Friday, March 6, 2009

Cardenal's Prayer for Marilyn Monroe

The Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal was born on January 20, 1925. He is considered by many critics to be the greatest living Latin American poet, often compared with another Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío.

Well-known as an advocate for justice, Cardenal served as Minister of Culture under the Sandinista government in Nicaragua from 1979 to 1988. In the 1980s, Pope John Paul II reprimanded Cardenal for promoting a liberation theology that the prelate found divergent from Roman Catholicism. The day before the Pope held mass in Managua, a commemorative service for seventeen Sandinistias was held in the plaza where the Contras killed them – the very same location of the Papal mass. Pope John Paul failed to acknowledge the event or offer condolences to the families of the murdered. He also expressed criticism of Cardenal for resisting his order to resign from the government.

Cardenal was educated at Jesuit schools in Nicaragua and in Mexico. He attended Columbia University where he became acquainted with many English language writers, developing a special fondness for the work of Ezra Pound.

Cardenal was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1965, having received a call to serve the poor. He helped establish a Marxist-Christian community on Solentiname Island in Nicaragua.

In this poem, written in 1965 after the death of Marilyn Monroe, Cardenal offers a prayer that she, and all who live absurd lives, might find mercy before God.

I'm posting the poem here in Spanish, with an English translation below.

Oración por Marilyn Monroe
Ernesto Cardenal

Señor
Recibe a esta muchacha conocida en toda la tierra con el
nombre de Marilyn Monroe
aunque ese no era su verdadero nombre
(pero Tú conoces su verdadero nombre, el de la huerfanita violada
a los 9 años
y la empleadita de tienda que a los 16 se había querido matar)
y que ahora se presenta ante Ti sin ningún maquillaje
sin su Agente de Prensa
sin fotógrafos y sin firmar autógrafos
sola como un astronauta frente a la noche espacial.

Ella soñó cuando niña que estaba desnuda en una iglesia
(según cuenta el Time)
ante una multitud postrada, con las cabezas en el suelo
y tenía que caminar en puntillas para no pisar las cabezas.
Tú conoces nuestros sueños mejor que los psiquiatras.
Iglesia, casa, cueva, son la seguridad del seno materno
Pero también algo más que eso…
Las cabezas son los admiradores, es claro
(la masa de cabezas en la oscuridad bajo el chorro de luz).
Pero el templo no son los estudios de la 20th Century-Fox.
El templo – de mármol y oro – es el templo de su cuerpo
en el que está el Hijo de Hombre con un látigo en la mano
expulsando a los mercaderos de la 20th Century-Fox
que hicieron de Tu casa de oración una cueva de ladrones.

Señor
En este mundo contaminado de pecados y radioactividad
Tú no culparás tan sólo a una empleadita de tienda.
Que como toda empleadita de tienda soñó ser estrella de cine.
Y su sueño fue realidad (pero como la realidad del tecnicolor).
Ella no hizo sino actuar según el script que le dimos
- El de nuestras propias vidas – Y era un script absurdo.
Perdónala Señor y perdónanos a nosotros
por nuestra 20th Century
por esta Colosal Super-Producción en la que todos hemos trabajado.

Ella tenía hambre de amor y le ofrecimos tranquilizantes.
Para la tristeza de no ser santos
se le recomendó el Psicoanálisis.
Recuerda Señor su creciente pavor a la cámara
y el odio al maquillaje – insistiendo en maquillarse en cada escena –
y cómo se fue hacienda mayor el horror
y mayor la impuntualidad a los estudios.

Como toda empleadita de tienda
soñó ser estrella de cine.
Y su vida fue irreal como un sueño que un psiquiatra interpreta y archiva.

Sus romances fueron un beso con los ojos cerrados
que cuando se abren los ojos
se descubre que fue bajo reflectores
¡y apagan los reflectores!
y desmontan las dos paredes del aposento (era un set cinematográfico)
mientras el Director se aleja con su libreta
porque la escena ya fue tomada.
O como un viaje en yate, un beso en Sinapur, un baile en Rio
la recepción en la mansión del Duque y la Duquesa de Windsor
vistos en la salita del apartamento miserable.

