets, elaborate costumes, splits, leaps and backbends – all these have made flamenco the resounding international success it is.  Every day, in virtually every country in the world, audiences are enraptured by brilliant professional flamenco routines burnished by years of meticulous rehearsal.

But meanwhile, back at the ranch in the south of Spain, an odd agglomeration of 10 or 15 foreigners from Sweden, Japan, Italy and America wait patiently for the chance to see and hear flamenco of an entirely different sort.  The ranch is Finca Espartero, just outside of the town of Morón de la Frontera on the road from Seville to Ronda, and through some fluke these foreigners have come to care about flamenco as a cultural creation rather than a theatrical one, a ritual instead of a spectacle.

The ranch is on a green hillside facing one of those olive groves that dot the sun-baked red earth of Andalusia.  The setting is idyllic; the only sound is the clunk of cowbells and the call of magpies.  The big main building, once owned by a fine matador called El Espartero who died on the horns of a Miura bull in 1894, now houses the paying guests who have heard about it through the international flamenco grapevine.

The idea of the Finca Espartero belongs to a Minnesotan named Donn Pohren.  The author of two important books on flamenco, Pohren is easily the most knowledgeable of flamenco’s many foreign aficionados.  His understanding of the art, combined with his openness and lack of pretense, has made him one of the few non-Gypsies to establish a real rapport with Spain’s flamencos.

In 1965, after living for years in flamenco territory, Pohren and his Spanish wife opened the Finca Esparero to anyone who suspected that there might be more to this demanding art than usually meets the eye.  Since then the finca has been operating every summer, introducing hundreds of foreigners to something that otherwise would have been almost impossible to come upon: ethnic, down-home, funky, authentic flamenco, flamenco in its natural habitat, flamenco with roots.

Pohren chose Morón de la Frontera because it was one of the very few towns that retain a coherent flamenco tradition.  You cannot find this in Madrid, or even in Granada, because flamenco originally evolved in just one small area of western Andalusia.  Almost all of the great song styles, as well as most of the legendary interpreters, come from within the small triangle connecting Seville, Ronda and Jerez.  These cities themselves were once strongholds of pure flamenco, but in recent decades the pressures of urbanization and other symptoms of progress have tended to force the art into nightclubs where simple economics forces it into the lucrative commercial mold.

But a few of the smaller towns – Utrera, Mairena, Lebrija, Alcala de Guadaira – have managed to conserve flamenco in its traditional context.  Here the music continued to pass from one generation to the next within the sealed sub-culture of the Gypsy, retaining its natural power undiluted.

The guests at the finca believe that true flamenco cannot be bound in theaters or nightclubs.  The flamenco they seek only happens at a juerga – a rigidly prescribed gathering that is a kind of cross between a jam session and a séance.

In every respect the difference between juerga flamenco and staged flamenco is enormous.  For openers, there is the fact that no one really knows whether a juerga will start at all.  The very idea of this kind of flamenco presupposes a certain fortuitous combination of circumstances, and if the vibrations aren’t right to begin with – if the singer’s daughter is sick, if the dancer spent the last two days at a fiesta in a nearby town, if the guitarist has the blahs – then there is no point in trying to proceed.  Why bother, when things will probably be better tomorrow.  The great Andalusian maxim “The hell with it, I don’t feel like it,” takes precedence over any alien notion that the show must go on.

Sometimes, though, everything just happens to work out.  Around 11 p.m., give or take a few hours, artists and aficionados enter a small room that was once part of the finca’s stable and take their seats: hard, straight-backed wooden chairs that line the whitewashed walls.  The juerga is set to begin.

But it doesn’t.  The artists obviously don’t want it to.  Some of the people in the room are still strangers, and although the flamencos are being paid they would no sooner reveal their art to total strangers than strip naked in their presence.  So the chitchat begins, in Spanish that is often halting and thick with assorted accents:  “It was hot today.”  “”. “Do you like Morón?”  “.”  “Where are you from?”  “.”  The important thing is certainly not the content of the conversations – some guests speak no Spanish at all – but the human contact.

Among the guests at the finca are a kid from California who’s studying the guitar here, an Italian artist planning to record the evening’s proceedings, a Swedish woman working on a doctoral thesis on Spanish folklore, and a couple from Japan who just want to hear a little music and enjoy the Andalusian countryside.

After a few minutes of conversation the informal “tu” replaces the stiffly correct “usted,” and a short time later the juerga has become what it must always be, a gathering of amigos.  It can proceed.

The Gypsy guitarist opens his case, tunes up for a while, and breaks a string.  The last time that happened there was nothing to do but give up and go home to sleep, but this time the guitar student has a spare.  The guitarist, after warming up, goes into a solo version of the style called the bulerias.  The newcomers look puzzled.  They have heard the flamencos say that this man is one of the art’s great geniuses.  Many of them insist he is the finest of all flamenco guitarists.  But instead of unleashing the concert virtuoso’s unbelievable blur of cascading notes and strums, instead of amazing his listeners with whirling arpeggios and breathtaking runs, he simply lets the music unfold.

It seems on the face of it that he could never play as fast as such famous master technicians as Sabicas and Paco de Lucía, and this may well be true.  It is more important to realize that this guitarist does not want to play with the incredible speed and utter precision of the concert maestros.  He has spent his lifetime learning to play slowly.  It is a part of the baffling aesthetic of southern Spain, one which ignores a bullfighter who can make fine passes quickly but which immortalizes the man who makes the same passes with temple, controlled timing that seems to stop time, to expand each second into a minute.  Speed, the essence of modern society, is not appreciated in Andalusia.  The guitar student has already learned that his own formidable technique, acquired through years of methodical practice, does not impress the flamencos.  They are looking for content, not form.  They readily compliment him on his digital dexterity, but they withhold the one remark that really matters:  “Corazón!”  It takes more than discipline to acquire corazón – a flamenco heart.

