The Cheat

I am yours, though God knows why, since well I know
someday—tomorrow—you will leave me cold;
charmed by my eyes, already you’re half bowled
over by some other; let it be so.

I expect this whole affair, one day, will end,
since I can tell at once when your thoughts stray.
Calmly I bring up other women, say
flattering things of one who was your friend.

But you know less than I; proud of the claim
you have on me, you play your little game
of master, with an actor’s gift for seeming.

I watch you silently, with a sweet smile,
and when you thrill, I think Slow down a while.
It is not you who cheat me, but my dreaming.

Alfonsina Storni, Argentina, 1892-1938;
El engaño

Naked Soul

I am a soul stripped naked in these verses:
a naked soul who, lonely and unhappy,
looses the very petals she disperses.

A soul that might have been a flower: red poppy,
white lily, or a violet purple-black;
a cliff, a forest, or a green wave lapping.

A soul as restless as the wind, that back
and forth roars on the ocean’s ways,
then sleeps in peace within a narrow crack.

A soul before its altar, where she prays
to gods whose blinding light she has not found;
a soul that knows no obstacles or stays.

A soul that might so easily be bound
if there were but one heart willing to break
and with its warm blood irrigate her ground.

A soul that, when the spring is still awake,
says to slow-footed winter, Now return,
the field is open for your snow to tak

A soul that, when it snows, begins to yearn,
calling for roses that no longer spring,
having—in season—sprung, but then adjourned.

A soul whose butterflies have taken wing
in open fields, and never mind to where,
sent forth by her to sip from everything.

A soul destined to die of fragrant air,
of sighing, of a poem that begs and sighs
to retain—if it can—the grace it wears.

A soul that, knowing nothing, all denies
and so, denying good, advances right,
since in denial her true surrender lies.

A soul that holds it as her chief delight
to touch souls, and and be mindless of the scars,
her hand aware of each caress, though slight.
A soul whose own self-view her image mars,
wandering like the wind, finding no peace;
a soul that bleeds and longs without surcease
to be a ship in motion toward the stars.

Alfonsina Storni, Argentina, 1892-1938;
Alma Desnuda

Tired Beast

I want a love with teeth and talons, bent
on seizing me by treachery, by day,
to snuff my anger out and take away
this pride at being thought omnipotent.

I want a love with teeth and talons, bent
on wounding my live flesh, so that it may
end my dull sorrow, halt the slow decay
in which my soul’s existence is misspent.

I want love like a tempest, to surround—
to destroy—everything and make it new,
fueled by a force relentless and profound.

That might take up my clay, refresh it too,
this poor clay of mine that has not ceased
to tread the same old roads, like a tired beast.

Alfonsina Storni, Argentina, 1892-1938;
Animal Cansado

You Want Me Daylight

You want me daylight,
you want me spray,
you want me pearl-bright.
You want me lily
and chaste—oh, quite.
With a faint perfume.
A bud shut tight,

Not a ray of moonlight
having slipped by,
not even a daisy
as pure as I.
You want me snowy,
you want me white,
you want me daylight.

You who had all
the goblets at hand,
whose lips were stained
with sweet fruit of the land.

You who at suppers,
covered with vines,
following Bacchus,
left your flesh behind.

You who in gardens
dark with deceit
ran, dressed in scarlet,
on Havoc Street.

You whose bones
are preserved intact—
who knows by what
miraculous act—
insist I be white
(may God forgive you),
insist I be chaste
(may God forgive you)
insist I be daylight!

Run to the forest,
tread the hill track,
wash out your mouth,
live in the shack;
touch with your hands
the damp of the ground;
feed your body with roots
bitter and brown;
drink from the stones;
find snow and sleep there;
with water and limestone
wash what you wear;
speak with the birds
and be up with the sun.
And when you and your flesh
once more are one,
and you have infused it
with the soul you dragged through
all of those bedrooms
your lifetime knew,
then, good man,
insist I be white,
insist I be snowy
and chaste as light.

Alfonsina Storni, Argentina, 1892-1938;
Tu me quieres blanca

You Who Never Will Be…

Sabbath it was, and a brief whim, your kiss—
a man’s whim, daring, and a subtle gift—
but sweet, a gesture of the male spendthrift
that my heart—wolf cub with wings—could not dismiss.

It’s not that I believe, I don’t; if this
divine thing—you—my hands could touch did lift
me like wine, it could not last, and swift,
I knew, the dice would roll; but cowardice

is not for one like me. I see, and know,
you are the raging male who rise and grow
like a huge torrent nothing can confine,

the rougher as it overwhelms the lowly.
The more I turn, the more you take me wholly,
you who never will be wholly mine!

Alfonsina Storni, Argentina, 1892-1938;
Tú que nunca seras

About the Author

Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938) was born in Switzerland to Argentine parents
and returned to Argentina with them at the age of 4. She left school at the
age of 12 to work with her dressmaker mother, who had to supplement the
income of an unreliable and often-absent husband. Left fatherless at age 14,
Alfonsina worked as a hatmaker, cashier, secretary, teacher and journalist
while still young. Pregnant at 19 by a much older married man, she left her
small town for Buenos Aires to bring up her son, Alexander. There she began
to write, entered important literary circles, did some work in the theater
and became a gifted public speaker and a crusading feminist.

On a trip to Spain in 1934, she met members of the celebrated Generation of
’27, and began to write in a new, more visual and powerful way as a result
of their influence. After a difficult life of poverty, hard work, unhappy
love affairs, criticism from both men and women in a conservative,
repressive society, and repeated nervous breakdowns, in 1935 she was
diagnosed with breast cancer and began to write increasingly dark poetry,
full of references to the sea that she loved, the need to find rest, and
hints of suicide as an expression of the free will she valued greatly and
felt that women were denied.

Declining health, painful treatment and disfigurement all took their toll:
she committed suicide by drowning at the age of 46, after leaving her
beloved son a note dictated by phone to an assistant, and a poem titled “I
Am Going to Sleep” (“Voy a dormir”).

Her work, passionate to the point of torment, invites comparison with the
provocative daring of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Gabriela Mistral, the
measured stoicism of Elinor Wylie, and the baroque wit of Sor Juana Ines de
la Cruz, among other women who spoke for their sex in distinctive voices.
-Rhina P. Espaillat

One thought on “Translation by Rhina P. Espaillat

  1. What fabulous translations! Because of the love the translator gives and takes from this tormented, rapturous poet, I, the reader, am swept into the storm of Storni, the grief, anger, passion in these poems. How impressive Espaillat’s rhyme, rhythm, song and capture of Storni’s language into ingles! Women poets working now need to know more of these bold Latin American/South American women poets writing in the early 20th century: Storni, Delmira Agustini, Juana de Ibarbourou. Gracias Rhina Espaillat!

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