I, the Bird

EL PÁJARO YO
(Pablo Insulidae Nigra)
I, THE BIRD version by Denise DeVries

They call me [name] bird,
a single-feathered avian,
clear-shadowed flier
of confused clarity
with unseen wings;
my ears ring
when I pass through trees
or below the tombs
like a fatal umbrella
or a naked blade,
stretched like a bow
or round as a grape,
I fly and fly, unknowing,
wounded in the dark night,
who will await me,
who flees from my song,
who wants me dead,
who won’t know I’m arriving
and will not come to conquer me,
to shed my blood, to wring me
or kiss my tattered hem
in the whisper of the wind.
So I return and I go,
I fly and I don’t fly, but I sing:
I am the furious bird
of the tranquil storm.

ME llamo pájaro Pablo,
ave de una sola pluma,
volador de sombra clara
y de claridad confusa,
las alas no se me ven,
los oídos me retumban
cuando paso entre los árboles
o debajo de las tumbas
cual un funesto paraguas
o como una espada desnuda,
estirado como un arco
o redondo como una uva,
vuelo y vuelo sin saber,
herido en la noche oscura,
quiénes me van a esperar,
quiénes no quieren mi canto,
quiénes me quieren morir,
quiénes no saben que llego
y no vendran a vencerme,
a sangrarme, a retorcerme
o a besar mi traje roto
por el silbido del viento.
Por eso vuelvo y me voy,
vuelo y no vuelo pero canto:
soy el pájaro furioso
de la tempestad tranquila.

My recent translation of Aldo Palazzeschi’s poem “Chi sono?” reminded me that I’d been wanting to try a new version of Pablo Neruda’s “El Pájaro Yo.” Although it’s usually translated as the “Me Bird,” I felt that there’s an important distinction between “Me,” (self as object) and “I,” (self as subject). Most of the poem seems to imply that the bird is helpless, a possible object of attack, but it has potential energy (stretched like a bow), and in the end, the reminder “but I sing” shows that the bird is in control of its fate.

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