Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, known by her pseudonym Gabriela Mistral, was a Chilean poet-diplomat, educator and humanist.
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Famous Gabriela Mistral Poems
Let us go now into the forest.
Trees will pass by your face,
and I will stop and offer you to them,
but they cannot bend down.
The night watches over its creatures,
except for the pine trees that never change:
the old wounded springs that spring
blessed gum, eternal afternoons.
If they could, the trees would lift you
and carry you from valley to valley,
and you would pass from arm to arm,
a child running
from father to father.
To See Him Again
Never, never again?
Not on nights filled with quivering stars,
or during dawn’s maiden brightness
or afternoons of sacrifice?
Or at the edge of a pale path
that encircles the farmlands,
or upon the rim of a trembling fountain,
whitened by a shimmering moon?
Or beneath the forest’s
luxuriant, raveled tresses
where, calling his name,
I was overtaken by the night?
Not in the grotto that returns
the echo of my cry?
Oh no. To see him again —
it would not matter where —
in heaven’s deadwater
or inside the boiling vortex,
under serene moons or in bloodless fright!
To be with him…
every springtime and winter,
united in one anguished knot
around his bloody neck!
I feel my heart melting
in the mildness like candles:
my veins are slow oil
and not wine,
and I feel my life fleeing
hushed and gentle like the gazelle.
Decalogue Of The Artist
I. You shall love beauty, which is the shadow of God
over the Universe.
II.There is no godless art. Although you love not the
Creator, you shall bear witness to Him creating His likeness.
III.You shall create beauty not to excite the senses
but to give sustenance to the soul.
IV. You shall never use beauty as a pretext for luxury
and vanity but as a spiritual devotion.
V. You shall not seek beauty at carnival or fair
or offer your work there, for beauty is virginal
and is not to be found at carnival or fair.
VI. Beauty shall rise from your heart in song,
and you shall be the first to be purified.
VII.The beauty you create shall be known
as compassion and shall console the hearts of men.
VIII.You shall bring forth your work as a mother
brings forth her child: out of the blood of your heart.
IX. Beauty shall not be an opiate that puts you
to sleep but a strong wine that fires you to action,
for if you fail to be a true man or a true woman,
you will fail to be an artist.
X. Each act of creation shall leave you humble,
for it is never as great as your dream and always
inferior to that most marvelous dream of God
which is Nature.
And we go on and on,
Neither sleeping nor awake,
Towards the meeting, unaware
That we are already there.
That the silence is perfect,
And that the flesh is gone.
The call still is not heard
Nor does the Caller reveal his face.
But perhaps this might be
Oh, my love, the gift
Of the eternal Face without gestures
And of the kingdom without form!
Death Sonnet I
From the icy niche where men placed you
I lower your body to the sunny, poor earth.
They didn’t know I too must sleep in it
and dream on the same pillow.
I place you in the sunny ground, with a
mother’s sweet care for her napping child,
and the earth will be a soft cradle
when it receives your hurt childlike body.
I scatter bits of earth and rose dust,
and in the moon’s airy and blue powder
what is left of you is a prisoner.
I leave singing my lovely revenge.
No hand will reach into the obscure depth
to argue with me over your handful of bones.
The Shining Host
In vain you try
To smother my song:
A million children
In chorus sing it
Beneath the sun!
In vain you try
To break my verse
The children sing it
A thousand waves
Divine the sea she rocks
I hear the loving seas
And rock my son, my son
Night fields of wheat
The wandering wind rocks
I hear the loving winds
And rock my son, my son
His thousands worlds
Silent God Father rocks
I feel His hand in shades
And rock my son, my son.
She is harnessed for a long journey; on her back she carries an entire store of wool.
She walks without rest, and sees with eyes full of strangeness. The wool merchant has forgotten to come to get her, and she is ready.
In this world, nothing comes better equipped than the alpaca; ones is more burdened with rags than the next. Her sky-high softness is such that if a newborn is placed on her back, he will not feel a bone of the animal.
The weather is very hot. Today, large scissors that will cut and cut represent mercy for the alpaca.
When something is lost in the park, to whom do we look but this ever-prepared beast which seems to secretly carry all things?
And when children think about the objects they have lost—dolls, teddy bears, flying rats, trees with seven voices (they can be hidden in only one place)—they remember the alpaca, their infinitely prepared companion.
But look at those eyes, those astonished eyes without knowledge; they only ask why she has been harnessed for such a long trip and why no one comes to relieve her.
The high plateau is to blame for this tragedy—the mother alpaca incessantly stares at it. The mountain was also casting off burdens, and so its summit became clear, and filled the eyes of the mother alpaca.
She was taken down from the plateau and situated near a nonsensical horizon, and when she turns her neck, she continues looking for the older alpaca, for the one who sheds a pack on high, and returns to the sun’s radiance.
