Saturday, March 31, 2012

Crepuscule for Juana

photo © Mark Butkus 2012
Sunset in Key West.

All is calm and peaceful...In the fading light of day
the smell of jasmine fills the evening air,
in the distance over crystal clear waters,
the beating wings of swans are heard

Like a flock of snow-white flowers,
they glide over the smooth surface.
Dark bats emerge
from a thousand hiding places

And a thousand turns, and capricious spins
in tranquil skies they score a symphony
Or fly very close to the ground,

Scarcely skimming with wings of gray
the yellow petals of the bitter thistle
or the virgin blooms of the humble malva

Crepuscule for Juana is an interpretation of Juana Borrero's Crepuscular which follows below in its original Spanish. I came across Juana Borrero while walking through the Key West Cemetery at dusk. The cemetery guide refers to her as, "A prominent figure in Hispano-American thought, this modernist poet, correspondent, and painter was born in Puentes Grandes, Havana, Cuba. She emigrated with her family to Key West in 1895 because of her father's involvement in the Revolution. Her works are collected in La passión del obstáculo: poemas y cartas by Francisco Moran." Juana Borrero died of tuberculosis in 1896. She was eighteen years of age.


Todo es quietud y paz... En la penumbra
se respira el olor de los jazmines,
y, más allá, sobre el cristal del río
se escucha el aleteo de los cisnes

que, como grupo de nevadas flores,
resbalan por la tersa superficie.
Los oscuros murciélagos resurgen
de sus mil ignorados escondites,

y vueltas mil, y caprichosos giros
por la tranquila atmósfera describen;
o vuelan luego rastreando el suelo,

rozando apenas con sus alas grises
del agrio cardo el amarillo pétalo,
de humilde malva la corola virgen.

— Juana Borrero


  1. This was such a peaceful poem. i love your translation as well as the original. Thank you so much for sharing. I'd never heard of this poet. Also big thanks for visiting me over at "the infamous."

    Happy writing and I look forward to dropping by again.


  2. Loved this - your interpretation is great.