Do not write. I am sad, and want my light put out. Summers in your absence are as dark as a room. I have closed my arms again. They must do without. To knock at my heart is like knocking at a tomb. Do not write! Do not write. Let us learn to die, as best we may. Did I love you? Ask God. Ask yourself. Do you know? To hear that you love me, when you are far away, Is like hearing from heaven and never to go. Do not write! Do not write. I fear you. I fear to remember, For memory holds the voice I have often heard. To the one who cannot drink, do not show water, The beloved one's picture in the handwritten word. Do not write! Do not write those gentle words that I dare not see, It seems that your voice is spreading them on my heart, Across your smile, on fire, they appear to me, It seems that a kiss is printing them on my heart. Do not write!
N'écris pas. Je suis triste, et je voudrais m'éteindre. Les beaux étés sans toi, c'est la nuit sans flambeau. J'ai refermé mes bras qui ne peuvent t'atteindre, Et frapper à mon coeur, c'est frapper au tombeau. N'écris pas! N'écris pas. N'apprenons qu'à mourir à nous-mêmes. Ne demande qu'à Dieu . . . qu'à toi, si je t'aimais! Au fond de ton absence écouter que tu m'aimes, C'est entendre le ciel sans y monter jamais. N'écris pas! N'écris pas. Je te crains; j'ai peur de ma mémoire; Elle a gardé ta voix qui m'appelle souvent. Ne montre pas l'eau vive à qui ne peut la boire. Une chère écriture est un portrait vivant. N'écris pas! N'écris pas ces doux mots que je n'ose plus lire: Il semble que ta voix les répand sur mon coeur; Que je les vois brûler à travers ton sourire; Il semble qu'un baiser les empreint sur mon coeur. N'écris pas!
Translation from Modern Poets of France: A Bilingual Anthology, edited and translated by Louis Simpson, published by Story Line Press, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Louis Simpson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
When we two parted
In silence and tears,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.
This poem is in the public domain.
There is no magic any more,
We meet as other people do,
You work no miracle for me
Nor I for you.
You were the wind and I the sea—
There is no splendor any more,
I have grown listless as the pool
Beside the shore.
But though the pool is safe from storm
And from the tide has found surcease,
It grows more bitter than the sea,
For all its peace.
This poem is in the public domain.
This afternoon it is raining, as never before; and I have no desire to live, my heart. This afternoon is sweet. Why should it not be? Dressed in grace and pain; dressed like a woman. This afternoon in Lima it is raining. And I recall the cruel caverns of my ingratitude; my block of ice over her poppy, stronger than her “Don’t be this way!” My violent black flowers; and the barbaric and terrible stoning; and the glacial distance. And the silence of her dignity with burning holy oils will put all end to it. So this afternoon, as never before, I am with this owl, with this heart. Other women go by; and seeing me so sad, they take on a bit of you in the abrupt wrinkle of my deep remorse. This afternoon it is raining, raining hard. And I have no desire to live, my heart!
From The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition, by César Vallejo, Clayton Eshleman (trans.), © 2007 by The Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press.
This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.
It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.
Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.
Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.
IT spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.
The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.
Yes, it decides:
Many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.
When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them—one, then another—
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.
From Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001) by Jane Hirshfield. Copyright © 2001 by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted by permission of the author, all rights reserved.
I do not love thee!—no! I do not love thee!
And yet when thou art absent I am sad;
And envy even the bright blue sky above thee,
Whose quiet stars may see thee and be glad.
I do not love thee!—yet, I know not why,
Whate’er thou dost seems still well done, to me:
And often in my solitude I sigh
That those I do love are not more like thee!
I do not love thee!—yet, when thou art gone,
I hate the sound (though those who speak be dear)
Which breaks the lingering echo of the tone
Thy voice of music leaves upon my ear.
I do not love thee!—yet thy speaking eyes,
With their deep, bright, and most expressive blue,
Between me and the midnight heaven arise,
Oftener than any eyes I ever knew.
I know I do not love thee! yet, alas!
Others will scarcely trust my candid heart;
And oft I catch them smiling as they pass,
Because they see me gazing where thou art.
This poem is in the public domain.
What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.
What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was
whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever
was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them
so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is
being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.
The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,
in love with the one to whom every that belongs!
From The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems, translated by Coleman Barks, published by HarperCollins. Translation copyright © 2002 by Coleman Barks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.