“What have you and I done to our Andean cordillera?” I ask the alpaca.
The Sad Mother
Sleep, sleep, my beloved,
without worry, without fear,
although my soul does not sleep,
although I do not rest.
Sleep, sleep, and in the night
may your whispers be softer
than a leaf of grass,
or the silken fleece of lambs.
May my flesh slumber in you,
my worry, my trembling.
In you, may my eyes close
and my heart sleep.
I Am Not Alone
The night, it is deserted
from the mountains to the sea.
But I, the one who rocks you,
I am not alone!
The sky, it is deserted
for the moon falls to the sea.
But I, the one who holds you,
I am not alone !
The world, it is deserted.
All flesh is sad you see.
But I, the one who hugs you,
I am not alone!
Those Who Do Not Dance
A crippled child
Said, “How shall I dance?”
Let your heart dance
Then the invalid said:
“How shall I sing?”
Let your heart sing
Then spoke the poor dead thistle,
But I, how shall I dance?”
Let your heart fly to the wind
Then God spoke from above
“How shall I descend from the blue?”
Come dance for us here in the light
All the valley is dancing
Together under the sun,
And the heart of him who joins us not
Is turned to dust, to dust.
The Stranger (La Extranjera)
She speaks in her way of her savage seas
With unknown algae and unknown sands;
She prays to a formless, weightless God,
Aged, as if dying.
In our garden now so strange,
She has planted cactus and alien grass.
The desert zephyr fills her with its breath
And she has loved with a fierce, white passion
She never speaks of, for if she were to tell
It would be like the face of unknown stars.
Among us she may live for eighty years,
Yet always as if newly come,
Speaking a tongue that plants and whines
Only by tiny creatures understood.
And she will die here in our midst
One night of utmost suffering,
With only her fate as a pillow,
And death, silent and strang.
A child’s tiny feet,
Blue, blue with cold,
How can they see and not protect you?
Oh, my God!
Tiny wounded feet,
Bruised all over by pebbles,
Abused by snow and soil!
Man, being blind, ignores
that where you step, you leave
A blossom of bright light,
that where you have placed
your bleeding little soles
a redolent tuberose grows.
Since, however, you walk
through the streets so straight,
you are courageous, without fault.
Child’s tiny feet,
Two suffering little gems,
How can the people pass, unseeing.
I believe in my heart that when
The wounded heart sunk within the depth of God sings
It rises from the pond alive
As if new-born.
I believe in my heart that what I wring from myself
To tinge life’s canvas
With red of pallid hue, thus cloaking it
In luminous garb.
The treasure at the heart of the rose
is your own heart’s treasure.
Scatter it as the rose does:
your pain becomes hers to measure.
Scatter it in a song,
or in one great love’s desire.
Do not resist the rose
lest you burn in its fire.
Song Of Death
Old Woman Census-taker,
Death the Trickster,
when you’re going along,
don’t you meet my baby.
Sniffing at newborns,
smelling for the milk,
find salt, find cornmeal,
don’t find my milk.
Anti-Mother of the world,
on the beaches and byways,
don’t meet that child.
The name he was baptized,
that flower he grows with,
forget it, Rememberer.
Lose it, Death.
Let wind and salt and sand
drive you crazy, mix you up
so you can’t tell
East from West,
or mother from child,
like fish in the sea.
And on the day, at the hour,
find only me.
You said that you loved the lark more than any other bird because of its straight flight toward the sun. That is how I wanted our flight to be.
Albatrosses fly over the sea, intoxicated by salt and iodine. They are like unfettered waves playing in the air, but they do not lose touch with the other waves.
Storks make long journeys; they cast shadows over the Earth’s face. But like albatrosses, they fly horizontally, resting in the hills.
Only the lark leaps out of ruts like a live dart, and rises, swallowed by the heavens. Then the sky feels as though the Earth itself has risen. Heavy jungles below do not answer the lark. Mountains crucified over the flatlands do not answer.
But a winged arrow quickly shoots ahead, and it sings between the sun and the Earth. One does not know if the bird has come down from the sun or risen from the Earth. It exists between the two, like a flame. When it has serenaded the skies with its abundance, the exhausted lark lands in the wheatfield.
You, Francis, wanted us to achieve that vertical flight, without a zigzag, in order to arrive at that haven where we could rest in the light.
You wanted the morning air filled with arrows, with a multitude of carefree larks. Francis, with each morning song, you imagined that a net of golden larks floated between the Earth and the sky.
We are burdened, Francis. We cherish our lukewarm rut: our habits. We exalt ourselves in glory just as the towering grass aspires. The loftiest blade does not reach beyond the high pines.
Only when we die do we achieve that vertical flight! Never again, held back by earthly ruts, will our bodies inhibit our souls.