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Poetry Translations

with Susan McLean

Susan McLean 2019-06-08 cropped.jpg

You’d Have Me Be White


You’d have me be unspoiled as the dawn,

You’d have me be sea-foam,

You’d have me be mother-of-pearl.

You want me to be a lily

That surpasses all others, untouchable in my chastity.

Giving off only the most delicate of perfumes.

Petals unopened.


Not a trickle of moonlight

Should be able to find me.

Not a single daisy be permitted

To call herself my sister.

You’d have me be pure as snow,

You’d have me be white,

You’d have me be unspoiled as the dawn.


You that have grabbed

Glass after glass without pause,

Staining your lips

With dark nectars and wines.

You that have gone to banquet

Clothed in nothing but vine leaves,

Leaving your flesh strewn behind you

In your wild Bacchanalia.

You that have run through the shadows

Of the Gardens of Deception,

Red from head to toe,

Racing reckless toward Ruin.


You that have just barely managed

To keep your skeleton intact

By means of some miracle

Beyond my comprehension,

You tell me to be white

(God forgive you),

You tell me to be chaste

(God forgive you),

You tell me to be pure!


Go, run into the wild;

Make your way to the mountain;

Wash your mouth clean;

Live in the simplest of shelters;

Hold the wet earth

In your hands;

Nourish your body

With bitter roots;

Drink from the stones;

Sleep on the frosted ground;

Restore your tissues

With saltpeter and water;


Talk with the birds

And rise with the dawn.

And when the flesh

Has returned to your bones,

And you’ve finally rejoined

Your body to the soul

That you abandoned piecemeal

Tangled in bedsheets,

Then and only then, good man,

Tell me to be white,

Tell me to be pure as snow,

Tell me to be chaste.

Brittany Hause lived in Bolivia, the USA, and South Korea before moving to the UK to pursue a degree in linguistics. Their verse translations and original poetry have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Star*Line,, and elsewhere.

Tú me quieres blanca

Tú me quieres alba,

me quieres de espumas,

me quieres de nácar.

Que sea azucena

Sobre todas, casta.

De perfume tenue.

Corola cerrada.


Ni un rayo de luna

filtrado me haya.

Ni una margarita

se diga mi hermana.

Tú me quieres nívea,

tú me quieres blanca,

tú me quieres alba.


Tú que hubiste todas

las copas a mano,

de frutos y mieles

los labios morados.

Tú que en el banquete

cubierto de pámpanos

dejaste las carnes

festejando a Baco.

Tú que en los jardines

negros del Engaño

vestido de rojo

corriste al Estrago.


Tú que el esqueleto

conservas intacto

no sé todavía

por cuáles milagros,

me pretendes blanca

(Dios te lo perdone),

me pretendes casta

(Dios te lo perdone),

¡me pretendes alba!

Huye hacia los bosques;

vete a la montaña;

límpiate la boca;

vive en las cabañas;

toca con las manos

la tierra mojada;

alimenta el cuerpo

con raíz amarga;

bebe de las rocas;

duerme sobre escarcha;

renueva tejidos

con salitre y agua:


Habla con los pájaros

y lévate al alba.

Y cuando las carnes

te sean tornadas,

y cuando hayas puesto

en ellas el alma

que por las alcobas

se quedó enredada,

entonces, buen hombre,

preténdeme blanca,

preténdeme nívea,

preténdeme casta.

By the time she ended her life at the age of 46, Swiss-Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938) was widely recognized in South American literary circles for her intensely personal writings, outspoken feminism, and innovation across a variety of verse forms.

A Wolf I Considered Myself

A wolf I called myself,

but no food dangles from these jowls,

thus I’m fatigued from standing this upright.


A wolf I called myself,

but now there sounds a hooting of the owls,

and I am filled with terror at the night.

A Wind from the North

A medicine song


My heart is not the same.

My heart is strange, behold me.

I placed it on display.

The northern winds enfold me.

Jennifer Reeser’s Strong Feather is forthcoming from Able Muse Press, a sequel to Indigenous, which was awarded Englewood Review of Books’ Best Poetry Book of 2019. Her translations have appeared in POETRY, RATTLE, Hudson Review, The Formalist, and elsewhere.

Two Traditional Teton Sioux Songs

Sung by Gray Hawk


Sun’ka mici’la

Yun’kan ta’ku wa’te sni

Yun’kan na’zin wakapin’ yelo’


Sun’ka mici’la

Yun’kan hinhan’ hoton’pi

Yun’kan hanko’waki pelo

A medicine song, sung by Two Shields


cante’ mato’kecaca

wanma’yanka yo

cante’ mato’kecaca

heiya’ye waye’

wazi’yata tate’

hiyo’ ma au’we

Traditional Native American Indian songs are usually ancient, their origins lost. “A Wolf I Considered Myself” was first recorded on the Standing Rock Reservation, Dakotas, in the early 20th century, related by Gray Hawk, whose tribal name was Cetan-hota. Two Shields, a respected medicine man (“shaman”) whose name in the Sioux language was Waha’cunka-non’pa, first recorded “A Wind from the North” — originally attributed to White Shield as a cure for anxiety — circa 1915. The meter and rhythm of Sioux verses were of foremost importance, so that Native poet-shamans actually required students first to tap out or practice these measures, before attempting to sing the songs.

On the Bed of a Harlot, Made of Laurel

I who fled the bed of one

Am now a bed for every man.

Bob Zisk has taught classical languages and been an advocate for the homeless. He was Director of Technical Services for NYC's Division of Homeless Housing Development. Over his career he has written grants for CBOs, as well as project impact assessments.

ἐς κλινάριον πόρνης ἀπὸ δάφνης

λέκτρον ἑνὸς φεύγουσ(α) λέκτρον πολλοῖσι


Anonymous poem from the Anthologia Palatina (Greek Anthology) 9.529.  The nymph Daphne fled from Apollo to preserve her virginity. Exhausted, she prayed to Gaia for help, and that goddess transformed her into a laurel (Ovid, Metamorphoses, I.452ff).

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