Friday, 5 April 2013


This water, sad and fearful,
like a child who suffers,
before touching the Earth,
fades away.

Calm the wind, calm the tree -
but in the tremendous silence,
this lean, bitter song
is falling.

The sky is like a heart,
immense, opening up, bitter,
it is not rain; it is a bleeding,
long, and slow.

Men in houses
do not feel this bitterness,
this sad flow of water
out of the heavens.

This long and tiring descent
of conquered water,
towards Earth, recumbent,
and paralysed!

It is raining . . . . and like a tragic jackal
the night watches over the land.
What is going to spring up, in the shadow,
out of Mother Earth?

Will you sleep, while outside
falls suffering, this slow water,
this lethal water, sister
of death?

Gabriela Mistral

translated from the Spanish by Gunda Kaiser and James Tipton

‘Gabriela Mistral’ was the pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga who was born in Vicuna, Chile. She received literary acclaim in 1915 with her ‘Sonetos de Muerte’ and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. She is considered one of the great lyrical geniuses of Spanish letter.

(From the Penguin Book of Women Poets, 1979)