“The Mandala,” from Amor sin fin (Forever Love)

translated by George Evans & Daisy Zamora

An intricate mandala traced in thin henna red lines

for Bud

¡Sí, es azul, tiene que ser azul!

– José Gorostiza

I can’t free myself from my boredom
always completing circles
swallowing myself
like the serpent
swallows its tail.
I’m scarcely a dream
of some trivial
a flying carpet
that discovers trails
then loses them.
I am the voice that calls me
and I don’t decipher
the flame
that ignites
and lies hidden
my mandala covers me
drifts away
you are at the center
holding a sword
and a flower
surrounded by drawings
that trouble me
spider webs
juguemos la araña*
poems that start
but don’t end
the poem,
the poem
I’ll never finish
it catches up
and abandons me
hides in debris
Ali Baba’s caves
blurred faces
scattered numbers –
the one that reigns is the five
petals that one day
will dance on my grave
you will be my juggler
and always were
you sang my sadness
our love
the joy
and drew your singing
with crests of words
opening in colors
the coarse beauty
of stones
that convert to flames
and get inside me
and I rejoice
even though they burn me
I sing
and sing.
I oppose those
who think love is docile
it appears as it wishes
without being called
and rises and falls
and transforms itself
and dies
and resurrects sometimes
and doesn’t die.
Love is pain
the ego altered
and yoke
and battle
prison horror
desire to escape
and dream
a challenge to life
and death.

What’s wrong with my love?
It’s turned to violet:
an inescapable

Passions rule me
I don’t reason
confuses me
and I sing
and sing,
“What’s your name?

I go on
among scorpions
and silhouettes
herds of giraffes
trying to reach
the stars.
I light my lamp again
light the caves
that guard my mandala
my mandala a challenge
a hideout
I don’t understand it
an infinite
my whole life there
all my I
the caves hold dreams
that burst
into my dreams
I feel like the character
of an impersonal tale
who searches
and searches
but never finds anything
not even
her name

Was the she-wolf mocking?
April is the cruellest month
Was her gaze one of mockery
and not love?
I’ve always been fearful
prophesying deceits
and disasters
believed by no one.
I’m Cassandra
I’m the she-wolf Cassandra
and just howl
amazed by the world
that worsens day by day.
How do I sing this
my minstrel?
I don’t want you to sing it
your lips will wrinkle
become white
the horror and rage
will move you away from me.
My mandala envelops me –
I discovered recently –
the sun was crimson.
When did you arrive?
You are the center
what matters is the search
and that leap toward the search
challenges us.
Navigating between light
and dark
there are floating memories:
Machu Picchu
those are my riches
the memories that float
and never die
they cover me
reveal me
I have seen my mandala
at last I’ve seen you
you ignore my questions
but I know you are me
my compass
my map
the gypsy
the obsessive traces
of my earthly
I’m exiled
in this threshold
my sense of smell revives
my ghosts
the city of my childhood
its markets –
no rumor subdues
its rumors,
no aroma
its aromas.
Don’t say anything
free the heart
to travel
and travel
to ask death,
who is alive,
for that final kiss
it craves.
Let it drink the air
drink the green
that surrounds it.
My life flickers
I burn with desire
explore new worlds
see them with my ear
savoring their skin
with the febrile tips
of my fingers.
I want to liberate the heart
from lament
so it plunges naked
into the void
so it goes mad
hurls its accumulated love
at the spheres.

Translation from the Spanish by George Evans & Daisy Zamora

* pizpizigaña / juguemos la araña: A rhyme from the Central American children’s game Pizpizigaña.

+ What’s your name? / Matarilililili: A fragment of song dialogue from the Central American children’s game Matarilililili.

Editorial note: Excerpt from Amor sin fin (Forever Love) translated by permission of the author.

Read George Evans and Daisy Zamora's tribute to Alegría, who died in 2018.