The House by Stella Díaz Varín

The House

They used to leave my mane hanging from the door’s trunk like a trophy.
Unprecedented in the history of the first-water Indians,
and an open basin,
set at the sidewalk of the abyss
for indiscreet eyes to stare at . . .
This was my hearth.

A viper, locked in its cage,
meant for any bird at all,
and a rock that had fallen momentarily from its peak,
a nomad rock in search of adventure
served as the door, as the dining room table . . .

What do you all want me to do with these materials.
Nothing. Except write melancholy poetry.
Perhaps, when the night
awakens beneath the bats,
there may be nothing but a sensation,
and these cascades that appear from the bottom of the eyes.

There may be
only an avalanche of rock children,
water’s daughters,
trees’ sons.

So I’ll write my biography
in the style of an Indecisive Poet.
I’ll look through a cobalt flame
and make out forgotten objects,
like when I used to sleep up against the wall
and everything seemed beautiful without being so.
I’ll pick up one of my small hanging flutes
and intone the song of love.

They led the gazelles to bury
the unicorn. My friend took
my hand and asked me, puzzled,
why everything was made of light.

An angel kisses your forehead.
On your knees,
with a rainbow for a pupil,
you enrich mystery.

Friend, young one,
child of words;
solitary one, sent to me from nocturnal times
to make me forget, in your kiss,
the fires I’ve explored.

Walking almost in step with you,
at your right hand, taming solstices;
so far away, so absent,
so loved.
Knotting parables,
you suspend the moment of death.

You are made of tree and its insides
and what October prescribes:
purifying Virtue of an autumn day
and love in spite of everything.

You, who fear court clerks
and take your time answering judges
who can’t sue the light
even for a thimbleful of wine;
so often eternal,
so often alone,
your gesture like wood’s grain.


Stella Díaz Varín

Stella Díaz Varín (1926-2006) was a Chilean poet and member of "la Generación del 50" along with novelist José Donoso and poet Enrique Lihn. Díaz Varín, however, never received the same recognition as her peers, and translations of her work into English have never been published. She was the author of seven poetry collections, and the entirety of her work was collected posthumously in 2011 by the Chilean press Cuarto Propio.

Rebecca Levi

Rebecca Levi is a musician and poet who has lived and worked in Peru, Colombia, and the U.S. Her work has appeared in places like The Times Literary Supplement, Columbia Journal, No Tokens Journal, and Your Impossible Voice, and she is a contributor to If You’re Not Happy Now, forthcoming from Broadstone Books this March. Her translations of Díaz Varín received second place in the Robert Fitzgerald Prize in Literary Translation at Boston University, where Rebecca recently completed her MFA in poetry.

Copyright (c) Cuarto Propio, 2011. English translation copyright (c) Rebecca Levi, 2019.