Your depiction—in Margarita,
How Beautiful The Sea—
of my homecoming to León in 1907
once again filled my arms with bouquets
that dampened my silk suit, baskets of flowers
and fruit, which I accepted with a nod
though leaving them in the hands of my entourage,
a cambric handkerchief wiping the sweat
dripping down my face and neck.
And as I opened a path for myself, village
folk pressing around, their lips at my sleeves,
a little boy with curly hair led the way
clutching the flag of Nicaragua.
I loved how you had Momotombo,
years later in 1916, blow—
moments after I drew my last breath,
the volcano producing a deep rumbling,
sending people into the streets,
a spatter of sparks lighting the sky.
I wasn’t aware (of course) of what came next—
your novel placing me there, in that room:
The doctor’s scalpel blinking like a star
in the moment it traced the incision
on my forehead, my scalp folded back, the saw’s
fine teeth biting into cranium, he
feverishly snipping ligaments, holding in his hands
my brain, seconds later proclaiming:
“Here it is—the private vessel of the muses!”
More than cringe, I blushed
at being handled with such care.
Perhaps you’re surprised by this letter?
You shouldn’t be. Anything is possible
in this racket of ours. But artful
is not how I’d describe that piece
you penned last November. You see:
those letters to Amado were real.
I bargained with myself, rewrote them
to preserve them, precisely because I knew
what would happen—you know
as well as I: he would have destroyed them
after reading them: What will people say?!
(he with wife and children) held sway…
I was in New York shortly after New Year’s
in 1915 heading home, when I wrote to him
one more time. But you were right
and I’m mildly embarrassed to admit it:
I told a little lie on those sheaths
of Hotel Astor stationery in Times Square:
the poem I enclosed wasn’t composed
in Barcelona expressly for him:
it was a piece of juvenalia, I know, but one
I had a soft spot for, and which I re-titled
and dedicated—to him. It was a running joke
between us: sending each other our fluff.
And yet, it’s ironic Sergio: thank you
for being complicit, for hinting at
my understory. How did you manage to nail
those final hours? I was indeed lying curled up
on my side, wrapped in a thick, gray blanket, snoring
lightly, my mouth slightly open as my fingers gripped
the silver crucifix that Amado—yes, Amado Nervo—
had given to me in Paris
when we shared that apartment
in Montmartre, and that I always carried
with me. I’d like to think that, somehow,
you knew—and know—this truth.
I’m waiting for the day when you,
the world, stop fighting it. I am
dead, and the dead are very patient.
In November of 2012 Arizona State University issued a press release announcing the acquisition of a privately-held collection of manuscripts created by Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, who is widely recognized as the founder of Spanish American modernismo. The collection consists of 900 or so handwritten pages of poetry, essays, stories, and personal letters, nine of which revealed for the first time an intimate relationship between Darío and the famed Mexican poet Amado Nervo. Shortly after ASU made its announcement, the Nicaraguan novelist Sergio Ramírez published an article in which he renounced the letters as fake.
Reprinted from MiPoesias, June 2014, with permission of the author.
Francisco Aragón is the son of Nicaraguan immigrants. He is the author of After Rubén, (forthcoming in 2020 from Red Hen Press), His Tongue a Swath of Sky (a limited edition chapbook, momotombito press, 2019), Glow of Our Sweat (Scapegoat Press, 2010), and Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press, 2005), as well as the editor of the anthology The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press, 2007). In 2017, he was a finalist for Split This Rock’s Freedom Plow Award. He directs Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. A native of San Francisco, he divides his time between Arlington, Virginia, and South Bend, Indiana. As a translator from the Spanish, Aragón has had a hand in a number of books, including volumes by Francisco X. Alarcón (1954 – 2016) and Federico García Lorca (1888 – 1936). More recently he’s been rendering into English versions of Rubén Darío (1867 – 1916). His translations have appeared in Chain, Chelsea, Jacket, Nimrod, and Zyzzyva. Other web pages for this author on Beltway Poetry: Francisco Aragón: Summer 2007 Francisco Aragón: Museum Issue