Reposted to reflect the author’s name…
Primero, el poema. First: the poem…
ERA UN NIÑO EN LOS 70
no le hacíamos caso paula no era una niña
llegaba con los ojos repintado
los zapatos de su madre
el bolsito y andaba
tropezando una tarde nos reimos a lo bestia de mi padre
es guardia civil
y os va a fusilar como a los rojos
(De Para quemar el trapecio)
Álvaro García. Aparece en: Luis Antonio de Villena, Fin de siglo(El sesgo clásico en al última poesía española): antología. Colección Visor de poesía. (Visor: Madrid, 1992) 184
I WAS A KID IN THE 70s
we paid no mind Paula was not a girl
she came with her eyes overly made up
her mother’s shoes
the handbag and walked
tripping one afternoon we laughed like hell at my father
he is a civil guard
and he will execute you like the reds
The translation here is my own. It worked on it way too quickly, but in some ways the speed reflects the conversational nature of the poem.
The first thing that strikes the reader is the lack of traditional punctuation signs. No upper case letters or periods to indicate the beginning and the end of an individual utterance. No commas to indicate breathing points. The title: “I Was a Kid in the 70s” indicates some of the basic premises of the narrative stance of the poem. “I Was a Kid” means I am not a child any more – this is being brought out of the vault of childhood memories for some reason. The reason is never revealed, and really is not important. The lack of punctuation makes for a tempo that reflects the nature of memory – fluid, rapid, moving from object to object without respecting the presence of periods or exclamation points.
The first line indicates a childish rejection of others, as we “paid no mind” to Paula, who was not a girl. That is a problematic statement. Does that mean she is the kind of childhood friend who defies gender perception? At the same time, Paula comes in performing her best impression of a grown woman, in her mother’s shoes – high heeled most likely? She probably chose the highest set of heels she could find. Then you have the rest of the outfit: handbag, overly made up eyes. Just like Paula is performing her best impression of a grown woman in 1970s Spain, however, the narrator pulls a Freudian slip as the children laugh at the father, who is a civil guard, a guardia civil, part of Francisco Franco’s domestic enforcement forces. The punch line is the last line, where our narrator, in a moment of childish honestly, describes his father’s possible reaction, violently executing those who mock him – which stands for opposition, as he executed members of the Spanish Communist Party, who probably participated in the civil war of the 1930s. The lack of normative punctuation and orthographic markers helps to show how the perception of violence exists at the same level as Paula’s role playing in the beginning.
The memory of violence is spontaneous, an element of daily life that became ingrained as a normal element of life, so normal that it became part of the kind of childhood role playing depicted in the first half of the poem. The spontaneous appearance of violence turns it into something that has now become part of child’s play. It is, however, only a memory, something that apparently now belongs to the past, just like playing dress-up with our little girlfriend.
That is the content of the poem. The content provides one with an opportunity to start thinking about the nature of political violence such as the one Francisco Franco exercised upon Spain during this regime. The violence eventually becomes part of the everyday, something everyone takes for granted and learns to avoid at a personal level.
How we internalize this kind of violence begs the question of how possible is it to emerge from this kind of violent regime without carrying on daily acts of violence, violence that had become part of child’s play? The most important transformation, in this case, is not the external transformation of practices followed by police officers in everyday life, but the internal one, the one where the cultural memory gets to transcend the cultural and political group identities that defined the previous regime, such as Communist or Republican (this refers to the Second Republic, not the United States party!) or Fascist. Just as important is learning to transcend the pain left from the massive systematic violence that such dictatorships used to cement and maintain their power.
The author of the poem, Álvaro García, comes from Málaga, Spain, and was born in 1965. [i] He is the youngest of a group of Spanish poets called “the generation of the 80s.” He was awarded the 24th International Poetry Price by the Loewe Foundation for his book Canción en blanco.[ii] He is the author of El río de agua (2005), Caída (2002), Para lo que no existe (1999), Intemperie (1995) and La noche junto al álbum (1989).
[ii] http://www.laregion.es/noticia/180427/loewe/poesia/andaluz/alvaro/garcia/, http://www.alvarogarcia.org/