This song was featured on a tape I was given in Central America in 2002 . The music came pulsing up to my dwelling one tropical morning from the house next door. Normally one hears a lot of Cumbia, disco and 70’s pop there but this was an unearthly Arabic groove. I loved it the first time I heard it. Later, the neighbor recorded a cassette for me which I still have. The singer was unknown to me for 14 years until yesterday when I walked into a museum gift store and heard the song playing. I asked the cashier who it was and he wrote down for me her name and the title of the song. Now I know.
Oh night / Why my darling? / My darling why?
My darling why is it like this when I love you?
Why? I know you love me / Why, oh time?
Where is the justice, your highness the judge?
There is no justice in your hands and death is usual around you…
You made me love you / Why, why, why?
Oh master / Why? / Oh darling
One day you will face your destiny
and demand mercy from my inspiration
Oh soul , I mourned, I mourned, I mourned…
He was a Nicaraguan poet—perhaps the next best-known after Rubén Darío [amazing that a poor country with such high illiteracy and poverty can produce such great poetry]. His given name was Salomón de Jesus Selva – but he went by Salomón de la Selva which translates into English as “Solomon of the Jungle” .
I love his poem En Granada and I have posted my own translation of it. I first read it one night in 2000, in that very town itself, meditating under the fragrant smoke of a puro, knowing next to nothing about the poet. I did not know then that I would eventually find my own novia [in the traditional sense of that word], my own fabulous bride in Granada. And I learned more about Salomón de la Selva as well.
A very interesting life – he was proud of his tropical roots [hence the pen-name] but he also studied in the US and then he worked there as a Spanish professor. He had a romance with Edna St. Vincent Millay. He was a soldier in WWI on the British side. He supported Sandino’s revolt against the U.S. but he also chose to spend much of his life in North America. He did magnificent translations of Darío’s works into English. He was the Nicaraguan ambassador to France. He died in Paris and is buried in Nicaragua. I have visited his crypt there inside the stately cathedral of his birthplace and hometown León.
Granada is a beautiful town, moldering into its colonial Spanish foundations under the tropical glare and the hurricane downpours. The volcano Mombacho looms over the city – one of the earliest [founded 1524 by Francisco de Cordoba] continually inhabited Spanish cities in the New World. Granada is frequented by earth tremors, pulsed by booming cumbia and bachata music, cursed and blessed by blaring car horns, pestering beggars, gallant mestizos and lovely mestizas, scented with wafting odors of holy incense and tropical stagnation. I love the last line of the poem: . . . y Granada era Sion [and Granada was Zion].
Have you ever been to Granada, Nicaragua?