Nine Excerpts from Padre Tierra: A Poem in 50 Parts

[translated poetry]

I sleep and everything sleeps.
The bread dough sleeps
in the bowl covered
with a damp cloth.

The jars are sleeping
in the cupboard,
each a womb
of enameled glass.

Quinces sleep,
household suns,
on embroidered bridal linens
in the hope chest.

Tomorrow you’ll be fine.
Between dreams, I hear you.
Tomorrow, you’ll run, as if this were nothing.
It’s just that you’re growing.

*

You sit down on the stone by the river
and the reeds. Your back straight,
eyes on the horizon. The river speaks.
Kneeling, the stone listens.

*

All this was the sea, you say.
You unearth a fossil,
a primitive fish
asleep forever.

The forests are coral
reefs. The coral reefs
are forests. Time
marks the tides.

You also unearth
a translucent larva,
the harsh yawn of the empty nest,
a blade of grass,

the calcified jaw of a cow
on the edge of the path,
the extinguished embers
of an ash stain.

*

Your hands, Padre Tierra,
rest on your knees
like migratory birds
after the painful journey over the lakes.

*

You walk barefoot
over the ground
that knows you and smells you
like a dog once lost.

You walk over furrows
sharpened by ice,
among the broken stalks.
Without fear or anger,

your feet almost blue,
misshapen like lumps.
Slowly, asking for nothing,
you join the abandoned fields.

Come back, Father, we tell you.
Our voices are not enough.
You belong to the ice
and its silence.

*

I hide from your silence
that comes across centuries,
that comes from your father
and your father’s father.

I hide from the lineage.
Fishing line and skein that unite
and entangle us. We are two,
but we are a thousand, Father.

*

I wait for you, Padre Tierra,
on the stone anointed by your past.
I sit there, like you,
by the river and the reeds.

My hands grow toward the ground,
knees bleed.
Dawn breaks over the world.
Light polishes edges,

builds the mirage
until the son of future days
arrives. He says my name
as I say your name.

The son comes
wrapped in new glories,
the mane of history,
the moment’s rigor.

*

I offer my chest and my failure,
my breastplate, the twisted metal
piling up
in the thunder of ancestors

with the dying apples,
geometric insects,
furtive moss, cut furrows,
turtle doves, branches,

chestnut trees, starving nests,
jaws, conches,
spores, dry trail of snails,
the juncture, lavender, your gray eyes.

*

Footsteps and wounds, Padre Tierra.
An opening and a scar, Hijo Tierra.
Wounds and footsteps that form us.
I close my eyes. We breathe.

[original text]

Nueve extractos de Padre Tierra: Poema en 50 segmentos

Duermo y todo duerme.
Duerme la masa del pan
en la artesa cubierta
con paño de lino apenas húmedo.

Duermen las jarras
y su vientre
de vidrio esmaltado
en la alacena.

Duermen los membrillos,
soles domésticos
sobre ajuares bordados
en armarios pacientes.

Mañana ya estás bien.
Entre sueños, te oigo.
Mañana a correr, como si nada.
Es que estás creciendo.

*

Te sientas en la piedra, junto al río
y las cañas. La espalda erguida,
los ojos en el horizonte. El río habla,
la piedra escucha, arrodillada.

*

Todo esto fue mar, me dices.
Desentierras un fósil,
un pez primitivo
dormido para siempre.

Los bosques son arrecifes
de coral. Los arrecifes
son bosques. El tiempo
marca las mareas.

Desentierras también
una larva translúcida,
el bostezo áspero del nido vacío,
una brizna de hierba,

la quijada de res calcárea
al borde del sendero,
el rescoldo extinguido
de una mancha de ceniza.

*

Tus manos, Padre Tierra,
descansan en las rodillas
como aves migratorias
tras el doliente viaje de los lagos.

*

Caminas descalzo
sobre la tierra
que te conoce y huele
como perro pródigo.

Caminas sobre surcos
acuchillados de hielo,
sobre rastrojos.
Sin miedo ni violencia,

azules casi los pies,
deformes como tormos.
Despacio, sin pedir nada,
acompañas la orfandad de los baldíos.

Vuelve, Padre, te decimos.
La voz no alcanza.
Perteneces al hielo
y su silencio.

*

Me escondo de tu silencio
que viene de los siglos.
Que viene de tu padre
y el padre de tu padre.

Me escondo de la estirpe.
Sedal y madeja que nos une
y enreda. Somos dos,
pero somos mil, Padre.

*

Te espero, Padre Tierra,
en la piedra ungida de tu historia.
Allí me siento como tú
junto al río y las cañas.

Crecen mis manos hacia la tierra,
sangran las rodillas.
Amanece sobre el mundo.
La luz bruñe contornos,

compone el espejismo
hasta que llega el hijo de los días
futuros. Dice mi nombre
como yo digo tu nombre.

El hijo viene
envuelto en glorias nuevas,
melenas ancestrales,
rigor del presente.

*

Ofrezco mi pecho y mi fracaso,
mi coraza, el avieso metal
que se amontona
en la maraña de los antepasados

junto a manzanas que agonizan,
insectos geométricos,
musgo furtivo, surcos acuchillados,
tórtolas, pámpanos,

castaños, nidos famélicos,
quijadas, caracolas,
esporas, rastro seco de limacos,
juntura, espliego, tus ojos grises.

*

Pasos y heridas simultáneos, Padre Tierra.
Apertura y cicatriz. Hijo Tierra.
Heridas y pasos que nos forman.
Cierro los ojos. Respiramos.

Translator’s Statement

Padre Tierra (Olifante 2019, Zaragoza, Spain) is a book-length poem inspired by Mariano Zaro’s own relationship with his father, a farmer, and the rugged landscape of his home in Northern Spain.

Through recurring references to nature and vivid memories of the speaker’s father, the poem
offers readers a glimpse into a private universe, imbuing everyday scenes with symbolic
meaning.

In a quiet voice reminiscent of Luis Cernuda’s poetry, this ambitious work considers the father’s life and legacy as a means of understanding the son’s own identity: his fears, his
revelations, and his transformation from childhood to adulthood.

Translating this book, I considered precision, form, and sound, of course, but what seemed most important to me was emulating Zaro’s tone. The tone is what first drew me to the poems, their intimacy and their urgency.

Mariano Zaro is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Decoding Sparrows (What Books, Los Angeles, CA) and Padre Tierra (Olifante, Zaragoza, Spain). His poems have been included in the anthologies Monster Verse (Penguin Random House), Wide Awake (Beyond Baroque, CA), The Coiled Serpent (Tía Chucha Press, CA), and in several magazines in Spain, Mexico, and the United States. He is a professor of Spanish at Rio Hondo Community College (Whittier, California). www.marianozaro.com

Author Headshot

Blas Falconer is the author of three poetry collections, including Forgive the Body This Failure (Four Way Books, 2018). He is a poetry editor for The Los Angeles Review and teaches in the MFA program at San Diego State University.