- 1892-1938
translated by The Friend

It’s a massive spider who can’t move;
a colorless spider, whose body—
a head and an abdomen—bleed.

Today I saw her up close. And with what effort
all along her flanks
her innumerable feet stiffened.
I have thought of her invisible eyes
the fatal pilots of the spider.

It’s a spider that trembled stuck
at the edge of a stone;
abdomen to one side,
to the other the head.

With so many feet the poor thing, she still can’t
work herself out. When seeing her,
stunned in some trance,
what grief this traveler gave me today.

An enormous spider who blocks
the abdomen from following the head.
I’ve thought about her eyes,
considered her numerous feet...
What grief this traveler’s given me today.



La Araña 


Es una araña enorme que ya no anda;
una araña incolora, cuyo cuerpo,
una cabeza y un abdomen, sangra.

Hoy la he visto de cerca. Y con qué esfuerzo
hacia todos los flancos
sus pies innumerables alargaba.
Y he pensado en sus ojos invisibles,
los pilotos fatales de la araña.

Es una araña que temblaba fija
en un filo de piedra;
el abdomen a un lado,
y al otro la cabeza.

Con tantos pies la pobre, y aún no puede
resolverse. Y, al verla
atónita en tal trance,
hoy me ha dado qué pena esa viajera.

Es una araña enorme, a quien impide
el abdomen seguir a la cabeza.
Y he pensado en sus ojos
y en sus pies numerosos...
¡Y me ha dado qué pena esa viajera!


     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!


    Tonight I get down from my horse, 
before the door of the house, where 
I said farewell with the cock's crowing.
It is shut and no one responds. 

    The stone bench on which mama gave birth 
to my older brother, so he could saddle 
backs I had ridden bare, 
through lanes, past hedges, a village boy; 
the bench on which I left my heartsick childhood 
yellowing in the sun ... And this mourning 
that frames the portal? 

    God in alien peace, 
the beast sneezes, as if calling too; 
noses about, prodding the cobbles. Then doubts,
his ears all ears. 

    Papa must be up praying, and perhaps
he will think I am late. 
My sisters, humming their simple, 
bubblish illusions, 
preparing for the approaching holy day,
and now it's almost here. 
I wait, I wait, my heart 
an egg at its moment, that gets blocked. 

    Large family that we left 
not long ago, no one awake now, and not even a candle 
placed on the altar so that we might return. 

    I call again, and nothing. 
We fall silent and begin to sob, and the animal 
whinnies, keeps on whinnying. 

    They're all sleeping forever, 
and so nicely, that at last 
my horse dead-tired starts nodding 
in his turn, and half-asleep, with each pardon, says 
it's all right, everything is quite all right.


    I think about your sex.
My heart simplified, I think about your sex,
before the ripe daughterloin of day.
I touch the bud of joy, it is in season.
And an ancient sentiment dies
degenerated into brains.

    I think about your sex, furrow more prolific
and harmonious than the belly of the Shadow,
though Death conceives and bears
from God himself.
Oh Conscience,
I am thinking, yes, about the free beast
who takes pleasure where he wants, where he can.

    Oh, scandal of the honey of twilights.
Oh mute thunder.


Related Poems

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Oak Gall Wasp

Something like a wooden pearl, what gall
forms here, irritation’s
gemstone on the oak-
leaf-underneath I thought was a berry, seed-
case, or oak-faced
scrotum-like excrescence

the oak tree seemed to make of itself
in extremis involved
with power. For no
reason when we were girls plucking these woodland
BBs from the
branch to flick at the back

fence, about so much unsuspecting
I was mistaken by
meticulously more single-minded than
the mere widest
distribution of seed

over the furthest expanse; as I
follow American
history, small and
solitary, intravenously driven
living syringe
mainlined into the green

vein of oakleaf to position with
the earthly pulse of her
otherworldly self-
sufficient piercing ovipositor her
shimmering eggs,
the oak gall wasp is un-

American mother of the year.
Patriotism, meet
a biochemical je ne sais quoi charms the
of the oakleaf’s force to

form a cradle for each minuscule
egg something like the way
our human flesh scabs
over. And not just any oak—oak gall wasps
an oak known as your own

are implicit in every acorn,
including the sprouting
one you carried home
rolling slowly around the base of a wet
Dixie Cup your
first grade teacher told you

would, with patience, be as tall as you
one day, and capable
in time of crushing
you in bed, unsentimental consequence
of gravity
which is a consequence

of the curvature of spacetime, but
what isn’t? I sold the
house behind which my
son and I once planted such an acorn and
even enclosed
it in a pathetic

ring of prefabricated fencing
I fought counter-clockwise
against the coil to
unspool off a metal roll like a robot
fabric bolt to
shield it from the orphan

fawns. If that oak rises still, witness
to the sleep of someone
else’s child now through
an underestimated August storm, I
do not know, or
in what health, but if rise

it does, safe in her hyperbaric
chamber, as athlete gods
sleep between stages
on the tour de France, there the gall wasp grows in
my divestment.
Such a fundamental

hunger stirs in the oak gall dark, if
you listen you might hear
her chew her way out
of oakleaf where she incubates encrypted
in her first meal.
Unless—and this is life

on earth, as much a miracle of
drudgery and lust as
you or me or the
gall wasp— another even more strategic
to-the-second power

brood parasite wasp oak-injects with
finer, more exacting
a second egg. The two sister together
in the waspworld
prenatal ritual

juices, downloading the vital re-
directed principles
of oak into their
maturing, crackling bodies. You’ve been to sleep-
overs; girls grow
strong touching each other’s

bodies with stories of mutual
incrimination. What
confidence betrayed
then when duplicitous behind her back. To
emerge, as we
learned, wasps chew their exit

through the gall; but in the case of a
hosting wasp, she’s compelled
to stop by something
that most entomologists don’t read enough
novels to understand.

Whether social dynamics are more
or less legible to
an outsider, I’m
too far inside the gall to tell, since it was
I who dug the
hole, placed the acorn, shooed

the beast, and waited for the oak to
leaf that the gall wasp could
deposit there her
egg inspiring thus the oak to cradle it
that a second
wasp could parasitize

the parasite wasp—as is drawn out
over several seasons
of elaborate
out-maneuverings in parish, parlor, and
palace on the
BBC. But this is

an American transition of 
power. Don’t look away.
I don’t want to end
this poem bleeding but the wasp does eat the
wasp, and up through
the top of her head like

the goddess she is, enters the hell-
scape. It’s happening now;
it happened. Unless,
that is, through the bedroom window where sleeps the
child of someone
else now, the beautiful

oak I tenderly tended alread- 
y crashed.