The fair-skinned, white-haired guitarist now playing, a man well into his 60’s and looking more like a distinguished professor than a wild-eyed Gypsy, has corazón.  To other guitarists, his variations are stunning revelations.  To singers, his accompaniment affords supreme inspiration.  To the newcomers, though, it all sounds alike.  His range is very limited, with most of his playing confined to a single register.  His harmonies are deceptively simple, using none of the modern chord progressions that make flamenco guitar more appealing to sophisticated international audiences.  Pretty tremolos and lilting melodies never seem to interest him.  His playing is hard and cutting, and the flamencos say he can lay bare the guts of the music.  His name is Diego del Gastor.

The dancer is Luisa Maravilla, Pohren’s wife.  If she dances, it will be in an old and pure style that is the antithesis of today’s theatrical manner.  She will not need to dress up in a costume that detracts from the motion of the body itself.  She will not use castanets because they destroy the sinuous flow of arms and hands that defines traditional feminine dance.  She will not emphasize the driving heelwork that implies virility and aggressiveness and that only the brilliant Carmen Amaya could execute without compromising her sexuality.

Luisa will never stoop to the flashy acrobatics of staged flamenco, or move suddenly from one striking pose to another.  Her dance will be fluid, obviously Eastern, focused on the upper body and the arms, restrained, subtle, deeply female without resorting to the suggestive, hip-swaying style recently imported from Latin America.

Most important, she will not dance at all unless she is so moved by the music that she feels she must.  This is the greatest strength of traditional flamenco dance – that it is always fueled by inspiration, surging forth spontaneously as a response to the setting and the music.  It is not plagued by the showiness and the faked excitement that so often infects scheduled performances.

If Luisa dances, she will dance honestly.  If she doesn’t, another of the artists might.  And sometimes the impulsive, awkwardly touching dance of one who is untrained but aware of the music’s meaning can reveal more about flamenco than an entire commercial production.

The singer clears his throat, and Diego stops playing.  He waits for the singer to decide what he’d like to do first.  It is evident that the singer, virtually ignored in theatrical flamenco, is the focal point of this entire gathering.

When he opens his mouth it is not hard to see why the singer is shunted aside in staged flamenco.  His voice, little more than a guttural croak in conversation, sounds even worse when he sings.  It is so harsh and rasping that it surely must have been ugly always.  Yet this singer, Luís Torres, called “Joselero”, is one of just a few dozen in Spain who are capable of negotiating flamenco’s great fundamental forms.

Obviously, it cannot be tonal purity that defines a good singer.  Instead it is a strange gift, an ability to break though certain natural barriers.  It never comes easy.

The singer begins with an alegrías, a bouncing, uptempo style.  He sings it competently, but somehow he fails to evoke the real mood of the song.  Maybe he’s just having trouble getting started.  More likely, he just doesn’t feel comfortable with this particular song.  It comes from Cádiz, way down on the coast, and he realizes that only a few singers from that city can really do it justice.  Joselero, like most of his friends who have managed to avoid the nightclub circuit, is still corto, “short,” concentrating on the songs from his own area of Andalusia.  Like the guitarist, he focuses all his creative effort on just a few styles instead of the 40 or more that would be required of a headliner.

The song ends.  Out of politeness there are a few compliments.  More talk, more wine; plenty of time left.  The next song, a bright Gypsy tango, is much better.  Joselero gets into it beautifully, and the shouted olés are genuine.  Again more talk, more wine; lots of laughing.  A girl from Michigan who has spent months trying to learn the basic rhythm structure of flamenco’s central dance forms says that yesterday she asked for a dozen eggs in a local store and the small boy behind the counter handed them over, saying, actually chanting:

uno dos tres

cuatro cinco seis

siete ocho

nueve diez

once doce

That was the pattern she had been searching for – those five accented beats immersed in a steady twelve – but now she is justifiably worried that she will never dance as well as someone who was raised believing that this was the only natural way to count.

Then, unthinkingly, someone mentions the name of a local flamenco who was killed in an accident last year.  He was not a great singer or dancer, but somehow he exuded the spirit of flamenco.  The artists still miss him intensely, and things slow down for a while.  The next few songs are half-hearted and unconvincing.  One of the Gypsies, slightly drunk, starts to complain bitterly about the Americans’ latest moon landing.  It soon becomes obvious that something more than his personal aesthetic sense has been offended, that he sees the landings as a kind of sacrilege, a desecration of the moon.  His anger indicates a survival in the Gypsies of nature-worship, even today.  “They should have left the moon alone,” he says ominously.  “Now they will have to pay.”

Early in the morning, the singing seems to change slightly.  This is a soleá, one of the most emotional forms of flamenco.  The singer has a peculiar edge to his voice.  The witnesses are pleased, but the singer isn’t satisfied at all.  He drinks some more sherry and talks for a while.  No, he says, he doesn’t like the musica ye-ye, the Spanish imitation of Beatles-style rock.  It jumps around too much, he says, flailing his arms disjointedly in the air; he misses the subtle intervals and fractional tones that characterize Gypsy flamenco.

The singer begins again, hesitates, then stops.  “Toca por siguiriyas”, he tells Diego.  “Play the accompaniment for siguiriyas.”  The siguiriyas is pure flamenco, very old and very profound.  Then it happens.  The singer is suddenly possessed.  This odd-looking little man with the watery eyes and the dirty jacket becomes someone else.  Like a priest at a voodoo ceremony, he undergoes an ecstatic shift into another level of consciousness.

It is as if he has become a vessel and through him the whole Gypsy race has found an unearthly voice.

The effect is shattering.  He seems to lose control of himself, to sense that he is now only a medium, a means of transmitting sound from one realm to another.  And the sound he makes is fearsome in its urgency and intensity.  It is the sonido negro, the black sound.  It no longer comes from his throat; it seems to well up from the ground, from the soles of his feet, jetting up like water from a fountain or blood from an arterial wound.  It keeps coming, and there is a mixture of panic and joy in the singers eyes as he tears at his hair, his shirt, his face in a desperate effort to let it out.

This is the cante jondo, the deep song.   It is a distillation of the tragedy of the Spanish Gypsy.  It is a living testament to the Gypsy’s long march from India, echoing with the terror of the Inquisitions with its relentless crescendo of genocidal laws that made it a crime to wander, a crime to speak their caló dialect of Sanskrit, a crime to work metals or tell fortunes or trade horses or dance – in short, a crime to be a Gypsy,

And in the tortured voice something else comes through, too – the insane pride of these incorrigible people, learning never to trust anyone who is not a Gypsy, learning to live as fugitives or in jails or as slaves on the galleys, always resisting quietly, dying unheroically one at a time.  The verses of the songs, like the Gypsies themselves, have somehow survived the centuries.

