The sorrow in your heart
is betrayed by a few grey hairs.
Life is like empty mountain ranges
Where snow awaits your visits;
Yet you make your solitary retreat
by the path in the wilderness.

Li Yü


Last night, the wind and rain —
Those autumnal sounds
struck against the curtains and screens.
The candle wept,
the clepsydra dripped
and I leaned against the head-rest.
I rose, but found no peace.

All mundane affairs
should be thrown into the river.
Life is just a nightmare.
The only safe path is down into the cellar.
Any other route is not worth the fare.

Li Yü

to be

A fathomless abyss is human pain!
Whose eye has ever pierced to its black depths?
To the shadowy gulf of times that are no more
incline your ear… Within there falls
the eternal tear! To the defenceless mouths
that in another age life such as ours
inspired, curious draw nigh…. A groan
arises trembling from the whitened bones!

Life is pain. And life persists,
obscure, but life for all that, even in the tomb.
Matter disintegrates and is dispersed;
the eternal spirit, the underlying essence
suffers without pause. It were in vain
to wield the suicidal steel.
Suicide is unavailing. The form is changed,
the indestructible being endures.

In thee, Pain, we live and have our being!
The supreme yearning of all existing things
is to be lost in nothingness, annulled,
deep in dreamless sleep… And life continues
beyond the frozen confines of the tomb.

There is no death. In vain you clamour for death,
souls destitute of hope. And the implacable
purveyor of suffering creatures ravishes
us to another world. There is no pause.
We crave a single instant of respite
and a voice in the darkness urges: ,,On!”

Yes, life is an evil
and an evil that never ends. The creating God
is the creature of another terrible God
whose name is pain. And the immortal
Saturn is insatiate. And space,
the nursery of suns, the infinite,
are the mighty prison, issueless,
of souls that suffer and that cannot die.

Oh implacable Saturn, make an end at last,
devour created things and then,
since we are immortal, ruminate our lives!
We are thine, Pain, thine for evermore!

but pity for the beings that are not yet,
save in thy mind that hunger stimulates. . .
Pity, oh God, have pity on nothingness!
At last be sated, that the eternal womb,
begetter of the seed of humankind,
turn barren and that life come to an end. . .
And let the world like a dead planet whirl
amid the waveless oceans of the void!

Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera


I who never had a trade
who have felt weak in the face of all competition,
who lost the best claims to life
who scarcely arrive at a place before I want to leave (in the belief
that moving on is a solution)
who have been prematurely disowned and helped in a humiliating way
and ridiculed by abler people

I who cling to walls so that I do not fall completely
who am an object of laughter for myself
who believed that my father was eternal
who have been humiliated by teachers of literature
who was answered with a guffaw
when once I asked how I could help
I who shall never build a home, nor sparkle
nor be a winner in life
who have been abandoned by many people
because I hardly ever speak
who feel shame for acts I have not committed
who have been close to starting to run down the street
who have lost a center I never had
who have become the general laughing-stock
because I live in limbo
who shall find no one to put up with me

who was ignored so that attention should be paid to those
more abject than myself
who shall carry on my whole life like this and who next year
will be mocked many more times for my ridiculous ambitions
who am tired of taking advice from others more lethargic than myself
(,,you’re half asleep, get moving, wake up”)
who shall never be able to travel to India
who have accepted favors and given nothing in return
who wander from one side of the city to the other like a feather
who let myself be carried along by the others

who have no personality nor want one
who stifle my rebelliousness all day long
who have not joined the guerrillas
who have done nothing for my people
who do not belong to the *F A L N and who despair over all these things
and others that would make an endless list
who cannot get out of my prison
who have been turned down everywhere because I am of no use
who to tell the truth have not been able to get married
nor go to Paris nor spend a peaceful day
who refuse to recognize facts
who always dribble over my story

who since birth have been an imbecile and an imbecile twice over
who lost the thread of the speech that was being delivered within me
and have not found it
who do not cry when I want to cry,
who am late for everything

