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This is a familiar tango, often played in D'Arienzo tandas at milongas. The music is spry at times and even cheerful, with flashes of darkness, yet the lyrics are entirely on the dark side. To explore this paradox, John and Renée recited the lyrics at Milonga Falucho/Chelsea as DJ Carlos Quiroga played a well-known version in the background. There was no live music for the night, instead a dance performance by Alejandra Hobert and Adrian Veredice.

Amarras 1944
Letra de Carmelo Santiango
Música de Carlos Marchisio

Moorings 1944
Lyrics by Carmelo Santiango, trans. J. Osburn
Music by Carlos Marchisio

Vago como sombra atormentada
bajo el gris de la recova,
me contemplo y no soy nada...
Soy como mi lancha carbonera
que ha quedado recalada,
bien atada a la ribera.
Yo también atado a mi pasado
soy un barco que está anclado
y siento en mi carne sus amarras
como garfios, como garras.
Lloro aquellos días
que jamás han de volver;
sueño aquellos besos
que ya nunca he de tener,
soy como mi lancha carbonera
que ha quedado en la ribera,
¡sin partir más!

I shuffle about like a tormented shade
in the grey light of the corridor,
I think about myself and I simply fade...
I am like the ship of a collier
that has sailed and gone aground at last,
cinched tightly and tied to the shore.
Every last day that I’m tied to my past,
I’m a boat come to anchor and held fast,
and I feel in my flesh your mooring hooks
like a thief’s fingers, or a raptor’s claws.
I’m in mourning for those days
that will never be again;
in my dreams are those kisses
I’ll have not even now and then,
I am become my own collier’s ship
grounded and cinched up on the slip,
to sail no more!
Aquellos besos que perdí
al presentir que no me amaba,
fueron tormentas de dolor
llenas de horror.
¡Hoy no soy nada!
Yo sólo sé que pené,
que caí y que rodé
al abismo del fracaso...
Yo sólo sé que tu adiós,
en la burla del dolor,
me acompaña paso a paso.
Ahora que sé que no vendrás,
vago sin fin por la recova,
busco valor para partir;
para alejarme... y así
matando mi obsesión,
lejos de ti, poder morir.

And all those kisses that I lost
when I could see you wouldn’t love me,
brought on thunderheads of torment
churning with lament.
Now I’m nobody!
I just know it’s me that’s faulted,
who tripped and somersaulted
into a canyon of despair…
I only know that your adiós,
in a trick of cruel distress,
accompanies me here and there.
Now that I know you’re not coming back,
I walk the corridor endlessly,
I look for the courage to fly
far, far away… and so by leaving
killing off my obsession,
away from you, able to die.

Pero vivo atado a mi pasado,
tu recuerdo me encadena,
soy un barco que está anclado.
Sé que únicamente con la muerte
cesarán mis amarguras;
cambiará mi mala suerte.
Vago con la atroz melancolía
de una noche gris y fría;
y siento en mi carne sus amarras
como garfios, como garras.
Nada me consuela en esta cruel desolación.
Solo voy marchando con mi pobre corazón.
Soy como mi lancha carbonera,
que ha quedado en la ribera,
sin partir más.
But I am lashed to a past full of rancor,
remembering you puts me in chains,
I’m a collier’s boat abandoned at anchor.
All I know is my bitterness will cease
only with the coming of death;
it’s then my lousy luck will ease.
I wander in the heinous melancholy
of a night turned grey and cold and icy;
and in my flesh I feel your mooring hooks
like a thief’s fingers, like a raptor’s claws.
Nothing consoles me in this cruel desolation.
My poor heart beside me, I do my best to push on.
I am become my own collier’s ship
grounded and cinched up on the slip,
to sail no more.

Listen to the Juan D'Arienzo-Hector Maure recording here:

This was a challenging but ultimately rewarding translation. The rhymes actively shape its meaning, as does adhering to the line lengths. A few liberties were taken. “Your mooring hooks” might have used “its” or “her” in reference to the ship (one of the few gendered nouns in English), since sus is formal and not likely to refer to an ex-lover in direct address. “Your,” however, was more pointed in recitation and meshed with the use of the familiar in the second verse. The coal boat of the song would probably have been more like a barge and might not have “sailed” in the strict sense. But "sail" can simply denote "setting out" in English and it seemed to intensify the narrator's loss in its implication of a free spirit taken to ground.
–John Osburn  


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