Che’s Poetry (2): The Grandfather – Nicolás Guillén

Here’s one poem from Che Guevara’s “Cuaderno Verde”, as mentioned in my previous post. Nicolás Guillén was a Cuban poet, and studied law at the University of Havana before working as a typographer and journalist. He was also a political activist, which perhaps is a reason why Guevara included his poems in his notebook.

My apologies for the copious punctuation – it’s the same in the original, so I can’t really get rid of it. It’s also quite strange and jumpy, but if you’ve read much Spanish poetry you’ll probably be used to that.

Guillén, 1942

The Grandfather

This angelic woman with Northern eyes,
who lives attentive to the rhythm of her European blood,
is unaware that in the depths of that rhythm
a black man beats the hard heads of deep drums.

Under the severe line of her sharp nose,
her mouth traces a short line in a fine stroke,
and no crow dirties the untrodden snow
of her flesh, that shines tremulous and bare.

Oh, my lady! Look at your mysterious veins;
row in the live waters that flow inside of you,
and see passing by lilies, nelumbiums, lotuses and roses;

and, troubled, you will see next to the fresh bank
the sweet dark shadow of the grandfather who fled,
the one who curled forever your yellow hair.

Che Guevara’s “Cuaderno Verde”


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