Maria Elena Blanco

MARÍA ELENA BLANCO. Poet, essayist and translator born in Havana, Cuba, who writes in her native Spanish and translates contemporary poetry from English, French and German into Spanish. As, from early youth on, she grew up bilingual in New York, she translates her own poetry into English and has also developed her own English poetic voice in a style quite distinguishable from her Spanish one. She has published six books of poetry and one volume of literary criticism in Spanish. As a member of Labyrinth, the Association of English-Speaking Poets in Vienna, she has two poetry chapbooks in English and has participated in numerous Labyrinth group readings and performance. She is a frequent participant in international poetry festivals and literature colloquia and her work is featured in printed and on-line literary magazines. Besides Cuba and the U.S., she has lived in France, England and Chile and currently resides in Vienna, Austria.



A century ago today the Empress was assassinated in Switzerland
and this place was still ours, became fashionable for honeymoons.
Thus reads (I translate) a postcard found in via Sanita, now called Diaz,
where Joyce lived with his children and Norah (oh Norah), the spouses
and kids of his children and used to put off Pound's entreaties from
nearby Sirmione and was writing Ulysses. The coffee (misleadingly sold
as Viennese) is less good than Italian but much better than Prague's and
in Duino every evening Rilke's soul wanders out for a brisk passeggiata.
How far -or how near-is that Triestine Dublin from this Germanic Trieste
which we reach from the strada di Vienna in the opposite direction, in the
midst of rebellious and mixed bloods and languages. Those insurance
headquarters and the Orthodox church would lend Joyce a vicarious
prosperity, a saving ritual –but he was a bohemian: adulterous, atheist.
And reportedly he has not been translated into German. We roam about
the Jewish quarter and browse in antique shops, order pasta and pay
Austrian-style. We are hybrids, as hybrid as they, we are danubean
mediterraneans coming down to Tergestum, to the sea.
                                                                          Let's rejoice,
dear husband, the spread-out sails are ready to race the Barcolana as if
hailing our nuptials. It's a good omen. Let us enter the Aosta Dukes' hostel
to fulfil this brief moment, the future, our -shall we call it thus?-happiness.


                                       To Hillary Keel

                                        ...long, corner-squeezed houses infinitely watching the trains go by...

                                               Jorge Luis Borges, The South

Sitting in the winter garden, I take the keys,
put on my boots to go out in the snow
and head back to the city.
Outside, the backyard is a milky sheet
cut across by nightly shadows and the shimmer
of a lamp post, the greenery provided
by the interior rubber trees and cactuses
and the whitish pines stepping in
through the high clear walls.
Suddenly, in the dark silence, the tramway,
the last one, skims just past the glass pane
and sends me reeling from country to country, to the ranch,
the hospital, the blow
on the staircase with the open leaf,
and from there to the classroom,
the professor now dead
and the book I still owe him,
the streets of my childhood and that other
windowed staircase,
to my South of souths,
the souths of my

Fortunately, Hillary, you found
the car keys in the winter garden.
Thanks for the evening, thanks
for the magic
of your home.


Once the tears of Eros are shed
the red omnipotence
breaks loose,
                    surge of boiling atoms
intent upon fulfilling their end:
fusion of opposites,
              That is,
                     the fatal constitution,
the bipolar axis
which will have opened up the space
of otherness,
              the rose
and its temporal kingdom,
the game of submission and subjection
--elements of the law
             of the jungle.
the nasty formality
with background music
             (maximum cool,
little romanticism).
Then will come
             life in common
tying the vicious link
fatally vowed to


the park's footpaths between the dormitories
lead to loss.
                     Up on high
obedient to the laws of chance
invisible planets fashion
the inevitable.
                     April is the cruelest month
there's a tremor in the air
and a five-o'clock
coralline haze.
                    At the portal
the foreshadowed offer
is prepared.
                   Talkative ministrants
throw orange flowers at her feet,
                  comment on
the imminent betrothal.
She comes with her ripe fruits
in their own right--
                  on the turning point,
a maiden voyage,
                  carrying but her bag
and some precipitation,
ready to take the plunge.
                  She emerges
bathed in a milky halo
her classic torso draped in silk
already full of secrets
                  on the threshold of April
the cruellest month
                  --handmaid of Venus
                                      sings the choir--
leaving behind her innocence
which has suddenly become
utterly useless


                                  For Indian poet Rati Saxena

man-made muck
and motor automation
all crisscrossing in space
clashing in time

wide patches of color or discolor:
goddess line-up for make-up
rose-petaled funeral bed
on live-and-dead-and-deadly-
matter-saturated river

feet: all-bearing feet
fast-forward race
of running limbs and blithely trampling tires,
dagger-sharp draughts from close encounters
of asphalt, metal, skin
laid-back slow-pace
of dark earth-rooted beasts
knapsack-bent children
buses that stop-step-gas-and-go

static deities with folded feet
and manifold hands

hands: human hands
printing, gluing, binding books
cleaning fish, prawn, crab for curry
frying finger-twisted rounds of dough -jellabi
(like sizzling Spanish churros)
squeezing syrupy sugar-cane juice
(like sweet Cuban guarapo)
held-forth hands
for eating
lighting incense


deft and detached extremities of

motion emotion
emotion motion

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