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The Abandoned Church 
(A Ballad of The Great War) 

Translated and further interpreted by Torre DeVito 
from "IGLESIA ABANDONADA" by Federico García Lorca 

I had a son who was named John. 
I lost a son whom I look for in 
the ruins of the church one All-Hallows eve. 
I see him playing on the steps during a mass long since ended, 
Dipping his little tin pail into the well of the priest's heart. 
I beat the coffins for my son (My son!) and cast 
chicken bones during a full moon to try and understand 

I had a vision that my little child was a fish 
left where they move the vendor's carts away. 
I had a little child, a fish that died 
in the ashes of incense burners. 
And in my vision I was the sea. What? My God! A vast sea! 

During his funeral I rang the bells, 
but the bells have decayed like wormy fruit. 
and I lit the candles, now devoured: 
eaten like the spring wheat. 

And in the wine, I saw the invisible reaper which 
plucks the black heads of anguished soldiers: 
in those trays with rubber housings 
in which they pass arround cups filled with tears. 

Amongst the holy flowers of the offertory you will find my heart 
when the priest raises the host like one who lifts 
a mule or an ox with his strong arms. He does this to 
scare away the toads that come out at night to haunt 
the frozen landscape of the chalice. 

I had a son who was a giant, 
but the dead are stronger than the living 
and they know how to devour pieces of heaven. 

If my child was a bear, 
I would not be afraid of the alligator's stealth, 
nor would I have seen the sea tied to the trees 
to be ravished and trampled by regiments. 
If my child was a bear! 

I wrap my child in stiff fabric to dispell the cold of the mosses. 
I know very well that I will get a sleeve or an armband; 
but in the middle of the funeral I will break the rudder 
we will drift to a rock in the sea - full of the madness of 
penguins and seagulls, and it will cause those who sleep and 
those who sing from the street-corners to cry: 
He had a son. A son! A son! 

I had a son! Not that he was more than my son, 
but because he belongs to us all now, they cry: 
Our son, our son, our son... 
Notes: Ths is an interpretation, not a translation. 
It is more cohesive than anything else I have read 
on the subject, but it definately is not exactly 
what Lorca wrote. It maintains his imagery but not 
necesarily the meaning of his poem. - Torre DeVito

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Torre DeVitoThanks for visiting the official Torre DeVito web site, kick off your shoes and stay for a while! Torre DeVito is a contemporary American poet who's best known poems are "Commuting" and "A Long Way South of Now".

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