Night of the lagoon

The following might be a poem, or a story, I’m not sure which. I wrote the piece first in Spanish, and then translated it into English. Something about the narrative reminded me of one of my favorite South American authors, Horacio Quiroga, so I wrote it first in Spanish.

Please listen, if you have time. It took me almost an hour to figure out how to upload the darn file! But now I know how. That’s how it is when we have to teach ourselves, a lot of trial and error.

A poetry workshop leader said recently that she didn’t think it was fair to use symbols from dreams in poems. The symbolism is too personal, too obscure to be understood. But to me, the image of the water seemed universal. Who hasn’t dreamed of dark water, or being swept up by giant waves? And the neighbor is more than likely myself, seen as the other.

Tell me what you think. Is it fair to use dream imagery in poems?

noche de la laguna/night of the lagoon (audio)

Noche de la laguna

Anoche soñé que una inundación
subió hasta el segundo piso de mi casa.
Todos salimos a las terrazas
para averiguar por qué el aire sabía a ranas.

Era de noche, y la luna se reflejaba
en un espejo oscuro de agua.
Me inliné sobre el balcón, pensando
¿cómo voy a escaparme?

En los jardines las coronas de los árboles
se asomaban de la laguna como enormes
caras de hombres frondosos. Desde su terraza
mi vecina de al lado se clavó los ojos

en los míos y me dijo, sin sonido,
como sólo ocurre en los sueños,
– No fui yo. No me eches la culpa.
Tenía razón, la pobre. Siempre le culpaba

por todo. Volteé la cabeza, fastidiada.
Esta vez me empeñé en no bañarme.
Me acordé de las otras veces cuando sí
nadé en los ríos sombríos, atiborrados

de cocodrilos de color azabache,
o cuando me encaré con un muro
de olas que me tragó y me tiró
hasta las profundidades.

Volví al interior de la casa, y cerré la puerta –
por esta vez una solución sencilla se me ocurrió
antes de despertarme.


Night of the lagoon

Last night I dreamed that a flood
rose to the second floor of my house.
We all went out to our back porches
to find out why the air smelled like frogs.

It was nighttime, and the moon was reflected
in a dark mirror of water.
I leaned over the balcony, thinking
how am I going to escape?

In backyards crowns of trees
rose from the lagoon like giant
faces of leafy men. From her porch
my next door neighbor fixed her eyes

on mine and told me, without sound,
as it happens only in dreams,
“It wasn’t me. Don’t blame me.”
She was right, poor thing, I always blamed

her for everything. I turned away, annoyed.
This time I was determined not to bathe.
I remembered the other times when
I did swim in dark rivers teeming

with jet-colored crocodiles,
or when I faced a wall of waves
that swallowed me and threw me
to the depths.

I went back inside and closed the door –
for once a simple solution occurred to me
before I woke up.