Editor's Note

Who is the “you” in these poems? If it is the poet Alicia Aza herself, then who is the I? A curious dialogue shapes these poems even as we cannot catch any distinct subject and object. The unexpected emotional inversions of these poems haunt— if mud has memories, hope is a crop. Trees anchor the surreal, fluid images.

— Mani Rao
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Translator's Note

When I first met Alicia Aza in Serbia in 2013, she had published only two books of poetry. She showed me the unpublished manuscript of a clumsy English translation of her first book,  El Libro de los árboles, and a more accomplished published French one. While working with Stephen A. Sadow, my long-time collaborator in translating Spanish-language poetry, on her 2011 book El Viaje del invierno (since published by Červená Barva Press as Winter Journey in 2021) I decided to tackle El Libro de los árboles on my own. These four poems are from that adventure. Diffident in Spanish, I began with the French and English crutches I had on hand, and made sure to run my versions under the careful editorial eyes of others.

            Since then, Aza’s reputation has soared in Spain, and she has been hailed as “one of the essential poets of her generation.” Steve and I have also published a translation (Architecture of Silence, Valparaíso U. S. A.) of Aza’s magnificent and moving long poem about the agonies of our age, reflected from her commitment to international humanitarian causes.

— J. Kates

Branches Complicit with the Wind

From the fragrant complicity
you surged in the shape of a word
present thoughts
of your body and your image
that cross the precipices
and fan dying embers
in the fire of your altars
laments that tumble down
and turn into lethal tongues
that caress my passive body.

A voluntary silence
navigation slow and cruel
to the quiet island
where the horizon meets.
And your ears repeat
words already present
that emerge again and again
and invoke ephemeral desire.
You are the barren branch
broken by the wind.

The Song of the Earth

Like the wind dancing with branches
I must cradle my thought
so when the day ends
the agony of dry,
weeping leaves will die.

Through the free openings of dream
you let desires escape
followed by the roots
of melancholy snakes,
usurpers of mourning.

You sail among the havens I love
Seed of the careful day
the many fertile shadows
beyond that sad night
at the Brandenburg Gate.

A Mahler song sings
with the scent of the fresh perfume
of a Freya who comes forward
under the linden trees moving
through the twilight of dreams.

Eternal sleep of quiet poetry.

The Silence of Cicadas

(T. W. Higginson visits Amherst)

Our cicadas stopped their singing
and I came out in the autumn to redeem you
for those places of clay in the earth
where I had planted a crop of hope.

A memory lies concealed, lingering
behind leaves scattered in the fields
exhausted, waiting to become humus
nourishment for unhappy reparations.

You were a dream inflamed by these days
insomnia coming again and again in the shadows
a melancholy trajectory of stars,
a particle of wisdom held back.

Today I returned for the ripe seed-time
of dreams hidden and sent into exile
and only the dust retains your memory
in earth covered with mud.

The Escape of the Willow

Like the sweet apple on the high branch, the highest one, that reddens forgotten by the apple pickers. No, not forgotten: they are unable to reach it. –Sappho

Get up and look out the window
to mourn the tree slain today.
The treacherous fog
outlines its absence.

Hide the painful silhouettes
lying and redeemed
by drunken apples.

Dream mycelium filaments
under the echo of dogs howling
at brandy truffles
scented delicacies.

Lie back with the feet of the faithful oak
everything occurs in wide spirals
of lost leaves
stolen by the wind.
in the vast memory of branches
tenuous extenders
of dreams trodden under.

Follow the symmetrical vapors
the perverse hearth of memories


Alicia Aza (author)

Alicia Aza, by profession an attorney specializing in corporate law in Madrid, has  published five books of poems: El libro de los árboles (2010);  Las Huellas fértiles (2014), both of which were  nominated as finalists for the Andalusian Premio de la Crítica; \ El viaje del invierno (2011) which won the International Rosalía de Castro Poetry Prize, and which has also been translated into English as Winter Journey (Červená Barva Press: 2019); Arquitectura del silencio (2017) translated into English as Architecture of Silence); and Al final del paisaje (2021) Her literary work has appeared in many international journals and anthologies, and been translated into English, Arabic, Bulgarian, French, Italian, and Serbian. She is a member of the Writers’ Association of Spain and vice president of La  Asociación Internacional Humanismo Solidario.

J. Kates (translator)

J. Kates is a minor poet and a literary translator who lives in Fitzwlliam, New Hampshire. His website is jkates.net.

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