Gabriela Mistral: “Things”




I love the things I never had
along with the things
I no longer have.

I touch silent waters that now run still
among the shivering grasses
no longer troubled by the freezing wind,
in a garden that once was mine.

I see the water as I used to see it:
it gives me the strangest thoughts,
and slowly I play with it
as with a fish or a riddle.


I think about the doorstep where
happy footfalls no longer sound
and on that doorstep I see a wound
full of silence and of moss.


I am searching for a poem I lost,
one told to me when I was seven,
by a woman baking bread.
I still can see her holy mouth.


A broken scent breaks through in bursts.
I feel so happy when I can feel it;
It is thin and barely there,
a bit like the scent of almond trees.

It changes my senses into children;
I search to find a name for it
but still I never get it right.
I seek those almond trees
but still I never find them.


Always, the sound of a nearby river comes.
I’ve felt it for some forty years.
It is the low bass voice of my own blood
or else a rhythm I once was given.

Or else it is the Elqui river of my youth
in which I journey and wade upstream.
I never lose it: heart to heart,
we have each other, like a pair of siblings.


When I dream of the mountain ranges
and pass through their narrow passes,
I am hearing, without reprieve,
a whistling like a curse.


I see now to the end of the Pacific.
It is bruised, my archipelago.
And from the island I have left behind
the bitter scent of dead halcyon comes.

A spine, a sweet and solemn spine,
completes the dream that I am dreaming.
It is the end of my own journey
and I rest when I arrive.

It is a dead tree trunk, or else my father,
this shadowy spine of ashes.
I don’t question it; I don’t disturb it.
I lie down with it, and we sleep together.


I love a stone that comes from Oaxaca,
or else Guatemala.  I approach it.
It is red and frozen, like my face,
with only a crack from which to breathe.

And when I sleep, it remains naked;
I don’t know why I turn away from it.
Maybe I never really possessed it
and it’s only my future grave I see.

Gabriela Mistral

Translated from Spanish by Paul Weinfield, © 2014

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