La película terminó sin el beso final.
La hallaron muerta en su cama con la mano en el teléfono.
Y los detectivos no supieron a quién iba a llamar.
Fue
como alguien que ha marcado el número de la única voz amiga
y oye tan sólo la voz de un disco que le dice: WRONG NUMBER
O como alguien que herido por los gansters
alarga la mano a un teléfono desconectado.

Señor
quienquiera que haya sido el que ella iba a llamar
y no llamó (y tal vez no era nadie
o era Alguien cuyo número no está en el Directorio de Los Angeles)
¡contesta Tú el teléfono!


Oración por Marilyn Monroe, y otros poemas, Ediciones La Tertulia, 1965, reprinted, Editorial Nueva Nicaragua-Ediciones Monimbo, 1985.


Lord

Receive this girl known around the world by the
name Marilyn Monroe
although that was not her real name
(but You know her real name, that of the little orphan girl violated
at age 9
and the little store clerk who at 16 had wanted to kill herself)
and who now presents herself before You without any makeup
without her Press Agent
without photographers and without signing autographs
alone as an astronaut facing the night of space.

She dreamt as a girl of being naked in a church
(as reported by Time)
before a prostrated crowd, with heads to the ground
and she had to walk on tiptoes so as not to tread on the heads.
You know our dreams better than the psychiatrists.
Church, home, cave, are the security of the mother’s breast
But also something more than that…
The heads are those of her fans, it is clear
(the mass of heads in the darkness beneath the stream of light)
But the temple is not the studios of 20th Century-Fox.
The temple – of marble and gold – is the temple of her body
in which the Son of Man with a whip in hand
drives out the 20th Century-Fox flesh merchants
who made Your house of prayer a den of thieves.

Lord
In this world of sins and radioactivity
You will not blame a little store clerk only.
Like all shop girls she dreamt of being a film star.
And her dream was reality (but the reality of Technicolor).
She did nothing but act according to the script that we gave her
- That of our own lives – And it was an absurd script.
Forgive her, Lord, and forgive us
for our 20th Century
for this Colossal Super-Production on which all of us have worked.

She was hungry for love and we offered her tranquilizers.
For her sadness, as we are not saints,
Psychoanalysis was recommended to her.
Remember, Lord, her growing fear of the camera
and her hatred of makeup – insisting on fresh makeup for each scene –
and how the horror kept building in her
and her late arrivals at the studio became more frequent.

Like every shop girl
she dreamt of being a film star.
And her life was unreal like a dream that a psychiatrist interprets and archives.

Her romances were a kiss with closed eyes
yet when she opened her eyes
she discovered that she was under spotlights
and they turned off the spotlights!
and they take down the two walls of the setup (it was a movie set)
while the Director walks away with his notebook
because the scene was shot.
Or like a yacht trip, a kiss in Singapore, a dance in Rio
The reception at the mansion of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor
viewed in the miserable little living room of an apartment.

The movie ended without the final kiss.
The found her dead in her bed with the phone in her hand
And the detectives didn’t know who she was going to call.
She was
like someone who had dialed the number of the single friendly voice
and had only heard the voice of a recording that told her: WRONG NUMBER
Or like someone who had been wounded by gansters
reaching for the disconnected telephone.

Lord
whoever it might have been that she was going to call
and didn’t call (and perhaps it wasn’t anyone
or it was Someone whose number isn’t in the Los Angeles Directory)
You answer the phone!

-- Translation by Alice C. Linsley

1 comment:

casie said...

I love this. I am no famous star, but I relate to Marylin, being a beautiful woman with a traumatic childhood and all alone in the world, while being objectified by others and offered money for my sexuality. Yet no true love is to be found. I like this prayer it makes me feel better.