The International Literary Quarterly

May 2008

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Poems by Marjorie Agosín Translated by Roberta Gordenstein  


She loved
to imagine the
with her open hands
with her riot of
cracks and stories

She dreamed
of the woman’s hand,
woven together with her own
entering and exiting along estuaries
barefoot watersheds
pausing at the line of her heart
a curving line

The fortuneteller also possessed
the most dazzling power!
Caressing a hand without haste,
knowing how to pronounce the precise word
the divinity of a thrilling future
but more than palms
the fortuneteller knew how
to rescue her heart


the bodies appeared
among the bushes,
in the irrigation ditches
where the earth deprived of hope
had drunk the water
they appeared in the deserts
like ghostly apparitions
in the stubborn expansion of the sands
where there still remained a moan
a breath of life…
the bodies, each one of them, impoverished,
with arms cut off, faces carved up
and still, always, the mothers,
sisters. cousins, the women of the country,
searching for that body that was no longer a body,
only debris and desolation.
time suspended in horror
when they discovered these bodies
the women repeated rigorously
the dignified ritual of death
that was the ritual of farewell,
and sometimes, in the middle of the desert,
of the irrigation ditches,
of a country closed forever by fear
they brought flowers
that also died at the moment of farewell,
but they were fragile flowers
claiming the moment of beauty,
the moment of life before the farewell


More than anything
I love the word
that entwines bodies
that covers the dead
that envelops the sleep of
more than anything
the word
cover diaphanous
blue upon the beds of those who love
a cover for covering
stretching out
loving like that, between the covers
biting them
inhabiting them
dreaming of them on top of them
as if they were the land of joy
and yet, if we are the same
everything and nothing is sacred


I offer you a sign
what the sea does not
algae dressed as indolent
and secretive women
a seashell that rests its mother-of-pearl
ears upon the damp sand,
I want you to hear it,
I want you to recognize each one of its
invisible sounds
I want you to understand
the wind that rests in it
and loves

amazing astonishing
starfish also
rest on the imaginary country of the sand

I make you a gift of my time and my laughter
so you will burst with that gratuitous
joy of gestures like a luminous ring
joy of the brilliance
of a summer day
when the sea performs its mysterious ceremonies

I offer you my voice
and my silence
so you will not confuse it
with the multitude
so you will distinguish me
among so many others
voice like your asylum
voice like a bay which
in the distance gently sways
welcoming you
voice of illuminated

Because love demands
the subtleties of recognition
the quiet haven of a body
image of another body
but always uniquely singular
distracted imprecise

Come to my body
as though you might meet a country
governed by the rhythm of women
where the nights do not devour either children
or stories
but are tales in the torn heart of the moon

Come to my body that
does not long for power or borders
a body that does not return from any war
that does not hesitate faced with a caress
that is round
that weaves fabrics
secrets like the ochre color of the earth
like the calypso of enchantments

Here I carve out a paradise among the
that germinate in the open palms
of my hands

The Disappeared

The disappeared
took their voices with them
their voices with which they sang
The International
their tongues and languages

We became accustomed to not hearing them
while we searched for them
perhaps secretly
we dreamt that some day
they would be waiting for us at the corner café
or in the schoolyard
as if nothing had happened
because it was a bad dream in some
short story by Borges

With them we also lost the transparency
of objects
the illusion of every day
that it was always the present the moment
the transparency of objects

And so we grew accustomed to filling ourselves with absence
to a gray silence on our cracked faces
to forgetting their voices
to really believing that perhaps not one of them existed
that these disappeared
were not real

And so we too disappeared from history
we shriveled up
the sky also smaller
we no longer searched for anyone
we did not question anyone
we grew silent in order to die or perhaps to live in miniature
and one day like them
we also disappeared
except that
we were aware
we dressed in mourning
we joined forces with fear
little by little indifference defeated us too

We expected nothing else
except occasionally thinking yes,
perhaps they would again appear in that corner café
or in that instant of the sun when summer is a
ceremony of delight.

Here I Dreamed of Myself

Here I dreamed of myself
I sketched seashells
In the palms of my hands.

I learned the clear
Sounds that taught me
To know myself
In the simple truth of being
In the present moment

And with these words
Simple necklaces are embroidered
Language demands humility
Tenderness in the telling of tales

It was impossible not to be the accomplice
Of poetry
There was too much maddening magic
In this geography
Six hundred sighing volcanoes

Caves with dancing animals
Avenues of glaciers like the capitals of a
Decrepit Europe

I fell in love with the names of birds
And what their flights foretold but I loved
The huemul1 like my grandmother Gabriela
Because I was more awkward than it.

And I fell in love with my country
Without great questions
Only the hope of loving it
Even in the distance
When I saw it from the air
I saw it smaller than myself.

All that I am and love
Is here
As in the ancient vessels of the gypsies
Here even the chorus of the bandurrias
Here the preamble of love was born.

1. A mythical animal

Blue Nostalgia

Blue nostalgia for being recognized
Discovering the world among the others
Growing old with them
Sensing the continuity of history
Delighting in lovers who left
With another
Being a very old woman
The same one who fell in love
With her own dreams
The one who sketched tattoos in
Imaginary sands
And watered the graves of her grandparents

Nostalgia for recognizing a fragrance that
Blooms among the herbs of the same house
Where the rain marched calmly past
While Serrat accompanied the first
Enchantments of love

I have lived here so far away
Abandoning the girl I was
Only nostalgia for a blue day
For a house where I lay my head
For a country that offered me words

Beyond the hours

And the wind beyond, within the solitude of fire
Became a perpetual guest
A clear presence among the absent ones

Beyond the hours
The wind and its voice waving along the shores
Showing us the grace of remoteness
In the sunny solitudes of Chile
Where I too became
A guest and accomplice
A silence without preamble
A hoarse and obscure voice
A voice

The Sound of Love

Dazzling is this whispering
of pulsations
this blinking of light
this sound of love
populating the skin
depopulating fear
so like the path
that appears to take delight
in wonders

Dazzling are the bodies
entwining themselves in the clandestine
circle of a reddish spark


Winter also
Is rejoicing
A shaky stillness over the grasslands
A country overflowing in its luminous
You touch the avatar of winter
Like a guest,
Astonished before a spinning
And the trees
You would embrace every summer
As if they were the waists of lovers, of small
Now, so naked, so generous
Weaving silences
Weaving stories
And your hair also seems
To slip away among the trees
I imagine you arriving home
The wind pronouncing your name
Sunken in the white texture
And you come because I wait for you
Like the women who wait after the rains
After the floods
After the war
And you enter my body like a smile
In this abundant winter
The body sketches wandering fires
In the distance silence and birds in love with silence
And without seeking one another
We return to each other
Unable to distinguish between outside and inside
The body is a house in the solitude of a day between snowfalls
In the plenitude of the sun above our caresses
And I tell you stories of my country closer to the sun than to sadness
And I ruffle your hair like a gentle snowflake falling
On that pillow even more transparent than the story you and I imagined


I have traveled through the countryside
with your name
I have entered uninhabited cities
where birds die at night
I have asked about your face
among the mute
the women who only gaze bewilderedly
at the horizon
I have traveled with you and your name
in search of your light
I have repeated your name until
I became a dream lost on the plains
and no one responds, no one recognizes
no one inquires
only your name
on my dry lips
only your name that recalls you
touching essences, awakening alone
with your name like ashes that overshadow the light.