But leave me the machine of blue colors

In recent months I’ve been re-visiting the haunting and wonderfully defiant poems of the Argentine writer Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938), whose work I was briefly introduced to in a Spanish literature course many years ago. Storni is considered not only a leading poet in the Latin-American modernist period but also instrumental in establishing feminist discourse in Latin American literature.


Take away time’s whirlwind,
sky’s cobalt, the garments
of my September tree, the gaze
of he who opens sun in my chest.

Extinguish the roses on my face,
shoo the laughter in my lips,
eat away the bread of life between
my teeth; deny the branch of my verses.

But leave me the machine of blue colors
that frees its pulleys in my forehead
and a vivid thought among the ruins;

I will raise its hopes like a siren
in a field of mutilated beings, and by its power
broken clouds will go to heaven, sails raised.

Translated by Orlando Ricardo Menes


(In Spanish)

“La sirena”

Llévate el torbellino de las horas
y el cobalto del cielo y el ropaje
de mi árbol de septiembre y la mirada
del que me abría soles en el pecho.

Apágame las rosas de la cara
y espántame la risa de los labios
y mezquíname el pan entre los dientes,
vida; y el ramo de mis versos, niega.

Más déjame la máquina de azules
que suelta sus poleas en la frente
y un pensamiento vivo entre las ruinas;

lo haré alentar como sirena en campo
de mutilados y las rotas nubes
por él se harán al cielo, vela en alto.


The year’s doors open like those of language

Happy 2015, readers. Let’s usher in the new year (a day late!) with the incredible Octavio Paz (1914-1998); “El Primero de Enero” can be found in its original Spanish here.

“January First”

The year’s doors open
like those of language,
toward the unknown.
Last night you told me: tomorrow
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
once more,
the reality of this world.

I opened my eyes late.
For a second of a second
I felt what the Aztec felt,
on the crest of the promontory,
lying in wait
for the time’s uncertain return
through cracks in the horizon.

But no, the year had returned.
It filled all the room
and my look almost touched it.
Time, with no help from us,
had placed
in exactly the same order as yesterday
houses in the empty street,
snow on the houses,
silence on the snow.

You were beside me,
still asleep.
The day had invented you
but you hadn’t yet accepted
being invented by the day.
––Nor possibly by being invented, either.
You were in another day.

You were beside me
and I saw you, like the snow,
asleep among appearances.
Time, with no help from us,
invents houses, streets, trees
and sleeping women.

When you open your eyes
we’ll walk, once more,
among the hours and their inventions.
We’ll walk among appearances
and bear witness to time and its conjugations.
Perhaps we’ll open the day’s doors.
And then we shall enter the unknown.

translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bishop