ernesto cardenal: verses from the pluriverse

still in the spirit of poetry month, an excerpt from ernesto cardenal’s versos del pluriverso (verses from the pluriverse):

if there is an endless number of worlds, they say,
there is also a world where napoleon won the battle of waterloo.
and a world where she requited my love, in granada.
but these worlds and ours will never find each other.

quantum waves are vibrations of the possible.
“quantum waves” they called empty waves.
but in quantum theory there exists no “nothing”.
and an electron “literally has no dimension”.
“to our understanding it is no object.”
(an electron)
the particles are no firmer and no more durable,
they say, than a stream of water from a fountain.
for heisenberg, less substantial than a promise.
if space-time was visible, they believe,
it would have the shape of foam.
bertrand russell still owes an answer to the cab driver.
very old, he hailed a cab and the cab driver recognized him and asked:
“so, what is it all about?”
for the first time in his life he could not respond.

when the universe expands:
then from which centre does it expand?
or is each point the centre?
then the centre of the universe
is also our solar system,
also our planet
(and she, who once was it for me).

one of the things that fascinates me about this work of poetry is that throughout, cardenal expands his views to the unimaginable and then always comes back to the minute particular – the centre of his universe, once, a woman in granada.

a liberation theologian, he always brings philosophy and theology down to earth. we see the brilliance of bertrand russell bursting into foam at a simple question from a cab driver. theory needs to inform us but we have to be able to touch it, at least here and there, at least for a moment. yes, we really do not have good words and concepts (yet) for the form of water in a stream – but it’s there, very real, very important.

ernesto cardenal studied in mexico and at columbia university in the US, and with thomas merton at a trappist monastery in kentucky in 1957. nicaraguan dictactor anastasio somoza declared cardenal an outlaw in 1957 for his support of the sandinista movement. in 1965, he was ordained a priest and founded a christian commune, solentiname. during the revolution, cardenal served as a field chaplain for the FSLN. after the triumph, he served as minister of culture from 1979 to 1988 and promoted literary workshops throughout nicaragua. at present he is the vice president of casa de las tres mundos, a literary and cultural organization based in managua.

i translated this from the german translation by willi zurbrueggen – i couldn’t find either an english translation or the spanish original on the web. the english translation in book form is about to come out, with some amazing translators, including thomas merton and kenneth rexroth.

go here for more information about ernesto cardenal.

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