The Dead City of Korad (Cantos I and II)
Oscar Hurtado
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon. All rights reserved.)
More Cuban SF in English

“I loved Dejah Thoris. The touch of my arm upon her naked shoulder had spoken to me in words I would not mistake, and I knew that I had loved her since the first moment that my eyes had met hers that first time in the plaza of the dead city of Korad.”
          Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars, CHAPTER XIII

The dead city reflects the chill of my skin.
Its gate, of green painted bile,
is an unburied corpse in the fierce land of smiles.
I walk among the great winds of Mars
toward the dead city of Korad.
The solitude of the air does not answer my soliloquy.
Taste of sawdust and swollen tongue.
I pass through the abyss of her streets
with a dry mouth and the useless staff of a large tree.
They wish to lop off its crown
when the tides rise in the canals;
right now and in the hour in which my righteous voice
looks for you in that tower
where my echo calls you, Dejah Thoris.
Siren of the dusk and of night,
In your beauty I wish to plant
that fruit held in for so long;
and in the warm midnight of summer
melt the cold which devours you mercilessly.
I come for you, weaving my fingers in your tresses.
My hand halts smoothly in its silk;
But smoother than water is your hair.
I fall asleep and yield myself up.

White cemetery of warriors
killed in the night of two moons
by vampires swollen like spiders.
They rejoice after the banquet and they sing:
“We are the ancient and cosmic sect
who with the fervor of anti-vestals
guard against the emergence of the votive flame.
We appear with new names
in search of old blood.
We cannot live on our own;
we neither produce works nor cast shadows.
Incapable of creating, we destroy with our tongues.
Our tongues are our foreskin awaiting circumcision.”

The night of Mars has two moons, two eyes.
I march off to fight the waking vampires;
the methane vampires, invaders from Jupiter.
They rule the dead city of Korad;
Smooth city of shadows and cold hills,
where my princess guards her solitude.

My memory takes me to the planets
while I travel through Martian cities
toward my meeting with the king of the vampires
toward my night meeting with my princess
who waits in the center of the turret
which rises in the center of the tower
which is in the center of the labyrinth.

“For did not even Dejah Thoris despise me! I was a low creature, so low in fact that I was not even fit to polish the teeth of her grandmother's cat...”
          Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars, CHAPTER XIV

Feline eye of the catlike night
and the strange moons of the god Mars
that burn the sleeper’s hairs.

In front of the dead city of Korad
the night appears, noiselessly.
The Cosmonaut waits and despairs.

The man from space is a miracle
created by the mathematical rain
which pours from the electronic cloud.
The spaceman is like unto the angels.

The Einsteinian universe is formed
from the impenetrable being of time
and the curved abscissa of space.
With a blackboard full of tensors,
the fourth root of negative one
and the incredible Möbius strip,
one can write a mysterious story:
“The fourth dimension of the sparrows”

If the Cosmonaut thinks, he is undone.
For now it is the nothingness which orders
the pale green ghosts of his dream.

The sonorous insects of the night
rise up in crazed fluttering
and beat stubbornly against his helmet.
His spacesuit protects him
from the lethal chaos that surrounds him.
The plants, like dogs, shake off
the mortal dust that suffocates them.
Frequent and violent dustclouds
cover the landscape which surrounds him.

The Martian moons,
in unequal translation,
the tower’s double shadow
opens and closes like scissors.

The Cosmonaut speaks:
“In this dark and somber hour
I approach the last Martian city
attacked by the undead beast
that lives off our blood.
Dust of my foolhardy footsteps.
I march to show my princess
that we poets are not useless.

“Mistress of the days and years,
you walk upon the dew fixing the seasons.
Each moment of the year has its style,
its vibration of smooth caresses.
You dwell in it and you interpret it as clearly
as an animal of uncorrupted instinct
knows its empire, its spell,
its ineffable custom.
Your tongue speaks the sentence that illuminates,
touching me with the word
that provokes avalanche and fever.
With the stinger of an ancient bee
you spin your gentle customs.
The pearly spell of your face
invites me to fall among the threads
of that transfigured web.
I remain glued to those eyes.
I am the guest who does not wish to take my leave.

“The pall of mist, gloomy material,
extends throughout the atmosphere of Mars.
I do not know how to conquer it;
I know I shall die
in this city which is falling to pieces
like the putrid body of some leper,
because some fool
(so say the Martian elders)
has unleashed the demons.”

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