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The New Year

The last few days have settled atop me like a dreary blanket. If only the sun would shine. If only I could be walking along a beach with bright blue stretching beyond me. Somewhere in the gloom rise up a few lines from the Hungarian poet Sándor Kányádi, whose work I've promised myself to read in the new year. Not that our Blue Ridge Mountains have been icy, as Sandor describes the Carpathians. But lately they have seemed gray and overbearing. Or is this an internal landscape I'm describing? Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

And then my husband turns on CNN with its images of Gaza under attack and like Sandor Kányádi I want a gulp of light and color and hope, more than one gulp, actually. The reference to the Spanish Poet Federico Garcia Lorca, his voice a broken string, murdered in an olive grove by fascists, makes me want to call out, despite everything, with this Hungarian poet about whom I know nothing, to a place within a country suffering its own internal horrors---Cartagena, Cartagena!

"one gulp of your light and color
will be plentiful enough
in the icy Carpathians
to gild my remaining years with love"

Brief Encounter with Cartagena

Composed by a Hungarian traveling singer
on a broken string of Federico Garcia Lorca

Plowing water with one wing
the airplane started flying low
till among lagoons it came
upon a landing strip aglow;
the sky was brightly bubbling blue,
the ground became a green concave
when the plane bumped down to land
letting its engines roar and rave,
the tiny little huts on stilts
tucked their scanty shadows in,
rattling like flea-market toys,
wind-up frogs, made out of tin,
earth in sky and blue in green,
each lived in the other’s face
with a drunken-love embrace,
and the sign said: Cartagena.
A noon like that I’d never seen,
fired by a flaming sun,
in it bushes, bays, and huts
mingled in erotic fun;
the plane stopped there a half an hour,
the time it takes to birth a child
or inter an unknown dead
found abandoned in the wild,
but in that time you seduced me
and since then kept me in your thrall,
I dream of life in one of your huts,
forgotten by and forgetting all;
atop the staircase rolled up to
the stranded plane I plainly saw
that your earth and sky, green and blue,
were mine to drink, oh, Cartagena.
Taking off I felt quite sure
the vibration of each hut
had a loving couple in it,
belly to belly, butt to butt.
Oh, why did we have to part,
why didn’t you tighten your embrace?
Now every season is a winter
and snow surrounds me every place.
I’d give my soul, my salvation,
for just one of your sultry nights,
I’d gladly exchange eternity
for one moment of your delights!
This love has made a fool of me,
a loving fool who sobbingly writes
about his fear he’ll never see
his love again, oh, Cartagena.
But one gulp of your light and color
will be plentiful enough
in the icy Carpathians
to gild my remaining years with love;
what we have is but a pale
imitation of your sun,
it rises and sets reminding me
of the brightness now long gone.
Oh, your blue and green, you Siren
of the Caribbean Sea,
your blinding light has forever
etched your magic name in me;
to gringos you’re a travel poster
but to me a love come true,
I often catch me calling you,
Cartagena, Cartagena.

Translated by Paul Sohar