In the district of Triana

on the street of the Inquisition

they executed Curro Puya,

the finest of our people.

Look at the shame

you have made me bear

to go asking for alms from door to door

to buy your freedom.

The horsemen on the corners

with torches and lanterns

called out:

“Kill him!  He’s Gypsy!”

To my enemies

may God never send

the black sorrows of death

he has sent to me.

Don’t hit my father again!

stop, for God’s sake!

The crime you accuse him of

I myself committed.

On those occasional nights when the singing reaches its peak, those who feel its power will weep openly.  The next day, after some rest, it doesn’t really seem possible that it was like that.  Everyone was tired, and there had been a lot of wine, and besides, things like that don’t happen these days.  And yet there is that unmistakable tone of reverence with which the flamencos mention the names of certain singers:  La Fernanda de Utrera, El Chocolate, Agujetas, El Terremoto de Jerez.  They mention these singers with voices slightly lowered, as if they were the guardians of something sacred, in contact with another reality so deep it cannot be fathomed.

A successful juerga reconnects the Gypsy with the spirit of his people and his past, and lets even an outsider begin to understand the essence of this haunted race.  Federico García Lorca, obsessed with flamenco, devoted whole essays and poems to the music and to singers like Manuel Torre and La Niña de los Peines who could make the frightening leap into the depths of flamenco.  Of the legendary Silverio of Morón, Lorca wrote:  “The old people say that when he sang, their hair stood on end and the quicksilver of mirrors opened up.”

At the Finca Espartero there is an old mirror, with most of its reflective backing long since disappeared.  Ninety years ago, when the bullfighter owned the finca, Silverio probably sang in that room…

[bio box]

Brook Zern teaches flamenco guitar and conducts a course on “Flamenco: The Art and the Life” at the New School of Social Research, a University in New York City.

April, 2012:  Thoughts from four decades later:

This article was somehow noticed by someone in Spain, who translated it and entered it into a contest.  A few weeks later, I received a telegram saying that it had placed second in the Premio Meliá de Periodismo, and the prize was a hundred thousand pesetas, or about $1600.  I used most of it to pay back rent for my apartment in Seville, which cost $50 a month.

(First prize went to a guy named Luca de Tena, one of Spain’s leading journalists of the era.  The judges included the noted Spanish writer José María Pemán and some other heavies.)

The man who noticed the article and entered it in the contest was Francisco Vallecillo, who ran Spain’s only flamenco magazine of the era and who later founded the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco, or CAF,  the country’s only great archive of flamenco.

I’m writing this is my apartment on calle Francos in Jerez, a block from that venerable institution.

A few nights ago, in a bar on the street where Manuel Torre was born, I stumbled upon an impromptu flamenco happening that reminded me of the way things were back then in Morón.  The day after tomorrow I’ll be in Boston, wearing a suit and waving a $75 ticket, to see Paco de Lucía and his septet at the Opera House.

There is a lot to this thing called flamenco.

May 10, 2012   No Comments

Flamenco Song Verses – terminology – Coplas? Letras?

The Madrid-based flamenco authority Alfonso Eduardo Perez Orozco, who knows, has suggested using the term “copla” for a flamenco verse.

That sounded fine to me, and I use that term myself — but Estela Zatania, the author of the excellent book “Flamencos de Gañanía“, who also knows, questioned the idea, saying that flamencos don’t seem to use the term copla (which in any event might certainly apply to other areas, like cuple or Spanish popular song); instead, she said that flamencos used the term “letras”.

That sounded fine to me, too.  Come to think of it, I use that term, too.  I remember asking many flamencos what they’d said in a cante, and they said, “oh, you mean the letra”.

But Alfonso Eduardo countered with an interesting point.  He says that “copla” means that thing that you sing, while “letra” means the text of that thing that you sing.  “A copla is a sung letra“, he says.  In fact, he goes further, saying that a letra refers more to the text of written poetry than to the expression contained in a flamenco verse (or copla).

Alfonso Eduardo distinguishes between the two ideas when he says that the poets and would-be poets who infest Andalucia (half of Europe’s total, he claims) are constantly writing stuff (letras) that they hope singers will render in their coplas.  But he correctly notes that while those written letras may seem to fit the metric rules and regulations, that’s not enough to qualify them as worthwhile flamenco coplas.  He notes that the great singer Antonio Mairena told him that in these letras, the sounds of the vowels and consonants just didn’t seem musical (singable) to him.  As an example, he said that letras stressing the Spanish “u” sound aren’t very flamenco.

(But Alfonso Eduardo gives a terrific exception to the rule:

La Magdalena en el monte

lloraba al pie de la cruz

Yo lloro sobre las piedras

donde estas enterra tu.

(Mary Magdalene on the mount

wept at the foot of the cross;

I weep on the stones

beneath which you are buried.)

Wotta verse.

(By the way, we have the nice word “verse” in English — though I can’t tell whether it’s closer to “copla” or “letra” in meaning.  But, confusingly, the Spanish word “verso” doesn’t mean “verse”; instead, it seems to mean “line of a song (or a poem)”.  Also, we have the word “couplet” that sounds so much like “copla” or “cuple” — but I think it only refers to two-line thingies).

Tricky business, this terminology stuff.  No wonder the linguist and flamenco expert John Moore notes that it doesn’t matter what rules we make up — people will use the words they use, and it’s useless to try and stop their usage.

Brook Zern

February 16, 2012   1 Comment

Colloquial Language in the Flamenco Copla – Article by Juan Pena Jimenez – Translated by Brook Zern

Translator’s note:  The following article appeared in Sevilla Flamenca 67 in 1990.  In the process of analyzing its topic (with some pretty high-flown terminology) it presents some marvelous examples of flamenco verses as well as some real insights.  Its title is “Colloquial Language in the Flamenco Copla”, by Juan Pena Jimenez.

