Today’s poem from Federico Garcia Lorca comes from the collection he wrote in New York on a visit in the late 1920s. Although the title is rather anodyne, rendered in English as “coming back from a walk”, the content of the poem is rather disturbing, with dark, violent and distressful images throughout the poem. The city of New York must have been a very different experience for the poet than the laid-back lifestyle of his native Andalusia, so perhaps this poem captures some of his understandable sense of alienation.
Vuelta de paseo
Asesinado por el cielo,
entre las formas que van hacia la sierpe
y las formas que buscan el cristal,
dejaré crecer mis cabellos.
Con el árbol de muñones que no canta
y el niño con el blanco rostro de huevo.
Con los animalitos de cabeza rota
y el agua harapienta de los pies secos.
Con todo lo que tiene cansancio sordomudo
y mariposa ahogada en el tintero.
Tropezando con mi rostro distinto de cada día.
¡Asesinado por el cielo!
The opening line establishes the tone of the poet as a victim of fate, murdered by the heavens. The line is repeated at the end, this time with exclamation marks, giving a symmetry to the whole poem, but also reinforcing the accumulation of threatening images which form the body of the poem in between these opening and closing lines.
The poet wanders between mysterious shapes and announces he will let his hair grow, meaning there is no point in taking care of himself or his appearance in a hostile world. He sees a tree full of severed limbs which don’t sing, a child with a face as white as an egg, animals with their heads smashed in, and so on up to the butterfly drowned in ink. The poem has the same feel as one of the surrealist paintings, perhaps like one of Salvador Dali’s works which actually put images like this across the canvas.
The final two lines bring back the focus to the poet himself, encountering his won face in a different way each day, indicating the variability of his moods inspired by such alienating surroundings – but the final line reinforces his feeling that all of these experiences are sapping his energy and life -force, and that none of this is under his control.
The Poetry Dude