Poetry by Atahualpa Yupanqui

Tucumán Moon

I do not sing to the moon
because it shines and nothing more.
I sing because it knows
of my long road.

Ay sweet moon of Tucumán!
Little drum of the Calchaquí!
Companion to the ranchers
on the paths of the Tafí.

Lost in the mist, who knows,
my little life, which way I’ll go.
Still when the moon appears,
I will sing, I will sing,
to my Tucumán dear,
I will sing, I will sing!

In hope or in pain
the good moon I have seen
in Acheral’s fields
kissing the rows of cane.

We are alike in something,
moon of solitude!
I go along walking and singing
which is my way of shining.

Translator’s note: Tucumán is a province in northern Argentina. The Tafí and the Calchaquí were tribes of the South American Diaguita people, who inhabited the area before the arrival of the Spanish. Acheral is a settlement in Tucumán.

Road of the Indian

Dear road of the indian,
path sown with stones,
dear road of the indian,
that joins the valley to the stars.

Dear road that my old race
walked from south to north,
before the Pacha Mama
grew dark in the mountain.

Singing in the high land
weeping in the river,
the pain of the Indian
grows larger in the night…

The sun and the moon
and this song of mine,
kissed your stones
road of the indian.

In the mountain night
the quena weeps its deep longing,
and the road knows
the sweetheart the Indian’s calling…

On the hill the aching voice
of a baguala ascends
and the road laments
being blamed for the distance…

Translator’s Note: The Pacha Mama is a goddess, worshipped by indigenous people of the Andes.

Stone and Road

I’m coming down the hill
–road and stone–
bringing tangled up in my soul, viday,
a sorrow.

You accuse me of not loving you.
Don’t say such a thing…
Perhaps you will never understand, viday,
why I’m leaving…

It’s my destiny,
stone and road…
I am a pilgrim, viday,
of a distant and beautiful dream.

I seek more than joy,
I live suffering…
And when I should stay, viday,
I get going…

At times I am like the river:
I arrive singing…
And without anybody knowing, viday,
I leave weeping…

Sad Track

That I recount my sorrows
you occasionally request.
If my strength is in them,
let me be that I may put them to rest.

I walk all over the world,
coming from anywhere;
the path full of stones,
full of dreams the air.

Life is a long lasso
cast out over the earth.
At one end a joy,
at the other end a sorrow…

My heart thus goes
full of dreams and absences
without finding its true home
lost in the mists…

One does not see the Southern Cross
during nights of torment.
One must look inside oneself
to find the track.

When I tire of the road
I take to looking inside me
as one moves firewood close
to the hearth of one’s memories.

Life is a long lasso
cast out over the earth.
At one end a joy,
at the other end a sorrow…

My heart thus goes
full of dreams and absences
without finding its true home
lost in the mists…

The Huanchaqueña

When the peasant descended these mountains,
cathedral of stones, sands and silences,
he brought beneath his poncho the best zamba
and there they baptized it: “The Huanchaqueña!”

Violins in the gorges wept it.
The lowlanders lovingly danced it.
The old recalled their youthful years
and recited its name: “The Huanchaqueña!”

Some rustic Andean lute gave it its elegance.
Perhaps some flute wept in absence.
And all through the valley handkerchiefs blossom
everytime “The Huanchaquena” appears!

Translator’s Note: The zamba is a traditional Argentine musical style and folk dance. When dancing the zamba, couples circle one another while elegantly waving handkerchiefs.

The Heart and the Verse

Yesterday my doctor said:
Your heart isn’t well.
What is unwell is this life
that bleeds through its wounds
when love is a lie.

I don’t want to see it smoke.
I don’t want to see it suffer.
Ay, if I could only
turn into an old carob tree
and watch it as the time goes by…!

I was born a plain of sand,
the wind made me sing.
And on a serene night
I have to put myself to sleep, singing
of the pain with which I remain.

Guitars in the grove of poplars.
Dark, lost verses.
Nothing leaves. Everything stays.
And, as it sleeps, the soul hears
guitars in the grove of poplars.

I want to die singing
of my destiny to sing.
I want to die thinking
that I am walking on and on
and creating a better world.

Madrid, 6 June 1970

If You See Me Looking Afar

If you see me looking afar
embracing the guitar,
I am going over the sea,
without air, nor sky, nor water.

And when I gaze at the dark
wood of the guitar,
it is certain that I am praying
for a country that is far.

My hand on the frets
holds firm, like a claw.
This means that I am shouting
things dictated to me by the guitar.

When I bow my head
so as to hide a tear,
I am living and dying,
what is ordered by the guitar.

Universe of six strings,
and one simple name: Guitar!…
Walking through the world
to its obstinate heart.

If you see me looking afar
embracing the guitar,
I am going over the sea
without air, nor sky, nor water…

The Perennial

Where is my heart
that vanished after hope?
I’m afraid that the night
will also leave me without soul.

Where is that sweet dove
who was weeping as day broke?
She has flown very far,
leaving her tears on my breast.

When one abandons the land
and begins to mount a slope
he throws his horse ahead
and his soul back.

I have an ancient sorrow
useless to cast off.
And as it is pain that lasts
I have named it “The Perennial.”

Where are the hopes?
Where are the joys?
The Perennial is the good pain
and it is my only companion.

You Who Can, Turn Back

I dreamt that the river spoke to me
with the voice of mountain snow,
and I remembered sweetly
the things of my home.

You who can, turn back…
The river said, weeping.
The hills you have so much love for
–it told me–
they are waiting for you there.

It’s a sad thing to be a river.
Who wouldn’t be a lagoon?
To hear the whistling in the rushes
when they are kissed by the moon.

What things most alike
are your destiny and mine.
To live singing and thinking
over these long roads.


Atahualpa Yupanqui

Atahualpa Yupanqui, pseudonym of Hector Roberto Chavero Aramburo, was born in 1908. Regarded as the most important Argentine folk musician and songwriter of the twentieth century, he popularized various styles of Argentine folk music in songs whose lyrics doubled as poetry. He also published poetry, prose, and other writing during his lifetime. He passed away in 1992, in France.

Maia Evrona

Maia Evrona’s poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on chronic illness, have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She also translates poetry from Yiddish, and was awarded a 2016 Translation Fellowship from the NEA for her translations of Abraham Sutzkever. Going along walking and singing is also her way of shining. Her website is www.maiaevrona.com.

Copyright (c) Roberto Héctor Chavero, 1954, 1973. English translation copyright (c) Maia Evrona, 2016.