“The exclusive use of colloquial language in the copla is to be expected, given the popular origin of flamenco: Oral character before written, and popular expression before cultured.

As a result, the copla offers the richness, variety and fertile complexity of the spoken language.

These verses are not written, but transcribed.  That is, they depart from the norms of cultured language in order to reflect the fluidity and relaxed cadence of the spoken language — in this case, andaluz.

Our objective is not to study this graphic transformation — a complex task indeed — but rather to examine the peculiarities of certain expressions and linguistic constructions.  Together with them, in the purely linguistic sense, we’ll try to unveil these peculiar expressive forms.  Let’s begin:

The effusive expression “Mi arma” [mi alma – my soul] is employed to show deep affection, although sometimes, due to its frequent use, it becomes emptied of any positive sentiment, petrified and devoid of true content.

No digas eso, mi arma,

que yo nunca he levantao

de nadie farsas palabras.

(Don’t say that, mi arma;

I have never taken false words

from anyone.)

The sentiment of hatred, sometimes manifested in the copla, is generally shown in the form of a curse, rather than an insult.  This corresponds to the most important contribution of the Gypsy element to the world of flamenco: the vital philosophy of tragic destiny.  The pagan sense which originally generated this attitude has been attenuated with the incorporation of Christian religiosity.  Thus providence appears, despite its apparently inexorable fate, submitted at last to the designs of God.  As a result, the curses may frequently begin with the introductory construction “Permita Dios que“.

Permita Dios que te veas

pegaito a una fuente

y beber agua no pueas

(May God grant that you find yourself

by a fountain

and unable to drink.)

Permita Dios que te veas

sin chaqueta y sin carsones

en una jiquera chumba

espantando gorriones.

(May God grant that you find yourself

without a jacket and barefoot

in a grove of fig trees

frightening the sparrows away.)

Without a reference to the divinity, leaving destiny in human hands, we find the expression “maldita sea” — a mixture of curse and insult — and the pleonastic use of the adjective “malo

Maldita sea tu estampa

muaste de parecer

de la noche a la manana.

(Accursed be your image…

………….[?]

from night to morning.)

Mira que te quise bien.

Tu me enganabas con otro.

Malas punalas te den.

(How much I loved you.

You deceived me with another.

May they give you bad stab wounds.)

Now we’ll look at the figurative significance that certain verbal constructions have:  “Mira” (look) and “Anda” (walk; go).

The use of “Mira que…” presents two distinct possible meanings for look:  The first denotes a mental act, in which the interlocutor invites us to grasp what is being said:

Mira que no estoy ciego,

que se vienes conmigo

es porque tengo dinero.

(Look; I’m not blind.

If you do come with me

it’s because I have money.)

The second denotes a mode of superlative quantification:

Mira que yo te queria,  (Con todo lo que yo te queria)

por to sitios te buscaba

pero to pasa en la via

como pasa la caraba.

(Look how I loved you,  (For all that I loved you)

I looked for you everywhere

but everything passes in life

like the caravan [?] passes.)

The verbal form “Anda” is found in the copla with two special meanings apart from the original sense of inviting one to move.  It can express the rejection of the situation or the person who provoked the copla:

Anda que te den un tiro;

nunca llueve cuando truena

con esa esperanza vivo.

Anda, I hope you get shot;

It never rains when it thunders,

I live with that hope.

Anda y calla, esaboria,

que con esa letania

me estas amargando la via.

(Anda and shut up, …[?],

with that litany

you make my life bitter.)

Or it can express surprise before a specific situation or attitude:

Anda, loca, y ten talento,

que estas oliendo a panales

y ya quieres casamiento.

(Anda, crazy woman, wise up;

You come here smelling of diapers

and you want me to marry you?)

With the same meaning of surprise, and intensified, it becomes the form ”Vaya“.

Vaya una cosa mas rara

anoche sone contigo

y me cai de la cama.

(Vaya, what a strange thing;

I dreamed of you last night

and fell out of bed.)

Despite the very abundant appearance in spoken language of obscene interjections, we have never found a single copla that would illustrate this.

In a case where the [obscene, but far less obscene than the word would be in English] expression “cono!” would likely have been used in speech, we hear only the mild “ozu!”

Yo te quiero mas que a Dios:

Ozu, que palabra he dicho!

Merezco la Inquisicion.

(I love you more than I love God:

Yikes, what I’ve said!

I deserve the Inquisition.)

We should not be surprised by this, though.  One of the characteristics of the copla is its refinement [finura], its elegant sense of pudor (modesty or shyness.)  Thus a sexual episode, when it appears, is scarcely insinuated; it can be seen between the lines, expressed with ingenuous innocence:

Vente conmigo y haremos

una chocita en er campo

y en ella nos meteremos.

(Come with me and we’ll make

a little hut in the woods

and we’ll go inside it.)

Cuando ebaito el puente

acuerdate que esias:

“Espera, que viene gente”

(Underneath the bridge

remember what you used to say:

“Wait, people are coming.”)

Anoche ensone un sueno;

Ojala que fuera verdad!

Que te estaba desatando

la cinta del delantal.

(I dreamed a dream last night;

I wish it would come true!

I dreamed you were untying

the ribbon of your apron.)

Or we may find a determined silence that is explicit:

Te acuerdas e lo que isimos

acurrucaos en tu puerta?

Antes sacarme los ojos

que soltarme de la lengua.

(Remember what we did

…[?] in your doorway?

They could put my eyes out

before it crossed my tongue.)

It recurs even in religious imagery:

Tu cuerpo es una custodia,

toito lleno escalones

para subir a la gloria.

(Your body is a monstrance [a vessel in which the consecrated host is exposed];

A stairway

to heaven.)

Let’s look now at the uses of the multifunctional term “que“:

In its conjunctive use, “que” introduces an oration (prayer), subordinate and dependent on another principal one.  Despite this, we often find “que” used in coplas without an expressed verb on which it is dependent (usually “decir“ [to say] or “querer” [to wish, to want, to love].  The prayer introduced by ”que” is seen, in this case, as independent and generally exhortative – expressing desire, command or surprise.  At the same time, we find “que” used frequently in a causal way, in place of “porque” (because).