who have been ruined by so many advances and retreats
who yearn for perfect immobility and impeccable promptness
who am neither what I am nor what I am not
who in spite of everything have a satanic pride even though
at certain moments my humility has made me feel no taller than the stones
who have lived for fifteen years within the same circle
I who believed myself predestined for something unusual
and have achieved nothing
who shall never wear a tie
who cannot find my body

who have seen my duplicity in lightning flashes
and have not been able to throw myself to the ground, to sweep everything away
and to create a new freshness out of my indolence, my drifting, my eccentricity,
and obstinately [continue] to commit suicide with whatever my hand touches.
I shall get up from the ground more ridiculous than ever
and go on mocking myself and others until the day of the last

Rafael Cadenas

*F A L N: (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional) Armed Forces of National Liberation,
military arm of the National Liberation Front of Venezuela.

the walls, nothing else

Walls, nothing else.
Lifeless, noiseless,
Without harsh words,
Life lies inert.

Livid light escapes
And glass nerves its glass
Against uncertain night,
With its violent squalls.

Once more as it used to be
The house comes back to life;
Times are just the same,
Different eyes see.

Have I shut the door?
Oblivion opens
Its bare rooms for me,
Grey, white, airless.

But nobody sighs.
My hands have nothing
To hold but tears. Silence;
Darkness trembling; nothing.

Luis Cernuda

what was life

What was life
what rotten apple
what leftover
what waste.

If it was a rose
if it was
a golden cloud
and should have flowered
in the air.

If it was a rose
if it was a gay flame
if it was anything
that causes
no pain
that is content to be
anything, anything
that is easy

It could not have been made up of corridors
of sordid dawns
of revulsion
of unlit tasks
of routines, of credits
it could not have been
it could not.

Not that
what it was
what it is
the dirty air
of the street
the winter
the many errors
the miseries

in a deserted world

Idea Vilariño

poem 151

She distrusts, as disguised cruelty,
the solace offered by hope

Oh, malady of Hope, your persistence
sustains the passing of my weary years,
while measuring my wishes and my fears
your balances maintain equivalence;
deceitfully, and with what indolence,
the pans begin to tip, but as change nears
invariably your parity adheres:
despair is counterpoised by confidence.
Still, Murderess is how you must be known,
for Murderess you are, when it is owned
how between a fate of happiness or strife
my soul has hung suspended far too long;
you do not act thus to prolong my life
but, rather, that in life death be prolonged.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

when the day comes

I want to die when day is fading,
on the high seas and with my face to the sky;
where the agony may seem like a dream
and the soul a mew on soaring wing.

At the last, to hear no other voice,
alone already with the sky and sea,
no other voice, no other sobbing knell,
than the mighty heaving of the deep..

To die when the melancholy light
withdraws its golden nets from the green waves,
and be as yonder slowly expiring sun,
a thing of exceeding brightness, perishing.

To die, and young; before the pleasant crown
is brought to nothing by perfidious time;
while life is still saying ,,I’m yours’’,
although we know well that she is betraying us.

Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera

the circle

We all leave; but everything remains.
We do not return again to our port.
Those who have died have gone for ever.
The flower that falls decomposes into mud.

Eventually, in another form, the essence of the flower
finds its garden in that mud.
When we die, we shall go through the air,
with uncertain course, in the arms of the great Everything.

We shall return, but without ourselves.
The immortal substance changes form
and some go so that others may come.

The cosmic avenue is circular,
yet without moving outside its pattern
our lives fuse with Life.

Emilio Frugoni

poem 146

She laments her fortune, she hints of her aversion to all vice,
and justifies her diversion with the Muses

In my pursuit, World, why such diligence?
What my offense, when I am thus inclined,
insuring elegance affect my mind,
not that my mind affect an elegance?
I have no love of riches or finance,
and thus do I most happily, I find,
expend finances to enrich my mind
and not mind expend upon finance.
I worship beauty not, but vilify
that spoil of time that mocks eternity,
nor less, deceitful treasures glorify,
but hold foremost, with greatest constancy,
consuming all the vanity in life,
and not consuming life in vanity.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz