It's fairly straightforward to translate prose and nonfictional prose (e.g newspapers, novels, nonfiction and notes), but poetry is another beast altogether.

I have been listening to a song, La Bala, by Ana Tijoux, for a few weeks now trying to interpret the minuscule details hidden in the poetry that is this song. My goal is to not only be able to translate this song, but rather to understand the underlying meanings and messages.

The first line of this song is what intrigued me. And especially the rhythm.

La pistola lo miraba fijamente bajo el manto brillo cromo de su veneno

If I were to translate this like any other sentence, I could come up with three possibilities.

The pistol stared below the shiny chrome cloak of it's venom.

or interpret a hidden subject.

He stared at the pistol below the shiny chrome cloak of his venom.

or instead of stare, maybe aim

The pistol was aimed below ...

Regardless, I cannot make literal sense out of the sentence. When I read it, in Spanish, I interpret the general idea that the pistol is something bad and... venomous. If someone were to ask me to tell them what it means in English, I would not know where to begin. This is poetry and it is not meant to be translated, I understand that.

The entire song is filled with nuances, but of all of the lines in it, the first one leaves me grasping for more meaning. More than just, ... the venomous pistol.

What is the meaning of shiny chrome cloak?


It's not that complicated but it needs metaphoric reasoning in order to understand. Your traduction is too literal and it's not very convenient for this case (also "lo miraba" means "staring at" not "he stared"). Almost none of the words are used in a literal/plausible way. So let's unravel the mystery:

La pistola lo miraba fijamente bajo el manto brillo cromo de su veneno

1) If a gun is "staring at you" it means that you're being aimed with a gun.

2) When something is "bajo el manto" (of another thing) it means that it is "under x circunstance/paradigm" (in which whatever this thing has to do). Since the thing is a pistol "el manto brillo cromo" would refer to the material (a shiny chromed metal).

3) "de su veneno" is an eufemism to indicate that it is life threatening (as any pistol is when it's being aimed at you). Also, it gives more sense to the "manto" expresion because this "cloak" would be covering the poison (the actual bullet that will kill you).

Last but not least, the grammar is not 100% correct. Take into account that this is poetry and ritmic and aesthetic overtakes the grammatic rules. One should never say "bajo el manto brillo cromo de su veneno" in a normal sentence. You have 3 nouns together (manto, brillo y cromo) and it's not the way we speak. One should say "...bajo el brilloso y cromado manto de su veneno" or something like that where manto is the only noun.

  • I understand that the grammar is shifty, I mentioned that in my OP. "this is poetry".
    – dockeryZ
    Aug 21 '15 at 18:00
  • @dockeryz Yes, I know, I was trying to write a complete answer and exemplify the correct grammar for you to understand. I hope I've made myself clear Aug 21 '15 at 19:23
  • What I understand from it is that the pistol is hiding behind it's bright shiny self as venom. Or something like a disguise. Also, is someone looking at the pistol or is the pistol being aimed?
    – dockeryZ
    Aug 21 '15 at 19:28
  • 1
    The pistol is not hiding, it's directly pointing to someone's the face. The hidden stuff is the bullet (which is like venom, hidden under the bright shiny metal that constitutes the gun). Aug 21 '15 at 19:30
  • But the pistol is the subject of the sentence, right? Who is lo in la pistola lo miraba?
    – dockeryZ
    Aug 21 '15 at 19:37

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