“My god! A sea!”

Bought a copy of Poet in New York by Lorca from Shakespeare and Co. in Paris after opening up to this poem:

Abandoned Church
(Ballad of the Great War)

Once I had a son named John.
Once I had a son.
He was lost in the arches, one Friday, Day of the Dead.
I saw him playing on the last raised steps of the Mass
and he lowered a tin bucket into the priest’s deep heart.
I pounded on the coffins. My son! My son! My son!
I pulled a chicken leg from behind the moon and suddenly
realized that my girl had become a fish
where carts recede in the distance.
Once I had a little girl.
Once I had a dead fish beneath the ashes of the censers.
Once I had a sea. Of what? My god! A sea!
I climbed up to ring the bells, but the fruit was wormy
and the snuffed-out tapers
had eaten the spring wheat.
I saw the transparent stork of alcohol
picking clean the black heads of dying soldiers
and I saw the shelters of rubber
where the spinning cups brimmed with tears.
I’ll find you, my dear son, in anemones of the offertory
when the priest lifts the mule and the ox with his powerful arms,
to frighten nocturnal toads that roam the chalice’s frozen landscape.
Once I had a son who was a giant,
but the dead are more powerful and can devour pieces of the sky.
If my boy had been a bear,
I wouldn’t fear the crocodiles lying in ambush,
or have seen the sea lashed to the trees
for the brutal pleasure of the regiments.
If only my boy had been a bear!
I’ll lie down and wrap myself in this rough canvas so I won’t feel the cold moss.
I know very well that I’ll be given shirt sleeves or a tie;
but in the middle of Mass I’ll break the rudder and then
the insanity of penguins and gulls will come to the stone
and make those who sleep and sing on street corners say:
Once he had a son.
A son! A son! A son
who was his alone, because he was his son!
His son! His son! His son!


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