Gabriela Mistral
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360 Spanish Gabriela Mistr al (1889–1957) The Death Sonnets I From the cold niche where they laid you down to rest, to the sunny, humble earth I’ll let you go. I too must sleep there, though they have not guessed we’ll dream on the same pillow down below. I’ll lower you into the sun-warmed ground as a mother gently lays a child to sleep, and the earth, become a cradle soft as down, shall wrap your hurt child’s body safe and deep. Then I shall sprinkle earth, and dust of roses, and in the moonlight’s floating azure mist the slight remains of you will lie alone. I’ll boast, victorious, as one who now supposes in such a secret depth no other fist will wrestle with me for a single bone! II This long fatigue will grow until one day soul tells the body that it can no more bear its great weight along the flowery way where men pursue the life they settle for . . . You’ll sense they’re digging near you, with great strength: a new sleeper for your quiet neighborhood. I’ll wait until they’ve covered all my length . . . and then take up our talk again, for good! You’ll know, then, why your flesh cannot mature toward the deep boneyard that awaits it yet; Gabriela Mistral 361  you had to go, unwearied, there to lie. New light will show, where fate resides obscure, how, to unite us two, the stars were met, then, when our great pact failed, you had to die . . . III Evil hands seized his life the very hour when, drawn by stars, he left behind his source, snowy with lilies. In joy he came to flower. Evil hands ruined and entered him by force . . . And I said to the Lord, “To deadly lands ignorant guides have borne my dearest shade! Wrest him away, Lord, from those fatal hands, or he sinks to the deep sleep that you have made! I cannot call, or follow where he goes! His ship obeys dark storm winds from above. Back to my arms, or you take him in full bloom.” His life’s vessel detained, fresh as a rose . . . You say I have no pity, feel no love? You know it, Lord, who will pronounce my doom! Close to Me Little fiber from my body that I spun so tenderly, little fiber cold and trembling, fall asleep here, close to me! In the clover sleeps the partridge, hears it stirring in the breeze: let my breathing not disturb you, fall asleep here, close to me! 362 Spanish Tender shoot still all aquiver and amazed simply to be, do not leave my breast that holds you: fall asleep here, close to me! I who’ve lost my every treasure tremble now before I sleep. Do not slip from my embracing: fall asleep here, close to me! Rhina P. Espaillat, 2011 ...


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