Por Dios, (te pido) que no me deshonres,

(por)que no es delito ninguno

que una mujer quiera a un hombre.

(For God’s sake, (I ask that you) do not dishonor me.

That (because) it is not a crime

that a woman should love a man.)

(Quiero) que se pique e cangrena

la boca con que me rines,

la mano con que me pegas.)

(I wish that) may they be cut and become gangrenous

the mouth that you rebuke me with;

the hand you strike me with.)

The stylistic reason for this economy of means is of course the search for concise expression, by eliminating the superfluous.  This concision is simply a consequence of the spontaneous and emotive thrust of the copla.  In no way does it represent logical analysis or reflection, which would justify the presence of more explicit expressions.  The copla is a flash of emotion, a sentence born far from the realm of meditative thought; it is life, received and said without the artifice of thinking; it is the amorous desire that shakes the marrow; it is the cruelty of despair; the simple, irrefutable sentence; it is innocence, tenderness that blurs the eyes; and in view of its ineffable intensity, it is foolish to try and analyze its words.

In a very peculiar usage, after the adverb “si” [accent on the i], the “que“ lends greater intensity.  We aren’t referring here to the exclamatory “que“.  In this case, we see that its conjunctive function is still present:

Esto si que es cosa grande!

Tirar chinitas al agua

y saltar gotas de sangre.

(This is certainly a great thing!

To throw sweet oranges into the water

and up jump drops of blood.)

Sometimes the “que” introduces an interruptive space in the discourse, as if it wanted to isolate and emphasize what follows it.  It becomes a way of giving absolute value to a sentence that offers elemental wisdom.  The presence of “lo” contributes equally to this, showing the sentence is already understood:

Ya te lo he dicho, Maria,

que en la casa de los pobres

dura poca la alegria.

(I already told you, Maria,

[that] in the poorhouse

happiness doesn’t last long.)

Corre y diselo a tu mare:

que hay quien se llama Rosquiya

y se esta muriendo de hambre.

(Run and tell your mother:

[that] there’s someone named Rosquiya

and she’s dying of hunger.)

The piropo (traditional compliment) is often the quintessence of ingenuity and gracia in colloquial language.  The copla participates in this very person form of gallantry.  In it are combined the most exaggerated displays of admiration and the most delicate lyricism.  Frequently the first line dedicates to the mother an exultant and “crude” gratitude:

La madre que te pario

se merece una corona

y tu mereces dos.

(The mother who bore you

deserves a crown

and you deserve two.)

Sa (Bendita sea) la madre que pario

una nina mas planta.

No digas que no me quieres

si no me quieres matar.

(Blessed be the mother who bore

such a fine daughter.

Don’t say you don’t like me

unless you want to kill me.)

Generally, the admiration is directed at the women without singling out anyspecial aspect of her beauty:

El dia que tu naciste

se cayo un cachito cielo,

y jasta que no te mueras

no se tapa el abujero.

(The day you were born

a piece of heaven fell to earth,

and as long as you’re alive

the hole will remain uncovered.)

El dia que tu naciste

el sol se vistio de limpio

y hubo en er cielo una juerga

que bailo hasta Jesucristo.

(The day you were born

the sun put on clean clothes

and there was such a party in heaven

that even Jesus danced.)

Unlike the street piropo, the copla, if it does specify a part of the body to praise, never goes further than naming the “carita” (little face), the”cinturita” (little waist) or the “piesesitos” (little feet):

Milagrito de mujer,

con la carita que tienes,

quien te deja de querer.

(Little miracle of a woman,

with that face of yours

who wouldn’t love you?)

Tu cinturita, morena,

esta come el trigo verde

que esta esperando la siega.

(Your waist, dark one,

is like the green wheat

awaiting the harvest.)

Los piesesitos que ties

bailan una seguirilla

en la punta un alfiler.

(Those little feet of yours

dance a siguiriya

on a pinpoint.)

Always refined, always modest, always elegant.

It’s important to note the preference in the copla for indirect and allusive means of expression.  This explains the use of certain ironic twists: what is said may be exactly the opposite of what is thought, thus heightening the impact.  Thus, through the construction “Po si que…

Po si que estoy aviao,  (No tengo ningun avio, no tengo nada)

por te he perdio el dinero

y ahora me dejas plantao.

(You bet I’m sitting pretty;

for you I’ve lost my money

and now you leave me flat.)

Po si que la llevas clara:  (Asi las vas a pasar negras)

to er dinero que te doy

lo tiras por la ventana.

(…[?]

All the money I give you,

you throw out the window.)

The copla creates new modes of expression and intensity with its original formulas for indicating quantity, avoiding impersonal constructions from cultured language such as “a large number of”, or “an infinitude of”:

Las cosas que me contaron!

Yo no me pueo creer

que se puea ser tan malo.

(The things they told me!

I can’t believe

it can be this bad.)

The particular appeal of the expression “Las cosas que me contaron!” is that it expresses not just quantity but also the quality of those things (many things, bad things).  This capacity to suggest, to make us intuit and even subjectively feel the essence of the matter is one of its fundamental attributes.  The copla becomes an arrow in the air, but we don’t know wholaunched it or where it’s headed.  The imagination, freed, will invent its own story.  And this is the magic, this inimate re-creation that flourishes within the copla:

A las claritas del dia

el sol por los olivares

y tus manos tan frias.

(At the dawn of the day

the sun in the olive grove

and your hands so cold.)

Does this show the end of love’s desire, which consumed the lovers in the night?  Or could it be death which has placed its cold weight on a body (of a lover? of a child?)  Three little lines that wound with tenderness, grief and nostalgia.

Frequently the intensity of expression is achieved through words that denote destructive activity.  The elemental passions (hate, love, veneration,  resentment) acquire unaccustomed force:

Si despues que me muriera

tu me habias de llorar

por una lagrima tuya

me dejaba yo matar.

(If after I’ve died

you must weep for me,

for one of your tears

I let myself die [?].)

Diez anos despues de muerto

y de gusanos comio

letreros tendran mis huesos

diciendo que te he querio.

(Ten years after I’m dead

and worms have eaten me

my bones will form letters

saying I loved you.)

