Miles Waggener's "Lorquiana"

Do you know the writer Federico García Lorca? A early 20th century playwright and poet, his work was deeply influenced by Flamenco music and culture. Lorca organized the first Cante Jondo festival, which celebrated and featured Spanish musicians who performed cante jondo, or “deep song.” When Lorca came to New York City, he heard and treasured that same cante jondo spirit in the African-American spirituals he was hearing for the first time. Back in Spain, during the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Franco’s soldiers arrested and then killed Lorca. The location of his grave remains a mystery.

Nebraska poet Miles Waggener has written a poem called “Lorquiana” that addresses Lorca, as if he’s a living presence in the speaker’s mind. Listen to this poem’s rhythm—it’s ballad-like, like a song, maybe even a cante jondo. And there’s the suggestion of lurking violence and destruction, too, at the heart of the poem.

Here it is: Miles Waggener’s “Lorquiana,” originally published in Verde Que Te Quiero Verde: Poems After Federico García Lorca, by Open Country Press. “Lorquiana” begins with two epigraphs, which I’ll read first.


Even the most faithful student of my work will be hard put to decide what is and what is not García Lorca as, indeed, he would if he were to look into my present resting place.

--Jack Spicer from After Lorca

            las cosas la están mirando/y ella no puede mirarlas

--Romance sonámbulo

Away from Granada

     into a tunnel

          the bus drove us north

            to Alfacar and Víznar,

across the bare legs

     of a girl beside me,

          a birthmark spread

              as she looked out the window,

where the cars became

     prayer beads

          pressed into green hills--

                and smoke twisted in the groves.

Your story I brought

     was a cord on a cudgel,

          a cat o nine tales,

               a car burned in the road.

In the glare of the village,

     the car trailered horses,

         air turned to albumen,

              boiled far too long.

Bulletproof tunnel,

     tunnel of stone,

          tunnel beneath the mountain.

Stardust glimmer, film

     pulled from old cameras,

          the road's lacerating reach

               brought us right to the flames.

I searched through your footage.

     I held my phone to the carnage.

          I watched with the others

               as everything burned.

Small steel balls stitched

     into black leather,

          your story kept teaching  

               I would forget.

Then into the city and into a tunnel

     the bus drove away

          from Alfacar and Víznar

               to Casa Rosales

now Hotel Christina

     where a waiter named Juani

          said they took you from the stairs.

You were dapper in cardboard,

     in a grainy white suit,

          life-size but bent--

               someone punched you in the mouth.

I found luminous fruit,

     a mechanized juicer,

          duplicating hells

               of gambling machines.

Bulletproof tunnel,

     tunnel of stone

          tunnel of all-night pharmacies,

Juani's lit up at the waist

     spooning pulpo en vinagre,

          framed in neon and chrome.

               Was Lorca ever here?

He said Lorca's on the roof

     with transmitter tuned to Moscow,

          I'll give you a ladder,

               Lorca's waiting for you there.

So I laughed a little harder

     when a throat-less man laughed,

          I brought to my face

               medallions of cold flamenqín.

Back into the tunnel,

     the bus drove us deeper,

          a wall of blue phones

               began ringing in my ears.

Down the oncoming lane

     the girl was still tethered

          barefoot with horses--

            her lesson kept teaching I would forget

that at the end of each road,

     stitched in black pixels

           among them my faces,

               were bits of bone, shell and teeth.

Bulletproof tunnel,

     tunnel of stone,

          tunnel beneath the mountain,

we surfaced in the groves

     between Alfacar

          and Víznar to find the wreckage was cleared.