You Want Me White

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By alfonsina storni, Translated from the Spanish by Meghan Flaherty

 

You want me like dawn,
You want me made of sea-foam,
You want me made of nacre.
Lily-like, more chaste
Than any other girl.
Delicately perfumed,
My bud closed.

No pure ray of moon
would shine its light on me.
Not one daisy
would ever call me sister.
You want me white,
You want me snow-white,
You want me like dawn.

You, who grasped
at every goblet easily,
your lips stained purple
with the fruit and honey.
You who at the
Vine-draped banquet
Forfeited your flesh
To feast to Bacchus.
You who in black
Gardens of deception
Ran to ruin
Dressed in red.
You who keep your
bones so well-preserved
By what miracles
I still can’t say,
You pretend I’m white
(God forgive you that)
You pretend I’m chaste
(God forgive you that)
You pretend I’m dawn!

Flee for the forests;
Go to the mountains;
Wash out your mouth;
Live in a shack;
Touch the wet earth
With your hands;
Feed your body
Bitter roots;
Drink from the rocks;
Sleep on the ice;
Renew your cells
With rocksalt and water.
Talk to birds
And wake at dawn.
And when your flesh
Comes back to you,
And when you’ve put
your soul back into it,
your soul so tangled up
In bedrooms,
Then, mister, only then
Pretend I’m white,
Pretend I’m white as snow,
Pretend I’m chaste.

Original:

Tú me quieres blanca

Por Alfonsina Storni

Tú me quieres alba,
Me quieres de espumas,
Me quieres de nácar.
Que sea azucena
Sobre todas, casta.

De perfume tenue.
Corola cerrada
Ni un rayo de luna
Filtrado me haya.
Ni una margarita
Se diga mi hermana.

Tú me quieres nívea,
Tú me quieres blanca,
Tú me quieres alba.
Tú que hubiste todas
Las copas a mano,
De frutos y mieles
Los labios morados.
Tú que en el banquete
Cubierto de pámpanos
Dejaste las carnes
Festejando a Baco.
Tú que en los jardines
Negros del Engaño
Vestido de rojo
Corriste al Estrago.

Tú que el esqueleto
Conservas intacto
No sé todavía
Por cuáles milagros,
Me pretendes blanca
(Dios te lo perdone),
Me pretendes casta
(Dios te lo perdone),
¡Me pretendes alba!

Huye hacia los bosques,
Vete a la montaña;
Límpiate la boca;
Vive en las cabañas;
Toca con las manos
La tierra mojada;
Alimenta el cuerpo
Con raíz amarga;
Bebe de las rocas;
Duerme sobre escarcha;
Renueva tejidos
Con salitre y agua;
Habla con los pájaros
Y lévate al alba.
Y cuando las carnes
Te sean tornadas,
Y cuando hayas puesto
En ellas el alma
Que por las alcobas
Se quedó enredada,
Entonces, buen hombre,
Preténdeme blanca,
Preténdeme nívea,
Preténdeme casta.

 —

Blogger’s note: It was difficult to choose amongst several translations for this poem in English. There is a disagreement among translators over the word “blanca” in Spanish, which literally means white, but like in English, it could also be expressed as “pale-skinned” or “pale”. In the context of Latin America, there is an additional reference to skin color and racism in the word “blanca”. I chose this translation because I prefer keeping the word as “white”, which encompasses notions of purity, blindness, and transcendence.

This translation was published online in “alchemy”, the UCSD Journal of Translation, on July 17, 2013. It was accompanied by this description of the author:

“Alfonsina Storni is both the Dorothy Parker and the Virginia Woolf of Argentina. Her work is acid, stark, and melancholic, sometimes masked in singsong rhyme, and often brimming with a strident feminism decades beyond her time. In 1938, she walked into the sea, ending her life.”

Image Credit: Anindya Chakraborty

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