In the copla, the colorless word “emborracharse” (to become drunk) is replaced by more lively and evocative expressions, whose hyperbole gives them extra power — often expressed through an innocent and inoffensive irreverence:

Serrana, enciende una lu,

que traigo una sacramenta

que a Dios le llamo de tu.

(Serrana, turn on a light;

I bring you a sacrament

…[?]).

Blasphemy, where colloquial language finds its most irreverent expressions, is not found in the copla.  Rather, there is just an excessive sentiment but one that is always affectionate and sympathetic with the divinity.

It’s quite curious in the copla how the diminutive substitutes for the superlative.  The richness of the diminutive suffix in these compositions is much greater than in normal language:

De lejiyos (por muy lejos) que te vea

m s’alegra el corazon,

donde se hizo candela

siempre ceniza queo.

(No matter how far the little distance from which I see you,

my heart is joyful;

wherever a candle once burned

the ashes always remain.)

Cuanto mas jondiyo un pozo,

mas fresquita sale el agua,

cuanto mas apartaitos,

mas firme esta mi palabra.

(The more little deep the well,

the cooler the water;

the further little apart we are,

the truer is my word.)

Ya que tanto nos queremos

por que no estamos solitos

sin que nadie puea vernos.

(Now that we’re so much in love,

why aren’t we a little alone

where no one could see us.)

The diminutive can also indicate a pejorative meaning, with a clear ironic sense, indicating the opposite of the likeable or agreeable:

Si me s’ajuma er pescao

y desenvaino el cuchiyo,

con cuarenta punalas

s’arremata el asuntillo (mal asunto, terrible asunto)

(If …[?]

and I unsheath my knife

with forty thrusts

I’m done with the little matter [?].)

Another way of intensifying is exaggerated comparison.  But as Demofilo [the first flamencologist, writing a century ago] said, “the pueblo in its coplas never lies; but exaggeration is not a lie, just a mode of fantasy”. And, we could add, of ineffability, of the need to suggest with a brief image that which can’t be detailed or measured without becoming cumbersome (and thus far removed from the spontaneity, brevity and simplicity of the copla):

No me vengas con belenes,

que me pones la cabeza

como molino que muele.

(Don’t come to me with gifts [?];

you set my head spinning

like a windmill grinding.)

Tan imposible lo jayo

de tu querer apartarme

como escirbir en el agua

de una piedra sacar sangre.

(I find it as impossible

to leave your love

as to write on water

or squeeze blood from a stone.)

Arrimate a mi querer

como las salamanquesas

s’arriman a la pare.

(Draw close to my love

like the lizards

draw close to the wall.)

Tienes los ojiyos grandes

como piedras do molino

y parten los corazones

como graniyos de trigo.

(Your eyes are as big

as millstones

and they break hearts

like kernels of wheat.)

As we can see, comparison seeks to avoid vagueness by using concrete, visual images.  Those images are often taken from rural lilfe, helping to create an atmosphere that is clean, simple and primitive.  The copla has its landscape: the pueblos of Andalucia, its taverns, its little houses in the countryside, the olives, wheatfields and plows, the pathways — no, the copla could never have been born in an urban context.

Humor and gracia is where the colloquial language really shines.  The humorous character of some of these compositions is never coarse or shocking, but rather ingenious and amusing in its imagery:

Mira si eres agarrao

qu pa no da ni la sombra

te estas poniendo delgao.

(Look what a cheapskate you are;

you’re becoming skinny

just so you’ll provide less shade.)

Dejate de boberias,

que parece que has comio

un plato de tonterias.

(Cut out that nonsense;

it seems you’ve eaten

a full plate of stupidity.)

Even the cruelty inspired by grudges can provide comic relief:

Permita Dios que te veas

sin chaqueta y sin carsones

en una jiguera chumba

espantando gorriones.

(God grant that you find yourself

without a jacket and barefoot

in a fig grove

scaring the sparrows away.)

Cuando me dice tu mare

que no camele a su nina

me entran ganas de cogerla

y colgarla en una pita.

(When your mother tells me

not to love her daughter

I want to pick her up

and hang her on a cactus [?])

This is the serious and deep gracia of the andaluz pueblo — not the superficial gracia of the usual folklore.

The spoken language uses interrogatives in many ways.  This, an affirmation appears more vivid and convincing beneath an interrogative formulation.  The ascending tone of the question has a certain urgency; it assures the attention of the listener, demanding assent.  This is a theatrical form that gives the copla greater liveliness, as if we were surprised by an intimate dialogue:

?Te acuerdas cuando pusiste

tu cara, junto a la mia

y llorando me dijiste

que nunca me orbiarias?

(Remember when you put

your face close to mine

and, weeping, you told me

you would never forget me?

?Sabes a lo que me atermino?

A dejar mi pare y mi mare

y a guiyarmelas contigo.

(You know how I’ll end up? [?]

Leaving my father and mother

and going off with you.)

At other times interrogation is used to underline the expression of surprise.

Often it comes as an answer to a previous discussion, whose content is suggested by the rhetorical question:

?Que por lo que quieras pase?

He repasaito mis libros;

me tiene cuenta dejarte.

To make your wish come true?

I’ve looked in my books

and I’ve got a story for you.

?Porque un beso me has dao

rine tu mare?

Toma, nina, tu beso

dile que calle.

Your mother laughs

because you gave me a kiss?

Take your kiss, girl,

and tell her to keep quiet.

These rhetorical interrogations can be found within interjective expressions; in these cases, [exclamation marks substitute for question marks].

!Quien lo habia de decir,

que una cosita tan dulce

tuviera amarguito el fin!

(Who would have thought

that something so sweet

would have such a bitter end!)

A very effective way to directly move the listener is to launch the question directly to him, giving him a certain role in what is said:

?No hay quien me pegue un tirito

que me parta el corazon?

Estoy vivivendo en el mundo

con muchisima esazon.

(Isn’t there someone who’s willing

to shoot me through the heart?

I’m living in the world

with so much [grief?].)

De que le sirve al cautivo

tener los griyos de plata

y las cadenas de oro

si la libertad le falta?

