Two Poems

León Felipe
Translated from the Spanish by Walter Smelt

Los Muertos Vuelven

Los muertos vuelven,
vuelven siempre por sus lágrimas.
El poeta que se fue tras los antílopes
regresará también.
Nuestras lágrimas son
monedas cotizables.
Guardadlas todas . . . todas,
para las grandes transacciones.
Hay estrellas lejanas
y yo sé lo que cuestan.

The Dead Come Back

The dead come back:
they return always through their tears.
The poet, who left chasing after antelope,
will also come back.
Our tears are
coins, worth something.
Save them up
for the big purchases.
There are stars far from here,
and I know what they cost.


Oración

Señor,
yo te amo
porque juegas limpio:
Sin trampas—sin milagros—;
porque dejas que salga
paso a paso,
sin trucos—sin utopias—;
carta a carta,
sin cambiazos,
tu formidable
solitario.

Prayer

Lord,
I love you
because you play clean.
No stacking the deck, no miracles.
Card by card,
you let me lay them down—
no utopias, nothing
up your sleeve—
as I play out
your terrible
solitaire.

León Felipe (1884–1968) was born in Spain but was forced to move to Mexico during the Spanish Civil War because of his Republican sympathies. His poetry is bardic, and often biblical in rhythm.

Walter Smelt is a second-year MTS student at Harvard Divinity School. He has an MFA in poetry from the University of Florida. His poems and translations have appeared in Poetry East and Subtropics.

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