The Teller of Tales

- 1889-1957
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

    When I’m walking, everything
on earth gets up
and stops me and whispers to me,
and what they tell me is their story.

    And the people walking
on the road leave me their stories,
I pick them up where they fell
in cocoons of silken thread.

    Stories run through my body
or sit purring in my lap.
So many they take my breath away,
buzzing, boiling, humming.
Uncalled they come to me,
and told, they still won’t leave me.

    The ones that come down through the trees
weave and unweave themselves,
and knit me up and wind me round
until the sea drives them away.

    But the sea that’s always telling stories,
the wearier I am the more it tells me...

    The people who cut trees,
the people who break stones,
want stories before they go to sleep.

    Women looking for children
who got lost and don’t come home,
women who think they’re alive
and don’t know they’re dead,
every night they ask for stories,
and I return tale for tale.

    In the middle of the road, I stand
between rivers that won’t let me go,
and the circle keeps closing
and I’m caught in the wheel.

    The riverside people tell me
of the drowned woman sunk in grasses
and her gaze tells her story,
and I graft the tales into my open hands.

    To the thumb come stories of animals,
to the index fingers, stories of my dead.
There are so many tales of children
they swarm on my palms like ants.

    When my arms held
the one I had, the stories
all ran as a blood-gift
in my arms, all through the night.
Now, turned to the East,
I’m giving them away because I forget them.

    Old folks want them to be lies.
Children want them to be true.
All of them want to hear my own story,
which, on my living tongue, is dead.

    I’m seeking someone who remembers it
leaf by leaf, thread by thread.
I lend her my breath, I give her my legs,
so that hearing it may waken it for me.

 


La Contadora 

    Cuando camino se levantan
todas las cosas de la tierra
y me paran y cuchichean
y es su historia lo que cuentan.

    Y las gentes que caminan
en la ruta me la dejan
y la recojo caída
en capullos que son de huella.

    Historias corren mi cuerpo
o en mi regazo ronronean.
Tantas son que no dan respiro,
zumban, hierven y abejean.
Sin llamada se me vienen
y contadas tampoco dejan…

    Las que bajan por los árboles
se trenzan y se destrenzan,
y me tejen y me envuelvan
hasta que el mar los ahuyenta.

    Pero el mar que cuenta siempre
más rendida, más me deja...

    Los que están mascando bosque
y los que rompen la piedra,
al dormirse quieren historias.

    Mujeres que buscan hijos
perdidos que no regresan,
y las que se creen vivas
y no saben que están muertas,
cada noche piden historias,
y yo me rindo cuenta que cuenta.

    A medio camino quedo
entre ríos que no me sueltan,
el corro se va cerrando
y me atrapa en la rueda.

   Los ribereños me cuentan
la ahogada sumida en hierbas,
y su mirada cuenta su historia,
y yo las tronco en mis palmas abiertas.

    Al pulgar llegan las de animales,
al índice las de mis muertos.
Las de niños, de ser tantas
en las palmas me hormiguean.

    Cuando tomaba así mis brazos
el que yo tuve, todas ellas
en regalo de sangre corrieron
mis brazos una noche entera.
Ahora yo, vuelta al Oriente,
se las voy dando porque no recuerdo.

    Los viejos las quieren mentidas,
los niños las quieren ciertas.
Todos quieren oír la historia mía
que en mi lengua viva está muerta.

    Busco alguna que la recuerde
hoja por hoja, herbra por hebra.
Le presto mi aliento, le doy mi marcha
por si el oírla me la despierta.

Chile's Land

translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

     Let's dance on the land of Chile, 
lovely as Rachel, as Leah, 
the land that breeds a people
sweet of heart and speech. 

     The greenest land with gardens, 
the fairest land with wheat, 
the reddest land with vineyards, 
the gentlest to our feet! 

    Our laughter's made of its rivers, 
our cheeks of its dusty earth. 
Kissing the feet of the dancers
it groans like a mother in birth. 

    It's beautiful, and for its beauty
we'll dance its fields along, 
it's free, and for its freedom
we'll drench its face in song. 

    Tomorrow we'll hew and quarry, 
tend to the trees and plants, 
   tomorrow we'll build the cities, 
today just let us dance! 
 


Tierra Chilena 
 

   Danzamos en tierra chilena,
más bella que Lía y Raquel;
la tierra que amasa a los hombres
de labios y pecho sin hiel...

    La tierra más verde de huertos,
la tierra más rubia de mies,
la tierra más roja de viñas,
¡qué dulce que roza los pies!

    Su polvo hizo nuestras mejillas,
su río hizo nuestro reír,
y besa los pies de la ronda
que la hace cual madre gemir.

   Es bella, y por bella queremos
sus pastos de rondas albear;
es libre y por libre deseamos
su rostro de cantos bañar...

   Mañana abriremos sus rocas,
la haremos viñedo y pomar;
   mañana alzaremos sus pueblos;
¡hoy sólo queremos danzar!

Give Me Your Hand

translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

Give me your hand and give me your love,
give me your hand and dance with me.
A single flower, and nothing more,
a single flower is all we'll be.

