Narcissus

Stella Díaz Varín
Chilean
1926 – 2006

 

I’m absent from laughter
and everything happy men possess.
While blood flees like a deer
through every landscape
for no apparent reason,
as if believing that the most remote images
silence our thought.
Still upright, despite
those dark-rooted suns,
I approach your winged figure,
your little vertigos,
and teach you to watch
like only fish can,
in orbits unfamiliar to your hands.
I emerge -little god-
from the most secluded womb
to join you with a perfectly measured distance.

We share a certain gaze,
and an open door
to encumber our conversations;
leaning on the frame, gathered there
like the abandoned gather themselves,
nursing an ancient music
even greater than life and death.
And you revolt, known angel, anticipating the fall.

Truth prefers this behavior.
That’s how you come and go
and wrap yourself in the luminescence of old stars
so that I can watch your skeleton,
knowing full well that there’s nothing more beautiful
than the becoming of sea into bones.

In the end one gets used to
no one saying goodbye,
and to perceiving sound
in the palm of a hand,
like sea horses
sense love
as they caress each other’s fishbone spines.

Beautified in a drop of water
seen through thirst,
you come to know my first workdays.
The steep channels that led God
to unite snow, tree heart,
bile, dark resin,
indecision, pendulum, eternity,
and night through eyes.

The Last Toast

Nicanor Parra
Chilean
1914 – 2018

 

Whether we like it or not,
We have only three choices:
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And not even three
Because as the philosopher says
Yesterday is yesterday
It belongs to us only in memory:
From the rose already plucked
No more petals can be drawn.

The cards to play
Are only two:
The present and the future.

And there aren’t even two
Because it’s a known fact
The present doesn’t exist
Except as it edges past
And is consumed…,
like youth.

In the end
We are only left with tomorrow.
I raise my glass
To the day that never arrives.

But that is all
we have at our disposal.

This Is How I Want to Die

Rosario Orrego
Chilean
1834 – 1879

 

Who could die like that cloud
that I watch, softly evaporate
white and airy to the firmament rising
on light, atmospheric wings.

Who could die like the star,
eclipsing a few moments, and then no more
to shine again, like her,
in other blue-clad firmaments!

Who could be aurora ray
and, in afternoon’s decline, diffuse
into twilight burning gold
the moribund light as it waves goodbye!

Who could be wilting flower
painlessly bending one’s chalice
and even pale and inert, shedding petals
and spilling ambrosia into the aura!

But I am no flower, no errant cloud,
No star of blinking worlds…
I have a heart, a caring soul,
pieces all, made to be torn out!

This is why I want to be weightless atom,
perfumed breath of breeze,
to fool suffering
and die exhaling grins.

That in your bosom no more, Nature,
death is a voluptuous fainting,
rather a pretty expression;
and not a single thing into eternal repose sinking.

The Friends I Loved and Left Behind

In honor of the Chilean holiday, Reformation Day, we present this work by one of modern Chile’s most visionary authors.

Mariela Griffor
Chilean
b. 1961

 

After Elizabeth Bishop

A farewell to a dear friend is never enough.
We must bring him flowers, songs with
spinning words and good wishes.
We must bring a shadowy thought
of love that make us both happy.

We must convince the ghost that dances
around his grave to be kind to our friend.
He did so much.
He did plant a tree and had a son.
He did in part save his country.

The worst time, I thought, was to leave
one of the friends behind,
there in the dried mountain
his heart was destroyed, his eyes open.
How can we write poems after that?

The friends I loved and left made signs
with their fingers in the fading skies.
They left me here in a brown earth
so I can weep a red spot that leads
to a hollow moon faced to the sky.

Prayer to a Farm Worker

We present this work in honor of Dia de la Raza.

Victor Jara
Chilean
1932 – 1973

 

Rise up and look at the mountain, from
where the wind, the sun, the water arrive.
Thou, who determines the course of
rivers, thou who scatters the flight of
your soul.
Rise up. Look at your hands. Join
hands with your brothers, together
in blood we go. Now is the time that
can be tomorrow. Tomorrow.
Deliver us from the men of
misery. Take us to your kingdom of justice and
justice. Blow like the wind the gorge’s flower.
Clean the fire
in the barrel of my gun.
Thy will be done
Here on Earth. Give us your strength and
your courage in combat.
Blow like the wind the field’s daffodil.
Clean fire in the barrel of my gun.

Rise up and look at your hands. Join
hands with your brothers, together
in blood we live,
now and at the hour of
our death. Amen. We live. Amen.

To the Bio-Bio

In honor of Chilean Independence Day, we present this work by one of Chile’s greatest poets.

Andres Bello
Chilean
1781 – 1865

 

Blest were he, O Bio-Bio!
Who could dwell forevermore
In a deep grove, cool and shady,
Upon thine enchanted shore!

Just a lowly thatched-roofed cottage
Where thy limpid waters are seen
Pouring their calm flood in silence
Amid foliage fresh and green;

Where, instead of shifting changes
In the fickle things of state,
Wind-stirred oaks and maitens murmur,
And the forest peace is great;

Where the bird amid the branches,
In the early dawning gray,
Sings its untaught, artless music,
Greeting thus the new-born day.

In that humble thatched-roof cottage,
Oh, how happy were my lot,
In the peace that nothing troubles,
Envied not and envying not!

This to me in truth were sweeter
Than the Babel wild and loud
Where in chase of a chimera
All are rushing in a crowd;

Where dark treachery and falsehood
Near the quaking altar stay
That the people’s favor raises
To the idols of a day.

Sweet repose, most blissful quiet,
Earthly paradise divine!
Has the palm of war or wisdom
Worth which can outrival thine?

Truth I love, not adulation—
Truth all unadorned and plain,
Not the clamorous applauses
That are raised in Fortune’s train.

Growing old, for that false treasure
I would cease my soul to fret—
Say ‘Farewell to disappointments!
The forgetful I forget.

‘Others call excitement pleasure,
Madly seeking fame or pelf;
I in earth’s most hidden corner
Wish to live now for myself.’

Autumn, 1930

In honor of the Chilean holiday, the Feast of St. Peter and Paul, we present this work by one of the great Chilean poets of the 20th century.

Winétt de Rokha
Chilean
1892 – 1951

 

Beneath the white arch,
terrified of the blue winds,
I throw a glance
(like lips on their way to a kiss)
through the balustrade at the yellow ocean.

How it lives, the odour
of rosebush and orange after rain.

A cat — flower of the winter thistle —
electrifies itself, begins to sing;
flies look for smoke-blackened beams;
chickens cluck and shake out their underclothes;

and my heart, trying
to house its sorrow when all covering has been ripped to pieces,
goes barefoot, and blindly.