(What good does it do a prisoner

to have jail bars of silver

and chains of gold

when he has no freedom?)

Curiosly, the reptition of words can seem to lend economy to the language. It can mark insistence, duration, or augmentative character without having to rely on more complex devices.

Deja que digan y digan  (No me importa que no paren de decir todas las cosas que quieran)

y de mi formen historia,

que er que se muere queriendo

se va erechito a la gloria.

(Let them say and say whatever they will;

and make up whole stories;

he who dies loving

goes straight to heaven.)

Vengan pesares y pesares

que te tengo que querer

manque me mates de hambre.

(Come sorrows and sorrows

I have to love you

though you make me die of hunger.)

Instead of reiteration we may find ellipsis.  The idea or the image, in verbal ellipsis, is more graphic, concrete and alive due to its timeless character:

!(Es) Blanquita como la nieve!

!Que lastima de gachi

que otro gacho se la lleve!

(White as snow!

What a pity for this gachi [non-Gypsy]

that another carried her off!)

(Estando) En un cuartito los dos,

veneno que tu me dieras,

veneno tomaba [sic: usually tomara] yo.

(The two of us in a room;

Were you to give me poison,

poison I would take.)

Simplicity and capacity to suggest explain the use of certain “omnibus words” – elemental or basic words.  This use is justified given the non-literate character of these compositions.  The apparent poverty of vocabulary is compensated for by the ingenious combination of words that can open new paths to meaning.

Thus, to show emotions of love and hate, the coply relies almost exclusively on the words “querer” (to love, want, wish), “bueno” (good), “bonito“ (pretty), “aborrecer” (hate [abhor]), “malo” (bad), “feo” (ugly).  We don’t find words like “amor” (to love), “pasion“, “deseo“, “esplendido“, ”maravilloso” (marvelous), “odio” (hate), “odiar” (to hate), “detestable“, ”molesto“:

Companera mia

mira por quererte

como me veo aborresiito

de toita la gente.

(Companera mia,

look how in loving you

I find myself hated

by everyone.)

Por que me has aborresio,

si no soy mala persona

pa que la tomes conmigo.

(Why do you hate me,

if I am not a bad person,

why act as if I am [?])

El querer quita el sentio

lo digo por experiencia

porque a mi me ha secedio.

(Love takes away sense;

I speak from experience

because it happened to me.)

Junta a un arriate con flores

descansa mi maresita

!Que bonitas son las flores!

(Next to a bed of flowers

my mother rests;

How beautiful the flowers are!)

In colloquial language, from a syntactic viewpoint, juxtaposed oration prevails over subordinated oration.  This use is doubly justified given the impulsive, spontaneous nature of juxtaposed oration compared the the reflective, analytical nature of subordinate oration.

Ya no pueo ni llorar,

(porque) se han secao mis ojitos;

!Matame por caridad!

(I can’t cry any more;

my eyes have dried up;

Kill me, for charity’s (mercy’s) sake!

Vente (Si te vienes) conmigo a un palmar

yo te cogere palmitos

y tu te las comeras.

(Come with me to the palm grove;

I’ll pick the fruits

and you’ll eat them.)

Many other characteristics are found in the colloquial language of the flamenco copla, but perhaps excessive analysis would be exhausting and boring.  Nothing is further from our intentions.  We have attempted to reflect upon a gift that we receive intuitively; and we only hope to share our enthusiasm for the copla and its forms of saying what we live.”

End of article by Juan Pena Jimenez.

Brook Zern

February 15, 2012   No Comments

Flamenco Song Verses – Continued

Some more flamenco verses:

SOLEARES

Acuerdate cuando entonces

bajabas descalza a abrirme

y ahora no me conoces

(Remember when back then

you came down barefoot to let me in,

and now you don’t know me.)

Mira que mala es tu mare

que no te deja salir

ni a la puerta de la calle.

(How bad your mother is;

She doesn’t even let you

go out of your doorway.)

Yo creia que’l querer

era cosita de juguete,

ahora veo que se pasan

las fatiguitas de la muerte.

(I thought that love

was a game to be toyed with;

now I see that it puts you through

the anguish of death itself.)

No digas que m’as querio

sino que ha sido un ensueno

que yo contigo he tenio.

(Don’t say you loved me;

just say it was a dream

we shared.)

Aquel que tenga la culpa

de nuestra separacion,

a pe(d)azos se le caigan

las alas del corazon.

(The one who forced

our separation –

may the wings of his heart

fall to pieces on the ground.)

Que cuidaito se me da a mi

que de mi formen historia;

yo estoy comiendo y bebiendo

y estoy viviendo en la gloria.

(What do I care

if they’re telling stories about me;

I’m eating and drinking

and living in Heaven itself.)

Dime (d)onde estas meti(d)a

que yo te llamaba a voces

y tu no me respondias.

(Tell me where you were,

when I was calling you

and you didn’t answer.)

A pesar de tanto tiempo

por tan distintos caminos

en mi corazon presiento

que tu eres mi destino.

(Through all this time,

even on our different roads,

In my heart I can sense

that you are my destiny.)

Tengo que dejar de verte,

y si solucion no encuentro

se que me cuesta la muerte.

(I am compelled to stop seeing you;

and if this is not resolved

I know it will cost me my life.)

Cuando me siento a la mesa

y en ti me pongo a pensar,

tiro el plato y la comi(d)a

de fatiguitas que a mi me dan.

(When I sit at the table

and start to think,

I throw away my plate and the food in it,

from the grief I’m feeling.)

Tu querer y mi querer

aunque se riegue con llanto

nunca pue’(de) prevalecer.

(Our love,

though watered with tears,

can never prevail.)

SIGUIRIYAS

Si esto que a mi me pasa

le pasara a otro…

Tengo momentos de noche

de volverme loco.

(If what’s happening to me

were happening to another…

At night there are times

when I feel I’m going mad.)

Las manos a mi me duelen

de tanto llamar;

Yo m’e perdi(d)o entre un sueno y otro

por la madruga’

(My hands ache

from so much calling;

I find myself lost between two dreams

in the early morning.)

No lo permitais.

