Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Dream of the Alligator


With a massive trunk that would roll with the wave,
The alligator lies stranded upon the shore;
It's spine shaped liked the Andean Alps,
With it's fearsome jaws and formidable tail.

The sun shines down on it's resplendent aura;
And it seems to look bigger and bigger,
This steel-like monster glistens
And quivers with iridescence.

Still as a sacred idol,
A knight in shining armor,
The alligator lies on shore motionless and somber

Feeling like Prince Charming
Who lives forever as a prisoner
In his crystal palace by a river.


— José Santos Chocano


The Dream of the Alligator is a Bar None Group translation of El Sueño del Caimán by José Santos Chocano (1875-1934). El Sueño del Caimán is included in Chocano's best known work of poetry — Alma américa, poemas indo-españoles published in 1906. Born in Lima, Peru José Santos Chocano Gastañodi is considered one of the most important leaders of Latin-American Modernism and was celebrated as "The Poet of America" by the government of Peru in 1922.

Temperamental, to say the least, Chocano was involved in many violent literary feuds. In 1925, he shot and killed journalist Edwin Elmore and served two years in jail for the murder. Upon his release from prison he lived in abject poverty and was himself stabbed to death in 1934 on a streetcar in Santiago de Chile. His assailant was never apprehended.


El Sueño del Caimán

Enorme tronco que arrastró la ola,
yace el caimán varado en la ribera;
espinazo de abrupta cordillera,
fauces de abismo y formidable cola.

El sol lo envuelve en fúlgida aureola;
y parece lucir cota y cimera,
cual monstruo de metal que reverbera
y que al reverberar se tornasola.

Inmóvil como un ídolo sagrado,
ceñido en mallas de compacto acero,
está ante el agua estático y sombrío,

a manera de un príncipe encantado
que vive eternamente prisionero
en el palacio de cristal de un río.


— José Santos Chocano