Valentine's Day





ALFONSINA STORNI


I am like the she-wolf.

I broke with the pack

And fled to the mountains

Tired of the plain.


I have a son, the outcome of love without marriage,

For I couldn't be like the others, another ox

With its neck in a yoke; I hold my proud head high!

I plow through the underbrush with my own hands.

NEAR THE END of her life, the Argentine .poet Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938) wrote a dramatic series of poems that she called "anti- sonnets," which appeared in her moving posthumous volume Mascarilla y trebol (Mask and Clover). These poems abandoned rhyme but maintained a traditional structure of fourteen lines: two quatrains, or four-line stanzas, and two tercets, or three-line stanzas. They are argumentative poems that take the traditional subject of the sonnet, romantic love, and radically dismantle it.
Storni treats the god of love with a bracing lyricism and dark cyn-
icism in her allegorical poem ~ Eros" ("To Eros"), which introduces her final work. She had always been a radical and unconventional figure. Now the woman who broke with the pack has come down to the sea with a lifetime of experience behind her. Her head is still high. Picture her in her mid-forties strolling along a sandy beach, suddenly catching a doll-like figure of Eros by the throat. Eros tries to wound her, but she is undeterred and cuts him open to uncover his inner workings. She even finds his secret trapdoor. Then she tosses him back into the sea.

To EROS 

I caught you by the neck
on the shore of the sea, while you shot
arrows from your quiver to wound me
and on the ground I saw your flowered crown.

I disemboweled your stomach like a doll's
and examined your deceitful wheels,
and deeply hidden in your golden pulleys
I found a trapdoor that said: sex.

On the beach I held you, now a sad heap,
up to the sun, accomplice of your deeds,
before a, chorus of frightened sirens.

Your deceitful godmother, the moon
was climbing through the crest of the dawn,
and I threw you into the mouth of the waves. 

(TRANSLATED BY KAY SHORT) 

Mask and Clover concludes with a passionate homage to poetry, the anti-sonnet “A madona poesia" ("To My Lady of Poetry"). The poet serves a larger god. Storri's final book, then, commences with a lyric that uncovers the deceit of romantic love, but it closes with a romantic reaffirmation of the religious purity of her stubborn and furious art. Love may have been corrupted, but poetry remains intensely pure.
To My LADY OF POETRY

I throw myself here at your feet, sinful,
my dark face against your blue earth,
you the virgin among armies of palm trees
that never grow old as humans do.
I don't dare look at your pure eyes
or dare touch your_ miraculous hand:
I look behind me and a river of rashness
urges me guiltlessly on against you.

With a promise to mend my ways through your
divine grace, I humbly place on your
hem a little green branch,
for I couldn't have possibly lived
cut off from your shadow, since you blinded me
at birth with your fierce branding iron. 

(TRANSLATED BY KAY SHORT) 


Edward Hirsch: Poet's Choice


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