Que los franceses qu’estan en La Isla

se metan en Cai (Cadiz)

(Don’t let it happen –

that the French soldiers on La Isla

enter the city of Cadiz)

Dejarmelos ver, dejarmelos ver…

los ojitos de mi nino Curro

por ultima vez.

(Let me see them, let me see them;

the little eyes of my child Curro

for the last time.)

Con que grandes fatigas

yo le pi(d)o a Dios

de que le alivie a mi mare las ducas

de su corazon.

(With vast anguish

I ask God

To take away the suffering

of my mother’s heart.)

Delant’e mi mare no me digas na(da)

porque naquera (habla) mu malitas cosas

cuando tu te vas.

(Don’t say anything to me in front of my mother

because she says vicious things about you

when you aren’t here.)

Ayy, Curro de mi alma

mandame una carta.

Que con saber que te encuentras bueno

me sobra y me basta.

(Ayy, Curro de mi alma,

send me a letter;

just knowing you are well

would be enough; no, more than enough.)

Dios mio librame, Dios mio librame.

Como me libras de una malina lengua y

de un mal incurable.

(God, free me — free me,

free me from an evil tongue

and an incurable illness.)

Que desgracia es la mia hasta en el andar,

que to’os (todos) los pasos que yo daba p’alante

se me van p’atras.

(What misfortune I find, even as I walk;

Each step I take forward

carries me backward.)

Brook Zern

November 19, 2011   No Comments

Flamenco Song Verses – Soleá – 1

The verses to flamenco songs, created by thousands of unknown and otherwise unsung men and women of Southern Spain, are among the monumental cultural treasures of humankind.   They are also little known outside of their birthplace, and rarely studied with the respect and attention they deserve.

Here are some traditional verses or coplas from the great central form of flamenco, the soleá (plural: soleares).   They are rendered in Andaluz — the regional dialect of Andalucía, sometimes so impenetrable that even native Spanish speakers say they often can’t understand it well.  (Accents have been omitted).

The verses conform to certain rules.  The soleá has three or four lines of eight spoken syllables (though when written, the exact number is not always evident).  Like great haiku verses of Japan, they distill and concentrate enormous meaning into a small space.  Like great blues verses, each one stands alone — they do not form a developing narrative, as ballads and many other songs do.

Singers typically choose from the traditional verses according to the way they are feeling or the sentiment they want to express.  For that reason, there is no set version of the soleá or any other form of flamenco song.  To that extent, every performance is improvised.  On occasion, singers will sing verses of their own — verses they created previously, or, rarely,  on the spur of the moment.

Each verse takes just moments to read or to say, but each ine take a long time — often several minutes — to sing.  Some lines may be repeated, and the guitarist may interject a melodic variation to give the singer time to gather his or her faculties, but the real reason for the length of time is that many lines are tremendously extended.  A flamenco verse can be a struggle, where the artist faces the enormous challenge of matching the intensity of the meaning with an intensity of expression.

All very romantic.  And some verses can still grab you by the left ventricle and squeeze. However — many of the verses don’t make sense, or don’t have impact, from our utterly different perspective.  Strangely, though, we can often detect the glimmer of some lost meaning despite the cultural chasm.

SOLEARES

Se er quere que puse en ti

lo hubiera puesto en un perro

se biniera etras e mi.

(If the love I gave you

I had given to a dog

it would follow me everywhere.)

No igas que m’has querio;

di que has querio a una piera

y en er mar s’ha sumergio.

(Don’t say you loved me;

say you loved a stone

which sank into the sea.)

En un cuartito los dos,

beneno que tu me dieras,

beneno tomara yo.

(The two of us in a room;

If you gave me poison

I’d take it.)

Er quere que me mostrabas

era porbito y arena

que el aire se los yebaba.

(The love you gave me

was dust and sand

that the wind blew away.)

Dises que soy mar gacho

siendo yo mas jitaniyo

que las costiyas e Dios

(You call me a bad gache [non-Gypsy]

and I’m more Gypsy

than the ribs of God.)

Anda y no presumas mas;

si t’has e tira ar poso

pa que miras er broca?

(Get out of here with your posturing;

If you’re going to throw yourself in the well

why stand there looking at the rim?)

Una nochesita e luna

he bisto ar seporturero

cabando mi seportura.

(On a moonlit night

I have seen the casket maker

working on my coffin.)

Voy como si fuera preso;

etras camina mi sombra,

elante mi pensamiento.

(I walk along like a prisoner;

behind me my shadow,

ahead, my thoughts.)

Te den una punala

que er Pare Santo e Roma

no te puea cura.

(I hope they stab you so badly

that the Holy Father of Rome

couldn’t cure you.)

Ya se me murio mi mare;

I have no one

to wash my shirts for me.

(Now my mother is dead;

I have no one

to wash my shirts for me.)

Hijito e mala mare,

criaito en malas tripas,

reguerto en malos panales.

(Son of a bad mother,

grown in a bad belly,

raised in dirty diapers.)

Ven aca, muje, no jables;

que has tenio nueve meses

dentro e tu cuerpo mi sangre.

(Come here, women; don’t talk;

For nine months you’ve had

my blood in your body.)

Tengo yo un poso en mi casa

y yo me muero e se

porque la soga no arcansa.

(I have a well in my house

and I’m dying of thirst

because the rope doesn’t reach the water.)

Quien se fia de mujeres

muy poco del mundo sabe,

que se fia de unas puertas

de que todos tienen llaves.

(Those who trust in women

know little of this world;

They are trusting in doors

to which every man has a key.)

Dices que me quieres mucho

y es mentira, que me enganas;

en un corazon tan chico

no pueden caber dos almas.

(You say you love me deeply

but it’s a lie, a deception.

Two souls would never fit

in such a small heart.)

Yo enterre mi amor un dia

creyendo que estaba muerto

y de sus secas raices

otras plantas florecieron.

(One day I buried my love,

thinking it was dead;

and from its dry roots

other flowers grew.)

Dos besos tengo en el alma

que no se apartan de mi;

el ultimo de mi madre

y el primero que te di.

(I have two kisses in my soul

which will always be with me;

The last from my mother,

and the first I gave to you.)

Brook Zern

November 9, 2011   No Comments