Translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert
For Raúl Gustavo Aguirre
This mania of knowing myself an angel,
without a death in which to live me,
without piety for my name
or for my bones that sob as they wander.
And who doesn’t have a love?
And who doesn’t delight in a field of poppies?
And who doesn’t possess some fire, some death,
or some fear, something horrible,
though full of feathers,
though full of smiles?
This sinister delirium of loving a shadow.
The shadow doesn’t die.
And my love
only embraces the thing that flows
like lava up from hell:
a quiet loggia,
ghosts at sweet erection,
priests made of foam,
and above all, the angels,
angels beautiful as knives
that rise up at night
as hope’s devastations.
Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972) was a leading voice in twentieth-century Latin American poetry. Born in Argentina to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Pizarnik studied at the University of Buenos Aires and the Sorbonne. Known primarily as a poet, Pizarnik also published reviews, translations, theatre, and short works of experimental prose, and left behind a literary diary that reflects her debt to Kafka, Artaud, and Michaux. She died of an apparent drug overdose at the age of thirty-six.
Yvette Siegert’s poetry and translations have appeared in Circumference, Guernica, Chelsea, Stonecutter, and Aufgabe. She has edited for The New Yorker and the United Nations, and taught at Columbia University and Baruch College of the City University of New York. She received a PEN Heim/NYSCA Grant and a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for her translations of the collected works of Alejandra Pizarnik.
“Exile” originally appeared in Women’s Studies (TLR, Winter 2015).