Charged as fabulists and cast out of the city,
we wander back and forth, sleeping now in caves,
now in the open, feeding on herbs and roots,
and when we’re lucky enough, honeycomb.
Our women and children have come with us,
and when we gather around the evening fire
they turn, one after the other, to look at the city:
after all, we lived part of our lives there.
But reason insisted. How could they
stand for it, our calling the stones rivers? The trees stars?
How could they suffer us to name the bird magnolia?
Reason insisted. And now, from here,
we look sadly at the vast bronze gates,
at the tallest towers yet gilding in the sun;
and as the caravans come and go,
the merchants describe gold tables and cups,
altars magnificent with offerings,
and how, in every room, were stockpiled the missiles
that in the coming millennium, they say, will set the sky on fire.
Reason insisted. And now, primitive tribe,
we wander back and forth babbling our dialect,
our language of the lost city that nobody
understands. How could they
stand for it, our calling fire fish, water dove?
How could they suffer us to name the rose destiny,
those, who continue to believe that acorns are acorns?  


Translation of “La ciudad del sol.” Copyright the estate of Horacio Castillo. Translation copyright 2011 by Samuel Gray. All rights reserved.

Expulsados de la ciudad bajo el cargo de fabuladores,
vamos de un lado al otro, durmiendo ya en cuevas,
ya a la intemperie, y alimentándonos de hierbas y raíces
o con la miel de algún panal hallado fortuitamente.
Han venido con nostros las mujeres y los niños,
y cuando nos reunimos junto al fuego del atardecer,
sus ojos se vuelven una y otra vez hacia las murallas:
después de todo, allí pasamos parte de nuestra vida.
Pero lo exigía la razón. ¿Cómo podían soportar
que llamáramos a la piedra río, al árbol estrella?
¿Cómo podían soportar que llamáramos al pájaro magnolia?
Lo exigía la razón. Y ahora, desde aquí,
vemos con tristeza las anchas puertas de bronce,
las altísimas torres doradas por el sol;
y cuando entran o salen las caravanas
los mercadores describen las mesas y vasos de oro,
los magníficos altares cubiertos de ofrendas,
las armas que colman todos los recintos
y que en el próximo milenio, dicen, incendiarán el cielo.
Lo exigía la razón. Y ahora, como una horda,
vamos de un lado al otro balbuceando nuestra lengua,
hablando el dialecto de una ciudad perdida
que ya  nadie comprende. ¿Cómo podían soportar
que llamáramos al fuego pez, al agua paloma?
¿Cómo podían soportar que llamáramos al la rosa destino,
ellos, los que creen que las bellotas so bellotas?




Horacio CastilloHoracio Castillo

Horacio Castillo (Ensenada, Argentina, 1934–2010) published eight books of poetry, as well as numerous volumes of Greek and Portugese poetry in translation. His own work has been translated into French, English, Italian, Greek, and Portuguese, and his critical essays on Latin American and Greek poetry have appeared in six different book-length collections. Horacio Castillo’s work as a poet, translator, and critic has brought him dozens of awards and honorary distinctions, including the Argentine National Foundation for the Arts Literary Translation Award (1988), the Konex honorary diploma (1994), the Argentine Poetry Foundation Award (2002), and the Faro de Oro (2005).

Translated from SpanishSpanish by Samuel GraySamuel Gray

Samuel Gray is currently a graduate student at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where he teaches courses in creative writing and literature. His translations of Horacio Castillo's poetry have previously appeared in International Poetry Review.