Return to the South? by Joaquín Brotóns Peñasco, Translated from Spanish by Hayden Bergman

Return to the South?

to Pablo García Baena

What's the point of heading south—My dead friends:
Rafael Pérez Estrada, Vicente Núñez, Rafael Medina...; Pablo Garcia Baena and Jose de Miguel
have returned to their native Córdoba, nothing is the same
in the "City of Paradise."
Those nocturnal bars, the ambiance...where we always found the southern ephebes virile,
radiant with African skin and coral lips,
they no longer exist.
"Arcos,” “La bubú,” “La rosa negra.” “Potros”: They’ve all closed their doors…,
the alcohol shined
in the black eyes of the hungry panther--the leopard of desire--, the rum and the whiskey
had the flavor of a summer night and the bodies
were incandescent flames
covered in blue scales of foam and saltpeter that burned, that hugged the icy wind and frost
that withers all the bishop’s weeds, the ones that sprout
in that marvelous land where sex
is always welcome, joyful, natural and spontaneous, without ridiculous prejudice
or deciduous bourgeois two-faced morality.

Whatever happened
to those beautiful bisexual boys that shared with us those nights of interminable pleasure,
together in the blue and sandy chest of the Mediterranean,
its waves shining against the golden torsos of marble carved by gouge and chisel.
What would have happened
with Rafael, Juan and so many other hedonistic Andalusians---venal young men--
that sweetened my cold and solitary nights
when sex converted itself into love--
I haven’t since been able to undress if I don’t feel the rapture, the fury of love...
--this only lasts for a few instants, a few moments--,
the trembles running through my body, that shuddered when I touched the red velvet skin
of a young man full of life,
full of vitality that sprouted from the fountain of his energetic sex.

What sense does it make to return to the south if everything is different now.
And, however, I go on,
every year,
faithful to a tryst with the beautiful, epic, carnal contact,
that river of raging, lowdown lava,
furious, runaway, crazed, like a wild horse that neighs in the blinding light of a full moon,
searching in the starry darkness for the snow and perfume
of violets and orange blossoms of love
that wheel around the rugged mountain and impetuously run in immense fields of moon rocks,
of mother-of-pearl and ivory,
a story of bronze backs, steel and iron, a jungle of stone sculptures and sharpened pocket knives
with bull horn handles
that melt before the beauty of earthly Olympic gods.

Why do you go back to where you were happy, if you know that you've grown old
and that your time is passed,
if only charred embers remain, mortally wounding,
and the sun no longer lights yesterday’s ample smile, the one on which the lips
of loving passion thickly drew themselves.

Why do you return,
if everything is different and your world has died, expired, been forgotten
between the broken tombs of heartbreak,
where weeds grow,
disappeared between the yellowish bed sheets of lace that warm and adorn the splendid past,
that scramble through the giant wings
of a bronze angel covered in laurel ivy
in the ditches and the overflowing ponds perfumed with pink and white rose petals
that flood the Elizabethan mirrors
that decorate your house, the one in which the dusty art-deco armchairs
together with the Alfonsino credenza
and the centennial bull's eye clocks negotiate the yellowed, sepia photos of your ancestors,
and contemplate the portraits
of the lovers of your youth, always beautiful, narcissistic and unfaithful partners,
young soldiers in battle…, handsome,
like blue and purple bougainvilleas in bloom that run up the wall, unpolluted
by love.

Now nothing is the same and the deafening trumpets of embossed silver play a retreat.
Go back to your cell, hermit, poet,
and long for those days that were golden with young love and full of celestial light
that filtered through holes of passion
that you lived intensely when you were happy and caressed the lips of a sensual, dark pleasure,
outlawed by upstanding society...,
those fresh, humid lips, today are fragmented and parched, and they draw a strange map
of caves and empty caverns
abandoned by humanity and inhabited by vermin.

Don't head back to the south, poet, your time has passed away. And the new generations
that yesterday sought out your company,
flee today, horrified before the old skeptic, alone and dipsomaniacal, in solitude,
in the high and early morning,
when the final cup is drained—beset by doctors, he contemplates the beauty, the longing
of all that which he should let pass,
although he desires it immensely and with passion, like when he was younger
and pink granite delivered itself into his arms,
in the strong branches that sprouted from the athletic torso of the body desired,
whose smooth and delicate skin, like that of Hermes,
caresses the fine and delicate edges of a dream; the dream of a southern love
that you held in your hands so many times, making reality,
kissing it,
sweetly caressing it,
while the full moon watched and the bothered breath of the hurricane spit enigmatic shadows
on the elegant sand of the beach
that the sea returned to the bottom of the ocean, together with the galleons
and their hidden treasures,
wrapping them between the fog and the thunderous rumor of the giant waves
that throw old logs, seaweed, and roots
against the pier of heartbreak,
the cleared out dock of ruined wood where the boat of dreams sparkles,
the fragile boat
in which the young and muscular sailors, torsos naked, drink wine and vermouth
from large conch shells
that smell of an unruly, frenzied sea...,
that excites their sexual instincts,
when the stars are accomplices in the drunk and half-naked chants
that hail the new day
that illuminates
their southern life.
 Málaga, 2006-Valdepeñas, 2007.  

Author and Translator Bios


Joaquín Brotóns Peñasco was born on February 16, 1952 in the sixth house (now the fourteenth) on Real Street, a central and popular street in Valdepeñas (Castilla-La Mancha), Spain. He was born into a well-known and respected family of winemakers, dedicated to the bottling and export of wine, among other activities. After the closing of the family business, Brotons worked in the municipal government of his native city as an administrator, where he coordinated the city bulletin “Valdepeñas Informativo.” He also served as the head of the Municipal Museum of Valdepeñas, a museum that contains one of the best collections of contemporary art in Castilla-La Mancha. 

On May 26, 2014, the city of Valdepeñas bestowed upon Brotons the Juan Alcaide Medal of Letters in recognition of his work in both poetry and prose. A decorated and accomplished poet, Joaquín Brotons’s work has been included in numerous anthologies and has been translated into both French (Francoise González-Rousseaux) and Greek (Paris Bantudis). Among his many titles are Pasión y Vida, Espejo de Sombras, and Adiós, Muchachos.


Hayden Bergman is a poet, translator, and teacher. His poetry, translations, and essays have appeared in The Laurel Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Lit Pub, and other journals.

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