Blanca Varela

Translated from the Spanish by Eileen O’Connor

The Lesson

Like a coin I will clench you in my hands
and all the gates will open
and I will see everything
and the surprise will not burn my tongue
and then I will understand the growth of plants
and how newborn creatures shed their fur.

I will unearth the sign
and the fall of the stars
will prove that other paths exist
and that each movement begets two creatures,
one dejected and the other triumphant,
and with each look appearances will die
and the factory will cast you,
naked and beautiful, down among us.

from  Mistiming


                              For César Moro

The ray has ferociously perfumed our house.
We are thirsty, in a hurry to strike
with a flower’s bone in the darkness.
A tree is cut down in this story.
We contemplate the sky. There are no signs.
Is it day? Is it night?
The spider who measured time has died,
there is only an old wall and a new family of shadows.



The sea folds its wings at dusk,
you are nothing but a pale bubble
sailing suddenly from the breath,
a black trilling,
the sun rising in the center of the chest
in the middle of the street
a silence in the hard music
of the limitless city.

To cross that ocean,
that burst of light in the afternoon nap,
eternity would not suffice.



Love is like music,
it sends me back with empty hands,
with the tempo that ignites in a flash
outside of paradise.
I know an island,
my memories,
and a future music,
the promise.

And I move toward death which does not exist,
that is called horizon in my chest.
Eternity always mistimed.

Blanca Varela (1926–2009) was born in Lima, Peru. She is considered one of the most important voices of her generation in Latin American poetry. Varela published over ten books of poetry in her lifetime. Her numerous awards include the Medalla de Honor by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture, the Premio Octavio Paz de Poesía y En-sayo, the Premio Internacional de Poesía Ciudad de Granada Federico García Lorca (as the first female recipient) and the Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana.

Eileen O’Connor‘s translations from the Spanish include Pez/Fish by Mariela Dreyfus, Harbors of Light by Marjorie Agosín – chosen by World Literature Today as one of 75 Notable Translations of 2016 – and I Lived on Butterfly Hill, also by Agosín, winner of the 2015 Pura Belpré Award. Since 2016, she has translated interviews for “The City and the Writer,” a blog curated by Nathalie Handal for Words Without Borders.

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