The Beat Goes On (and a poem)

SkeletonSummer is on its last legs. I hate to see it end. It’s been a long summer. It’s been a short summer. It was great. It was horrible. It started out good, really good. Then I ran into disappointment, then anger, and finally grief. But, hell, I guess that’s the story of life. Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not.

At the beginning of summer, I went to a party, a “Hamfest”. Not ham as in “to eat”. In fact, it was a vegetarian spread. (I, myself, am not a vegetarian. I agree that the meat industry is vile, but some people are starting to get a clue, and there are farmers raising free-range and organic fed livestock and poultry. I can’t afford that meat, but I  purchase organic fruits, veggies, and eggs from free-range chickens, at least. If I had my own home, I’d grow some veggies, like I used to. At any rate, I’m not going to stop eating meat. These incisors are not for tearing into my salads, my veggies and fruit. Or even my bread. Mmm, I love bread. I am sorry for the brutality of the psychopathic corp meat industry. The old Native way was always “in a good way”, a sacred way, with ceremony, with respect, reverence, and gratitude. I’ll bet this is taught still, outside the Mainstream.) The “Hamfest” referred to performance, an opportunity to “ham it up”.  Anyone, who wanted to, could get on the list to perform. There was a list for 8:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., and 12:00 a.m. Initially, I thought, Oh, man, I’ll be long gone before midnight. But I not only enjoyed reading my work, I also enjoyed hearing other people’s poetry, singing, and/or playing an instrument (piano, violin, guitars, and even an accordion). 12:00 a.m. came up fast, I was wide awake, and I wanted to hear people perform, so I was still there at midnight. It was great. Maybe I’m nerdy, but it’s the best party I’ve ever been to. Generally, I’m not the party type, but this was different.

A lovely, Argentinean woman told me of a famous Chilean singer/songwriter by the name of Violeta Parra.  Her most famous song is called Gracias a la Vida. There is a movie about her. She told me my poetry reminded her of Violeta. After I read the first time, this woman burst into tears. She was up next to perform, to play her accordion, but she couldn’t. I’m glad she did play later on in the evening. I loved it. She told me my poetry “stunned”.

I’ve been researching this Chilean artist, who committed suicide in 1967.  The movie is called Violeta Went to Heaven, and was a Sundance winner in 2012. I found it on Netflix. The movie tells her story, more or less. I’ve found some information about her online, and I can see how the movie wasn’t quite accurate, but it was an approximation. I still think it’s a wonderful movie. I had to read the subtitles, because I hardly speak Spanish anymore, barely understand it, sometimes not at all.

In my research, I discovered that Joan Baez recorded this song. Joan Baez fans, I suppose, already know this. I found a YouTube vid of her singing Gracias a la Vida, but it’s inaccurate. I guess she forgot the lyrics, since it wasn’t a young Baez. She seems to have it right on another vid, her 1974 recording. Apparently, in 1974, she recorded an  album called Gracias a la Vida; all the songs are in Spanish. But I don’t like her rendition of this beautiful song. I know people love Joan Baez, but I never could take her voice: there’s too much vibrato, too high-pitched; it hurts my ears, makes me cringe; it feels like fingernails scratching a slate blackboard. Ugh! :/ Linda Ronstadt she ain’t. And, most certainly, she’s no Violeta Parra. I have fallen in love with this artist.

I found some translations online of Gracias a la Vida, but they are terrible. Some downright wrong.  Most say, “Thanks to life”, which is a literal translation. “Here’s to life” is close, but I prefer “I’m grateful to life.” That’s more the meaning–grateful to experience life, to live, be alive, grateful for the Earth walk. I translated the song, my way. I had to look up some of the words, of course. But as I looked them up, some began to return to my memory. The more I listen to Parra, the more I understand what I hear. I can feel the beauty, as well as the meaning of her songs, even if I don’t catch all the words right off. The more I understand the Spanish words, the more beautiful the experience of listening to them.

The song says, “…me dio dos luceros…” Luceros are bright stars, but it’s also a poetic way of referring to eyes. One really bad translation said, “it’s given me two stars”. That’s just silly. The song says “life gave me two eyes”, but it says it beautifully, poetically, using “luceros” instead of “ojos”. Initially, I translated that as “bright eyes”, but changed it to “brilliant eyes”. Translations have to convey meaning, not the literal words. Sometimes the words have to be changed to arrive at the intended meaning, so translating poetry is no easy task. It takes Ezra Pound capacity to achieve the accuracy of beauty. I don’t know how I did, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the horrible ones I’ve seen online. Some fool translated ladridos into “bricks”, which are ladrillos. Ladrido is a bark, a scream, or howl. The song expresses gratitude for being able to hear. We don’t hear bricks, for Pete’s sake. Well, yeah, if they’re tapped, flung and land on a hard surface, dropped, but, come on, when you think of hearing, you don’t think “bricks”.  😀

I was on a roll, doing this research, listening to the songs, working on translations, when stuff began to happen, and it broke my concentration, and I got into a funk. I couldn’t write. I wanted to write, and I couldn’t, except in my personal journal. But grief, once it goes deep, which it finally did, stirs my creativity. Writing this poem has released me from the funk, and I can now return to my Violeta Parra project.

I have other projects I want to get to also. I promised myself on my birthday that I’d get

Painting in progress of a garden in a park.

Acrylic painting in progress of a garden in a park.

back to painting. I want to start by finishing this one, which I started before moving to San Francisco. Damnit, it’s been too many years. What, like seven? Geezus. Painting makes me happy. Not finding time for it, makes me very unhappy.

I’m happy to end summer with a new poem.

Blue Moon

A big blue moon
hung low
the night I was born.

A million stars
in the raven sky
blinked yellow,
white, red, blue.

I think of you,
I think of death.

Game card number fourteen called La Muete.

Card from Mexican game called Loteria.I think of you.

You’re not worth it.

Humans are insane.
No one is immune.

You and I,
no less the same.

If I keep you near,
you make me mad.

You’re my death.

I have to leave.
I want to live
another day.

You need,
you take,
don’t give back,
like a sociopath.

You laugh
at my pain,
like a sadist.

My love
can’t cure you;

you’re too far gone.
I leave you to God.

I see the full moon
hang high, hang low.
It is white, yellow,

orange, red, blue.

The stars blink
different hues.
The sky has colors too:
black, grey,
blue, violet, pink, red.

The sun hangs there
every day,
like a cyclops eye.

I think of you and weep.
You make my heart hurt.

There is Beauty in life.
It’s healing.
I’m sorry
you can’t see it.
♥  ♠  ♠  ♥


About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet. Artist. Grammy of one, a granddaughter. Mom of three, son and two daughters, all grown. Individualist. Care-taker of Isabel, an agoraphobic, fear-aggressive, very nervous, delicate flower, Chihuahua mix.
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