Keeping time in the dance together,
singing the tune together with me, 
grass in the wind, and nothing more,
grass in the wind is all we'll be.

I'm called Hope and you're called Rose:
but losing our names we'll both go free,
a dance on the hills, and nothing more,
a dance on the hills is all we'll be.


Dame La Mano 

Dame la mano y danzaremos;
dame la mano y me amarás.
Como una sola flor seremos,
como una flor, y nada más.

El mismo verso cantaremos,
al mismo paso bailarás.
Como una espiga ondularemos,
como una espiga, y nada más.

Te llamas Rosa y yo Esperanza;
pero tu nombre olvidarás,
porque seremos una danza
en la colina y nada más. 

My Mountains

translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

In mountains I grew up, 
three dozen peaks around me. 
I seem never, never, 
though I hear my steps departing, 
to have lost them, not in the day, 
not in the starlit night, 
and though in pools I see
myself with snowy hair, 
I never left them, they never left me
like a child forsaken. 

And though they might call me
runaway, deserter, 
I had them and I have them 
always, always. 
And their gaze follows me. 
 


Montañas Mías 
 

En montañas me crié
con tres docenas alzadas.    
Parece que nunca, nunca,
aunque me escuche la marcha,
las perdí, ni cuando es día
ni cuando es noche estrellada,
y aunque me vea en las fuentes
la cabellera nevada,
las dejé ni me dejaron
como a hija trascordada.

Y aunque me digan el mote
de ausente y de renegada,
me las tuve y me las tengo
todavía, todavía,
y me sigue su mirada.

Related Poems

Penelope Unravels

translated by Ana Valverde Osan

There is always adolescence and nothing else at dusk.

When the soft bend in the evening
insinuates its desolate curve,
something within us also bends over.
We have very few things then,
no possession accompanies us,
no possession offends us either.
There is a slow disaster in these hours
that seem the only ones in the day,
those which leave us in the old limits,
those that cannot give us anything,
those of which we do not ask anything.
There is a tender and decomposing disaster
in the final hours of this day
that has gone by like the others,
and, just like them, it has reached
the burning beauty
of that which gazes upon nothingness.
Leaning over my windowsill
I see how a section of time slides by;
evening has softly embalmed
the street’s noisy happenings,
the sky is shrinking little by little
and a burst of patience
wraps the world in soft, ashy hugs.

While the night opens up on the corners,
the moon sets in strange flowers.


Penélope desteje

Siempre hay adolescencia y nada en el atardecer.

Cuando el suave recodo de la tarde
insinúa su curva desolada,
algo también en nosotros se inclina.
Muy pocas cosas tenemos entonces,
ninguna posesión nos acompaña,
ninguna posesión nos ultraja tampoco.
Hay un lento desastre en estas horas
que parecen las únicas del día,
las que nos dejan en el viejo límite,
las que no pueden entregarnos nada,
a las que no pedimos nada.
Hay un desastre tierno y descompuesto
en las últimas horas de este día
que ha pasado lo mismo que los otros,
e igual que ellos ha alcanzado
esa hermosura ardiente
de todo cuanto se asoma hacia la nada.
Inclinada sobre el hueco de mi ventana
veo cómo resbala todo un tiempo;
la tarde ha embalsamado suavemente
el bullicioso suceder de la calle,
se va agotando el cielo poco a poco
y un estallido de paciencia
envuelve al mundo en suaves abrazos de ceniza.

Mientras la noche se abre en las esquinas,
cuaja la luna unas flores extrañas.

Love for This Book

In these lonely regions I have been powerful
in the same way as a cheerful tool
or like untrammeled grass which lets loose its seed
or like a dog rolling around in the dew.
Matilde, time will pass wearing out and burning
another skin, other fingernails, other eyes, and then
the algae that lashed our wild rocks,
the waves that unceasingly construct their own whiteness,
all will be firm without us,
all will be ready for the new days,
which will not know our destiny.

What do we leave here but the lost cry
of the seabird, in the sand of winter, in the gusts of wind
that cut our faces and kept us
erect in the light of purity,
as in the heart of an illustrious star?

What do we leave, living like a nest
of surly birds, alive, among the thickets
or static, perched on the frigid cliffs?
So then, if living was nothing more than anticipating
the earth, this soil and its harshness,
deliver me, my love, from not doing my duty, and help me
return to my place beneath the hungry earth.

We asked the ocean for its rose,
its open star, its bitter contact,
and to the overburdened, to the fellow human being, to the wounded
we gave the freedom gathered in the wind.
It's late now. Perhaps
it was only a long day the color of honey and blue,
perhaps only a night, like the eyelid
of a grave look that encompassed
the measure of the sea that surrounded us,
and in this territory we found only a kiss,
only ungraspable love that will remain here
wandering among the sea foam and roots.

The Little Mute Boy

The little boy was looking for his voice.
(The king of the crickets had it.)
In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.

I do not want it for speaking with;
I will make a ring of it
so that he may wear my silence
on his little finger

In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.

(The captive voice, far away,
put on a cricket's clothes.)