Poem of the Day: Daisy Zamora, 50 Love Poems and an Unfulfilled Confession to Ernesto Cardenal

by Mark Chmiel

If I had known Ernesto as he appears
in the yellowed photograph Julia showed me:
lean, bearded, with his plaid shirt and linen pants,
hands in his pockets and that vague air of helplessness,
I’d have joined the April Rebellion for him.
Together we might have gone to spy on Somoza
at the Yankee Ambassador’s party.

Who would have been his sweetheart in those days?
La Meche or Adelita or maybe Claudia,
Ileana or Myriam. Eternally sweet young girls
who smile from old photographs
mislaid in who knows which old chest of drawers.

Myriam leaves the church in her yellow dress,
as sheath for her dark and graceful body.
Ileana passes at a great distance
further away than Andromeda’s galaxy.
Adelita pales as she turns the corner
and comes upon him suddenly.
Claudia prefers parties and horse races
to one of Ernesto’s epigrams.
Meche remains the most mysterious.

I met Ernesto in ’72
when he said mass at the little Solentiname church.
He didn’t even speak to me, barely turned his face.
That’s when we met
and he doesn’t even remember seeing me there.

It was after the insurrection of ’78
that he finally noticed me.
He showed up at clandestine Radio Sandino
because he’d heard I was a poet
and a combatant.
In my wildest dreams I never imagined
our meeting would happen as it did.
He arrived as if it were nothing,
walking through the evening mountain rain.
He entered the shack and asked for me.

Why did he ask? That meeting was decisive.
From the first I got along with him
as well as my grandfather in other times.
A long history began right there:
four years helping him invent the world,
organizing the Ministry of Culture
with the fervor and faith of a child
on the morning of his first communion.
Those years were almost happy (as Mejia-Sanchez would say).
Although he is still moved by a memory or two,
none of them was what he wanted:
neither Claudia, nor all the others
I leave unnamed.
Like Saint John of the Cross
or Saint Theresita of the Child Jesus
(she didn’t want a doll, but all the world’s dolls)
he was only satisfied with all the Love there is.

Now he possesses God through the people: he is
married to God!
That’s why I tell him, had I
been his sweetheart way back then
his poems to me would not have been in vain.
He says: “What a pity, time wasn’t on our side.”
But I’m not listening.

trans. Margaret Randall and Elinor Randall

1309048090_188-MAG-CR-Daysi

Daisy Zamora, late 1970s, Costa Rica

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