Guitar by Luis Nieto Miranda

A Guitar in Song

Cuzco’s great poet Luis Nieto Miranda captured the emotive role of the guitar in the life of his people who he and others call cholos.  It alone grasps and relays the sorrows that so often fill life around the corner from joy in the world between the indigenous and Spanish that is that of Cuzco’s “cholos”. Nieto writes directly and beautifully of the guitar and feeling in this poem that Cuzco Eats presents in translation.


To Juan Mellado y Manolo Gamarra

Guitar, my guitar,
moan that breaks the soul;
robed in pain you are
like a pale dove.

In your breast get buried
five slain larks.
Sorrow and sobs flame
in your tears’ oven.

When you sing, when you cry,
your heart bleeds out
through that wound that glows
like a red flower.

Your hurts like my hurts
gnaw at your guts;
They’d fly away but can’t:
their wings are broken.

Each time some memory
pierces you with its dagger
within your trilling hands
a white dove dies.

And with sobbing complaint
with pain that kills,
two stars commit suicide
on the edge of your glance.

The cholo’s lament, guitar,
blooms in your throat.
Your dewy heart
is the sorrow of bells.

On your strings, my hand
faints like a flower
and in the sobbing air
remains a field of tears.

Guitar, my guitar,
built from sorrow and sores,
your bleeding wound
is a flood of song.

Luis Nieto Miranda

(translation by David Knowlton)

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