Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Name Will Be Poet

Photo by Viola Weinberg, Kenwood, CA

—Julia de Burgos, Puerto Rico, 1914-1953

                                              Confronting a longing
To die with my very self, abandoned and alone,
On the densest rock of a deserted island.
At that moment, a final yearning for carnations,
On the landscape, a tragic horizon of stone.

My eyes filled with graves of stars,
My passion spread out, exhausted, dispersed,
My fingers like children watching a cloud fade,
My reason mobbed with enormous sheets.

My pale affections returning to silence
—Even love, consumed brother in my path!—
My name untangling, yellow in the branches,
And my hands, twitching to give me to the grass.

To rise to the final, the whole minute,
And to offer myself to the fields,
Then to bend the leaf of my ordinary flesh
And fall unsmiling, without witness to inertia.

Let nobody dishonor my death with sobs
Or wrap me forever in plain earth
For in a moment of freedom I may freely
Demand the one liberty of this planet.

With what mad joy will my bones begin
To see airholes in my brown flesh
And I, giving myself, giving myself fiercely and boldly
To the elements: in solitude breaking my chains!

Who will detain me with useless dreams
When my soul begins to fulfill its task
Making of my sleep a rich dough
For the frail worm that knocks at my door?

Smaller and smaller my worn-out humility
At every instant greater and easier the surrender
Perhaps my chest will turn to begin a flower bud
Maybe my lips will feed lilies.

What shall I be called when all that remains
Is my memory of myself on the rock of the deserted island?
A carnation wedged between my shadow and the wind,
Death's child and mine: My name will be poet. 

(trans. from the Spanish by Grace Schulman)