To Julia de Burgos

To Julia de Burgos


Already people murmur I’m your enemy
since they say that in verse I give the world to me.

They lie, Julia de Burgos. They lie, Julia de Burgos.
The one rising in my verses isn’t your voice: it is my voice
since you are costumes and I, the essence; and the
deepest abyss spreads between us.

You are the cold doll of a social lie,
and I the virile flash of human truth.

You, honey of courtesan hypocrisy; not me;
in all my poems I undress the heart.

You are like your world, selfish;
not me; I gamble everything to be who I am.

You are only the severe ladylike señorona; not me;
I am life, strength, woman.

You are of your husband, of your master; not me;
I am nobody’s, or everyone’s, since I give myself to everyone,
to everyone in my pure feeling and in my thought.

You curl your hair and wear makeup; not me;
the wind curls me, the sun is my makeup.

You are a house dame, resigned, submissive,
tied up in male prejudice; not me;
I am Rocinante breaking out in gallop
snorting God’s landscapes in search of justice.

You don’t rule yourself;
everyone rules you; your husband rules you, your
parents, your relatives, the priest, the tailor,
the theater, casino, and car,
jewels, banquet, champagne, sky
and hell, and the what-will-they-say.

Not me; only my heart rules,
my thought; I rule myself.

You, aristocratic flower; and I, people’s flower.
You have everything in you and you owe it
to everyone, whereas I don’t owe a thing to anyone.

You, nailed to the unmovable ancestral dividend,
and I, a one in in social accountant’s tally
we are the deadly duel that fatefully approaches.

When the masses riot without stop
leaving behind in ashes the burnt injustices.
and when, with the torch of seven virtues
it pursues the seven sins, the masses run away,
against you, and against what is unjust and inhuman
it will be me in their midst with the torch in hand.

(Translated by Ilan Stavans)

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