Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Alejandra Pizarnik photographed by Sara Facio in Buenos Aires. Image: Wikimedia commons.
Translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert
Ambushed in my writing
you are singing in my poem.
Captive of your sweet voice
engraved in my memory.
Bird intent on its flight.
Air branded by absence.
Clock that keeps time with me
so I never wake up.
for Olga Orozco
Joe, macht die Musik von damals Nacht…
She who died of her blue dress is singing. Her song is suffused with death and she sings to the sun of her drunkenness. Inside her song there is a blue dress, a white horse, a green heart tattooed with echoes of her own dead heart. Exposed to all that is lost, she sings with a stray girl who is also herself, her amulet. And in spite of the green mist on her lips and the grey cold in her eyes, her voice breaks down the distance gaping between thirst and the hand that reaches for water. She is singing.
Fragments for Subduing the Silence
The powers of language are the solitary ladies who sing, desolate, with this voice of mine that I hear from a distance. And far away, in the black sand, lies a girl heavy with ancestral music. Where is death itself? I have wanted clarity in light of my lack of light. Branches die in the memory. The girl lying in the sand nestles into me with her wolf mask. The one she couldn’t stand anymore and that begged for flames and that we set on fire.
When the roof tiles blow away from the house of language, and words no longer keep—that is when I speak.
The ladies in red have lost themselves in their masks. Though they will return to sob among the flowers.
Death is no mute. I hear the song of the mourners sealing the clefts of silence. I listen and the sweetness of your crying brings life to my grey silence.
Death has restored to silence its own bewitching charm. And I will not say my poem and I will say it. Even if (here, now) the poem has no feeling, no future.
Alejandra Pizarnik (Buenos Aires, 1936–1972) quickly established herself as a major voice in twentieth-century Latin American poetry. Drawing on the work of the Surrealists, Pizarnik wrote seven collections of poetry and various short, experimental works of theatre and fiction, as well as a literary diary, critical essays and translations of French poetry. She died of an overdose of Seconal at the age of thirty-six. Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962-1972, which gathers all of Pizarnik’s later works in one volume in English for the first time, will be published by New Directions in June.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
The vast hinterlands of the Global South’s cities are generating new solidarities and ideas of what counts as a life worth living.
Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.
Support us with a donation this giving season.