Alejandra Pizarnik translations

Selected poems translated from Spanish

Black and white picture of Alejandra, with short hair and wearing winter clothes, sitting on a park bench.

Daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Alejandra was a lesbian poet and translator who lived in Argentina between the years of 1936 and 1972, when she committed suicide. Her poems, of a unique and haunting style, often touched on the subject of her mental illness.

Árbol de Diana

3

only the thirst
the silence
no encounters
beware of me my love
beware of the silent traveler in the desert
of the traveler with the empty glass
and of her shadow’s shadow

6

she strips in the paradise
of her memory
she disavows the savage destiny
of her visions
she’s afraid of not knowing how to name
that which doesn’t exist

Black and white picture of Alejandra, leaning on her side and staring intently at the camera.

Paths of the mirror

I
And above all else, to look with innocence. As if nothing was happening, which is true.

II
But you, I want to look at you until your face escapes from my fear like a bird from the sharp 
edge of the night.

III
Like a girl drawn with pink chalk on a very old wall that is suddenly washed away by the rain.

IV
Like when a flower blooms and reveals its heart that isn’t there.

V
Every gesture of my body and my voice aimed to make myself into the offering,
the bouquet that the wind 
abandons on the porch.

VI
Cover the memory of your face with the mask of who you will be and scare off the girl you once were.

VII
The night of us both scattered with the fog. It’s the season of cold foods.

VIII
And the thirst, my memory is of the thirst, me underneath, at the bottom, in the hole, 
I drank, I remember.

IX
To fall like a wounded animal in a place that was meant to be for revelations.

X
As if it meant nothing. No thing. Mouth zipped. Eyelids sewn. I forgot. 
Inside, the wind. Everything closed and the wind inside.

XI
Under the black sun of silence the words burned slowly.

XII
But the silence is true. That’s why I write. I’m alone and I write. No, I’m not alone. 
There’s somebody here, shivering.

XIII
Even if I say sun and moon and star I’m talking about things that happen to me. And what did I wish for? I wished for a perfect silence.
That’s why I speak.

XIV
The night is shaped like a wolf’s scream.

XV
Delight of losing one-self in the presaged image. I rose from my corpse, I went looking for who I am. 
Migrant of myself, I’ve gone towards the one who sleeps in a country of wind.

XVI
My endless falling into my endless falling where nobody waited for me –because when I saw who was waiting for me I saw no one but myself.

XVII
Something was falling into the silence. My last word was “I” but I was talking about the luminescent dawn.

XVIII
Yellow flowers constellate a circle of blue earth. The water trembles, full of wind.

XIX
The blinding of day, yellow birds in the morning. A hand untangles the darkness, a hand drags
the hair of a drowned woman that never stops going through the mirror. To return to the memory of the body, 
I have to return to my mourning bones, I have to understand what my voice is saying.

Black and white picture of Alejandra, sitting at her desk and leaning back on her chair with a cigarette in hand.

The Awakening

Lord
the cage has turned into a bird
and it’s flown away
and my heart is crazy
‘cause it howls at Death
and smiles from behind the wind
at my delusions

What will I do with the fear
What will I do with the fear

Light doesn’t dance in my smile anymore
and the seasons are burning doves in my ideas
My hands have stripped themselves naked
and they’ve gone where Death
teaches how to live to the dead

Lord
The air punishes my being
Behind the air there are monsters
that drink from my blood

It’s the disaster
It’s the hour of the void not void
It’s the instant to put a lock on the lips
to hear the yelling of the damned
to contemplate each and every one of my names
hanging in the emptiness

Lord
I’m twenty years old
my eyes, too, are twenty years old
and yet, they don’t say anything

Lord
I’ve consumed my life in an instant
The last innocence exploded
Now is never or nevermore
or it simply was

How do I not commit suicide in front of a mirror
and disappear to reappear in the sea
where a big boat would wait for me
with the lights on?

How do I not rip out my own veins
and build with them a ladder
to escape towards the other side of the night?

The beginning has birthed the end
Everything will remain the same
The worn out smiles
The selfish interest
The questions from stone to stone
The gesticulations that mimic love
Everything will remain the same

But my arms insist on embracing the world
because they haven’t been taught
that it’s already too late

Lord
Throw the caskets from my blood

I remember my childhood
when I was an old woman
The flowers died in my hands
because the savage dance of joy
destroyed their hearts

I remember the black sunny mornings
when I was a little girl
which means yesterday
which means centuries ago

Lord
the cage has turned into a bird
and it’s devoured my hopes

Lord
the cage has turned into a bird
What will I do with the fear

Black and white picture of Alejandra, with short hair and wearing winter clothes, smiling.

Awaiting Darkness

That instant that cannot be forgotten
So empty sent back by the shadows
So empty rejected by the clocks
That poor instant adopted by my tenderness
Naked naked of blood of wings
Without eyes to remember anguish of old
Without lips to gather the juice of violences
lost in the singing of frozen belltowers.

Shelter it you girl blind of soul
Give it your hair scorched by fire
Hug it you little statue of terror.
Show it the world convulsing at your feet
At your feet where woodswallows die
Trembling in fear of the future
Tell it that the sighs of the sea
Dampen the only words
That make life worth living.

But that instant sweating of nothing
Curled up in the cave of destiny
Without hands to say anything
Without hands to offer butterflies
To dead children