Gabriela Mistral: “The Foreigner”

The Foreigner

Her words have the taste of barbaric seas,
of unknown algae, of unknown sands;
She prays to a shapeless, weightless god,
who has aged, who is perhaps now dying.

In our garden, now grown strange,
she has planted cactus and goose grass.

Her chest fills with the breath of the desert.
She has loved with a passion that has turned her white,
a passion she never speaks of, for were she to tell it,
it would be like a map of an unseen star.

She may live among us for eighty years,
but always as though she has just arrived,
speaking a tongue that pants and moans,
understood only by beasts.

And she will die among us
on a night of great suffering,
with just her fate for a pillow,
a quiet and foreign death.

Gabriela Mistral

Translated from Spanish by Paul Weinfield, © 2013

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