You Want Me Daybreak

By ALFONSINA STORNI

Translated by NICHOLAS FRIEDMAN

 

You want me daybreak,
you want me sea-spray,
you want me pearl-like.
You want me lilywhite
and, above all, chaste—
my perfume faint,
my petals shut tight.

Not even the moonlight
gets through with its beam.
No daisy can claim
she’s a sister to me.
You want me snow-bright,
you want me white,
you want me daybreak.

You had all my chalices
well within reach,
your lips empurpled
with fruits and sweets.
You who at the feast,
all covered in vines,
left the meat behind
giving Bacchus your praise.
You who, dressed in red,
ran headlong to Havoc
in the Garden of Tricks.
You whose mere skeleton
keeps him intact—
by way of what miracles
I still don’t know—
you expect me white
(may God forgive you),
you expect me chaste
(may God forgive you),
you expect me daybreak.

Flee for the woods;
go off to the mountains;
wash out your mouth;
go live in a cabin;
touch the wet earth
with your bare hands;
nourish your body
with bitter roots;
drink from the rocks;
sleep on the frost;
restore your cloths
with water and salts;
speak with the birds
and rise with dawn.
And when the flesh
returns to your frame;
and when you’ve returned
your soul to that flesh
which was always enlaced
in the bedroom’s affairs—
then, decent man,
expect me white,
expect me snow-bright,
expect me chaste.

 

 

Alfonsina Storni (born May 29, 1892) was an Argentinean poet of Swiss and Italian descent. Both lauded and criticized during her lifetime for her atypical style, Storni wrote with verve on gender, theology, and depression. Suffering from breast cancer, Storni took her own life in October of 1938.

Nicholas Friedman is the author of Petty Theft, winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize. He currently teaches at Stanford University.

[Purchase Issue 17 here.]

You Want Me Daybreak

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