Francisco Aragón

Three translations of poems by Gerardo Diego

20th Anniversary Reflections

Francisco Aragón has been an ongoing and reliable supporter of the journal. He was first featured in Beltway Poetry Quarterly in a Portfolio Issue in Summer 2007 (Volume 8:3). His work also appeared in four special issues: Poems About Museums (Winter 2009, Volume 10:1, guest edited by Maureen Thorson with Kim Roberts), the Sonnet Issue (Winter 2015, Volume 15:1, guest edited by Michael Gushue with Kim Roberts), the LGBTQ Issue (Spring 2016, Volume 17:2, edited by Venus Thrash), and the U.S. Poets Laureate Issue (Winter 2019, Volume 20:1, guest edited by Dan Vera), in which he wrote about Juan Felipe Herrera. Aragón served as guest editor of the Floricanto Issue, Volume 13:1, in Winter 2012. That issue featured 26 poems that honor and celebrate America’s immigrant roots, written in response to anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama.

Of his experience editing the issue, he writes: “On February 4, 2011, the late Francisco X. Alarcón, Sarah Browning, and Rich Villar produced the most meaningful literary event I wasn’t able to attend: ‘Floricanto in Washington: A Multicultural Reading in Response to SB1070.’ The backdrop was AWP, for which I was serving as conference chair. When I was presented with the gift of guest editing an issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, it took me all of a minute to decide what I would do: assemble what Alarcón would call a One Poem Festival—in this case, a festival on the web to commemorate that singular evening. Writing my introduction allowed me to recall a related event: William Archila’s visit to Cardozo High School in 2010, where he met with a classroom of mostly Salvadoran-born students who had read The Art of Exile. I remember quoting a poignant question posed by one of the students: “How does it feel writing about our country?” Today, I can’t help but feel both pride and outrage: proud that I was able to showcase compelling literary art that emerged from, and spoke to, that moment; but also outrage that nearly ten years later conditions on the U.S./Mexico border seem to have deteriorated due to the utter failure of our political class—starting with current occupant of the White House, a national embarrassment.”


Three Translations of Poems by Gerardo Diego by Francisco Aragón


for Rodolfo Halffter

Repertoire of the sea
Each day another suit and show

The music so apocryphal
the color so dyed
And how it mimics the sky’s
fabric and waves

A sailboat sinks
and my handkerchief sings and sings and sings

The sea is drifting away
Veering at times a bit to the right
But the lyrics of its ballad are always new
Exhausted sea of countless arrows and masts

The industrious fish
Braiding and unbraiding wakes

The sea is old now
And can no longer sing

And ships that cross
Fall apart with malaise

Color is fragrance now
Music the breeze

The last shipwreck today at six

My flute and the moon
Produce the foam



for Jorge Guillén

I know it’s fruitless
the inquisitive reel
But this revolving door’s my ferris wheel

Empty hands rise
Stars scatter
My coins are flowers
that one day will wither

The day shepherds cease to exist

The street shifts
like my weekly boat
The moon itself lives
on vegetal rhythm

Let’s gift the young poet a compass
the astronomers a roulette
Butterflies adore the office these days
And you can’t interpret this

New day

Yet it was me yesterday dying
every streetlight a wound of mine

At dawn’s station
they’ve hung a sign
The sun checks its daily route
providing honey of its own

On the road’s worn shoulder
my shadow and I say So long

And the passing train’s left
my fists brimming with stems



Homage to Bécquer

Your eyes breathe in the rain’s curls
And when the sun sets on your cheeks
your hair doesn’t wet nor is the afternoon blond

Love Switch off the moon

Don’t drink your words
nor spill into my cup the bitter rings under your eyes
The morning to see you is sporting a tan

Switch on the sun Love
and slay the evening dance


These translations are reprinted from Achiote Seeds (Winter 2008), the chapbook division of Achiote Press, edited by Craig Santos Perez and Jennifer Reimer. In addition to Gerardo Diego, as translated by Francisco Aragón, the multi-author chapbook included work by Javier Huerta, Veronica Montes, and Monica de la Torre. Reprinted with permission of the translator.
A member of the so-called “generation of ‘27,” Gerardo Diego (1896 – 1987) was the Spanish poet among his peers who first became interested in avant-garde poetics. The mode he adopted in his experimental poems was “creacionismo” or “literary cubism.” The pieces published here were written in 1922 while living on the north coast of Spain in a bungalow on the beach. They form part of his collection Handbook of Foams. An accomplished pianist and music critic, Diego went on to publish many books, and was an active editor including as the first anthologist of his co-hort. He earned his living as a high school French teacher. In 1979, he shared the Cervantes Prize—Spanish letters’ highest honor—with Jorge Luis Borges.


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