Poetry by Claudia Lars


The ant moves along with its morsel of poppy,
heading for its soft, sandy hill.

I am an insect,
you are an insect,
he is an insect.

Ah, what a load of nonsense,
this name they chose
to make me feel important!


As a blind poet
I sang my reveries, my refuge,
my friendships, and my tears.
But what does it matter, really,
this slight I?


I saw men in masks
dump truth down a well.
Weeping for it, I found
truth everywhere.


The sheen of poetry
should be an intimate secret.
Sometimes I’m stained by the sin
of wanting to offer the ineffable.
It’s then I’m jealous of those who plant trees
in silent humility.


Too late I sensed the presence of rebels,
the way a cell block buries you alive.
Today I’m ashamed of the years wasted
in the comfortable refuge
of the deaf.


There’s no wine to spare
but there’s no shortage of food.
Still, to eat amidst the hungry
and the greedy
is asking to be hated
by these, by those.


I don’t want to grow old polishing portraits
or writing the same old verses
of roses and larks.
Though I feel older than the Bible
I might yet ring
a bell.


Tata Justo, native of this land,
was left scattered amidst bullets and curses.
I believe his bones are bringing forth
a new kind of corn.


Felled by machine guns,
this innocent man lay
forgetting his fears
in a simple coffin.
In that thought, I lost
once and for all
my childhood of seventy years.


obstinate devourer of worlds.
Short-lived is man
and so are you.


The Water Carrier
and his starry river…

I, living the night:
not quite the angel
but already keeping watch.

An unknown planet:
my human heart.

Discovered, lost,
discovered again.

Ballads North and South, No. 1

For many years I couldn’t choose
the land of my song.
Two lands, throbbing within,
were mystery and gift.
I carried both in my blood.
I gathered both in my embrace.
A dual love held close
opposing landscapes:
on the right, proud crests
of galloping palm trees,
and on the left, gray breezes
over sleepless ships.
Here, beaches of sun…
There, rivers of ice…

From the south, bees arrived
pursuing the spikenard’s pollen.
Vague nostalgias
and the urge to weep.
From the north, crashing surf,
blossoms of lightning.
Smoke from bonfire and pipe,
sweet isles and seaweed.

Such beauty couldn’t fit
beneath my eyelids.
I found it in my veins
and on the wide horizon:
a stag astray in the snow,
an iridescent bird,
the heart’s compass
seeking north, seeking rest.

For years I couldn’t bring myself
to choose the land of my song.
Today I know it holds
the paths of barefoot men,
blue volcano folds,
thatched roofs on plains,
a tapestry of ivy and nests
along cliff walls,
deep water rocking
childlike clouds and lizards,
a great effort in chains
and a prolonged groan.

Immersed in what was mine,
I finally chose, but slowly,
the land of absolute love
to one day shut these eyes.

And yet my northern song,
urged on me by the dead,
reels like a comet,
rocks like a ship.


and I with the silence
and its cold color.

In this vastness,
which is also an abyss,
time for my eyes
to count the stars.

And something new on the moon, in telescopes,
in the laser’s deepest depths,
and perhaps beneath the name I bear.

A cricket restores
moss and fern.
Hearing it, I feel
summer’s riches
and the tireless rise
of insects.

Although what’s earthly
seems unchanged…
life, life, and more life,
a powerful snake shedding its skin!

Today we witness electric tongues
dangers and omens on maps of air,
fantastical propulsions.
Will we one day have
(O summitview, O dreamflight!)
starry shores
and metallic trees?

Where to? I ask
as proud astronauts take refuge
in my visions of Spider-Engineers
and Wind-Racers.

I call man “my fellow”:
I mean “my equal”
or “my nearest.”

But who is the Man
who shares our humble beginnings,
this dazzling acrobat
of the new day?

Does he seek the intimacy of stars
or galaxies of robots?

Above us, floating islands
are built into
brilliant towers, while
celestial gulls lay eggs
in the emptiness,
and the inevitable hour approaches
when we suffer every herb’s goodbye
and take stock each day in the zodiac.

I live astonished:
this new age
is scented with miracles.

The New Woman’s Words

Like a stubborn bee
I explore realms beyond words,
realms unknown to you.
Entering your heart’s memory,
I point to places yet untouched.

Here, where eternity
alters our every minute!

I cannot be abyss:
given light, we grow vineyards
and butcher’s broom.

I belong to the nakedness
of my language.
I’ve burned through silence and lies,
consciously remaking
the history of mothers.

Just woman.
Not a fluttery bird in the all-important home,
not food for needy animals,
not a forest of bellflowers in some forgotten sky,
not a sorceress with her tiny monsters.

O powers of man,
forging mutations
of delicate faces!
O splendor enshrined within me,
already ruled
by intimate angels!

Has my love made it clear
I seek a lover
whose brow is immortal?

My Son Grows Older

My son grows older.
He sets his sights on the sea,
and his grandfather, the explorer,
returns from the afterworld.

He approaches unnoticed
to gauge the boy’s intensity,
to recount in the silence
what we’ll never know.

In the boy’s avid hands he places
a captain’s badge,
a map of the impossible,
and the bearings of chance.

My son grows older.
He asks for the sea
and a flagless ship
astride the storm.

In the bay of sleep
his sails are unfurled.
With his compass of song
he reckons the immensity.

My son will leave one afternoon
(I can’t even think about it)
toward the isle of one day
and the port of hereafter.

Diving into his solitude
in uncharted waters,
will he find treasures
or eddies of salt?

The shadows of shipwreck
might surround him,
but nothing will break
his rudder of will.

Such a strange race,
so daring, so able,
with fire enough in our breasts
to dry the sea!


Claudia Lars

Claudia Lars (pen name for Carmon Brannon Vega, 1899-1974) is one of El Salvador’s most treasured and beloved poets. Her work offers a fascinating mix of influences, imaginings, and longings. In a career that spanned five decades, she published thirteen books of poems and a volume of short stories. In the 1950s, she served as Cultural Attaché to Guatemala. Since her death in 1974, two separate editions of selected poems and a two-volume set of her complete poems have been published in San Salvador.

Philip Pardi

Philip Pardi is the author of Meditations on Rising and Falling (University of Wisconsin Press), which won the 2008 Brittingham Poetry Prize and the Writers’ League of Texas Award for Poetry. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, including Gettysburg Review, Seneca Review, Translation Review, An Introduction to the Prose Poem, and Best New Poets. His most recent project, completed with the support of the NEA, is a translation of Selected Poems by the Salvadoran poet Claudia Lars. A former human rights activist and labor organizer, he currently teaches at Bard College.

Poesía completa. Copyright (c) Estate of Claudia Lars, 1999. English translation copyright (c) Philip Pardi, 2018.