You Want Me White

You want me like dawn,
You want me made of sea-foam,
You want me made of nacre.
Lily-like, more chaste
Than any other girl.
Delicately perfumed,
My bud closed.

No pure ray of moon
would shine its light on me.
Not one daisy
would ever call me sister.
You want me white,
You want me snow-white,
You want me like dawn.

You, who grasped
at every goblet easily,
your lips stained purple
with the fruit and honey.
You who at the
Vine-draped banquet
Forfeited your flesh
To feast to Bacchus.
You who in black
Gardens of deception
Ran to ruin
Dressed in red.
You who keep your
bones so well-preserved
By what miracles
I still can’t say,
You pretend I’m white
(God forgive you that)
You pretend I’m chaste
(God forgive you that)
You pretend I’m dawn!

Flee for the forests;
Go to the mountains;
Wash out your mouth;
Live in a shack;
Touch the wet earth
With your hands;
Feed your body
Bitter roots;
Drink from the rocks;
Sleep on the ice;
Renew your cells
With rocksalt and water.
Talk to birds
And wake at dawn.
And when your flesh
Comes back to you,
And when you’ve put
your soul back into it,
your soul so tangled up
In bedrooms,
Then, mister, only then
Pretend I’m white,
Pretend I’m white as snow,
Pretend I’m chaste.

By Alfonsina Storni
translated, from the Spanish, by Meghan Flaherty

Meghan Flaherty is an MFA candidate in Nonfiction and Literary Translation at Columbia. She is currently working on a book-length personal history of Argentine tango.

Alfonsina Storni is both the Dorothy Parker and the Virginia Woolf of Argentina. Her work is acid, stark, and melancholic, sometimes masked in singsong rhyme, and often brimming with a strident feminism decades beyond her time. In 1938, she walked into the sea, ending her life.