I was born in the century of the death of the rose
when the motor had already driven out the angels.
Quito watched as the last stagecoach rolled away,
and at its passing trees ran by in perfect order,
and also hedges and houses of new parishes,
at the threshold of the countryside
where cows were slowly chewing silence
as wind spurred on its swift horses.
My mother, clothed in the setting sun,
stored her youth deep in a guitar
and only on certain evenings would she show it to her children,
wrapped in music, light, and words.
I loved the hydrography of rain,
yellow fleas on apple trees,
and toads that rang two or three times
their thick wooden bells.
The great sail of the air manoeuvred endlessly.
The cordillera was a shore of the sky.
A storm came, and as drums rolled
its drenched regiments charged;
but then the sun’s golden patrols
restored translucent peace to the fields.
I watched men embrace barley,
horsemen sink into sky,
and laden wagons pulled by lowing oxen
travel down to the mango-fragrant coast.
There was a valley with farms
where dawn set off a trickle of roosters,
and to the west was a land where sugarcane
waved its peaceful banner, and cacao trees
stored in coffers their secret fortunes,
and the pineapple girded on its fragrant cuirass,
the nude banana its silken tunic.
It has all passed, in successive waves,
just as the useles ciphers of sea foam pass.
Entangled in seaweed, the years went by slowly
as memory became scarcely a water-lily,
its drowned face
looming up between two waters.
The guitar is only a coffin for songs
as the cock wit hits head wound laments.
And all the earth’s angels have emigrated,
even the dark brown angel of the cacao tree.
Jorge Carrera Andrade
Translation from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown