IN THE BACKROOM OF MEMORY
A Poem by Paz Díez-Taboada
Englished by Sandra Dermark,
on the 19th of June MMXVIII
Dedicated to Ana Laviste Arner
They're still around here, playing ring-o'-roses;
blonde Mari Pepa and a chicken chick
who wistfully deceived his mother hen,
awaiting, eagerly, the fall of night,
for him to run away and see the Moon.
There was a dog as well, whose mournful tale
kept me awake for the long rainy nights.
Shaggy and mournful, he groaned for his life,
offered to craven master's clumsiness.
Soon, the stage was o'ertaken by Snow White,
the lovely princess sauntered on the boards.
With long white beard and doublet olive-green,
and pointy, floppy hat crowned with pompom,
I played Grumpy, the sternest of the dwarves.
¡The poor orphan was such a busy girl!
Yet my favourite was the looking-glass,
the wise mirror that kept in check the pride
of the vain Queen-Stepmother: sorceress
whose withered, knotty hand would offer death.
The one I loved the most was Little Red
Riding-Hood, with her cloak and honey-pot,
though I, sadly, did then not understand
that sometimes the bold huntsman did not come
to save the maiden from the Big Bad Wolf's
hairy clutches, that peeked beneath old Gran's
negligée sleeve-cuffs, lined with whitest lace.
Then, Cinderella opened both my eyes
to the worst of all evils: envious peers,
which force us to work hard for extra hours;
yet the Fairy Godmother wisely taught
us that in make-up lay power sublime,
in lovely dresses, and in fast escape,
although Prince Charming would insist too much.
Later came, pale and wan, her ashy blond
fair hair long to her ankles, Donkeyskin.
She staggers, on pale cover of a book,
wavering, slowly hunch-backed by the weight
of that huge donkey-head upon her back.
Then, 'twas my book again, Ali Baba,
that clever and good fellow, eyes as wide
as saucers as he watched the furious pace
of Forty Thieves storming into their den,
that dark cavern. Now, look and turn this page!
Upon the password, "Open, Sesame!",
the cavern filled with costly treasure hoard:
bracelets, tiaras, necklaces, and crowns,
chests that with dazzling diamonds overflow
—clink, clink, clink; their straight edges say they are—;
the spherical ones are pearls —poom, poom, poom—,
that pour out like a cataract of foam.
But most charming was Ricky of the Tuft,
with snoutlike nose and crooked doodle-back,
and those four strands of hair raised up like flames,
which opened the smiles of fair damosels...
In the end, wit and grace outshone the stance,
stupid and arrogant, of princes vain!
And one day came the hero, though so short,
so familiar and humble...! With high boots,
ceremonious and deft, he dropped the hat
with the cavalier brim airy and wide,
arched his lithe back, and answered, courteously,
to those covetous royals: —Say, whose are
these lands in such full blossom, bounteous crops,
and castle —once it was the ogre's keep—...?
Everything is my master's, the Marquis's,
this lovely shire rightfully belongs to
my master, Lord Marquis of Calabash!
And thus, with childhood, they all marched away,
towards the backroom of my memory.
Yet Saturday and Sunday afternoons,
washed by the rain, when I clean all the house,
order the wardrobes, pick newspapers out,
and dust and shoo insistent moths away,
shake off the spiders of my everyday,
those old companions still parade once more,
and deftly stride forth, in tough Wellingtons,
Sir Thomas of the Thumb and Puss in Boots,
who, hat in paw, meows to me with a smile:
—These flowering plants are my master's all.
Grandfather's portrait, the liquor flacon
that is so lovely, the books and LPs,
they're all forever, and they all belong
rightfully to my master and my lord,
my master, Lord Marquis of Calabash!