I’m Going to Sleep

I’m Going to Sleep

Teeth of flowers, hairnet of dew
hands of grass, you, my gentle nurse
have laid out the earthy sheets for me
and the eiderdown of well-cleaned mosses.

I’m going to sleep, my nurse, lay me down
and put a lamp beside my head. Give me
a constellation- whichever one you choose
for they are all good; lower it a little.

Leave me now: you can hear new sprouts breaking
a celestial foot rocks the cradle from above
and a bird traces out the beats to help you

to forget… Thank you. Ah, one last thing,
If he calls again on the telephone
Tell him not to keep on. Tell him I’ve gone out.

This poem is by Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938). She achieved recognition in Buenos Aires where she was a regular contibutor to newspapers and magazines and published several collections of poetry including La Inquietud del Rosal (1916). Although she worked as a primary school teacher she came to know Horacio Quiroga, the great short story writer, and took an active part in literary life. Quiroga committed suicide in 1937. Storni committed suicide in 1938.

The legend says that she walked out into the sea at Mar de Plata, though her biographers suggest she probably threw herself off the breakwater. Her body was discovered the next day. This is her last poem and was published in the newspaper La Nación immediately.

Storni’s suicide, like Sylvia Plath’s, casts a retrospective shadow over the rest of her work. It has been celebrated in the song Alfonsina and the Sea, which you can listen to here, sung by Mercedes Sosa:

Alfonsina and the Sea.

Here is a translation of the lyrics:

On the soft sand, licked by the sea,
the trace of her footsteps does not return.
A path only of pain and silence led down
to the deep water
A path only of mute pains led down
to the breakers.

God knows what anguish went with you,
what old suffering silenced your voice
for you to lie down with the lullaby song
of the sea-shells
the song sung in the depths of the sea
the sea-shells

Alfonsina you are leaving with your loneliness
what new poems did you go looking for
an ancient voice of wind and salt
breaks your soul and carries it off
and you head on out as if in a dream,
sleepy Alfonsina, clothed in the sea.

Five mermaids will carry you
along paths of seaweed and coral
and phosphorescent seahorses
will dance around beside you
and the denizens of the water
will play beside you soon.

Turn the lamp down a little more,
nurse, let me sleep in peace.
And if he calls, don’t tell him I’m here;
say Alfonsina is not coming back
And if he calls, never tell him I’m here.
Say I have gone.

Alfonsina you are leaving with your loneliness
what new poems did you go looking for
an ancient voice of wind and salt
breaks your soul and carries it off
and you head on out as if in a dream,
sleepy Alfonsina, clothed in the sea.

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About Jason Preater

Working on Projects
This entry was posted in Overseas and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to I’m Going to Sleep

  1. rsvendsen07 says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. This was a lovely post. I had never heard of her before now.

    Like

  2. pierrmorgan says:

    Beautiful voices. Both poems and song. Thank you.

    Like

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