"Song" by Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957)
translated by Langston Hughes
"A woman is singing in the valley. The shadows falling blot her out, but her song spreads over the fields.
"Her heart is broken, like the jar she dropped this afternoon among the pebbles in the brook. As she sings, the hidden wound sharpens on the thread of her song, and becomes thin and hard. Her voice in modulation dampens with blood.
"In the fields the other voices die with the dying day, and a moment ago the song of the last slow-poke bird stopped. But her deathless heart, alive with grief, gathers all the silent voices into her voice, sharp now, yet very sweet.
"Does she sing for a husband who looks at her silently in the dusk, or for a child whom her song caresses? Or does she sing for her own heart, more helpless than a babe at nightfall?
"Night grows maternal before this song that goes to meet it; the stars, with a sweetness that is human, are beginning to come out; the sky full of stars becomes human and understands the sorrows of this world.
"Her song, as pure as water filled with light, cleanses the plain and rinses the mean air of day in which men hate. From the throat of the woman who keeps on singing, day rises nobly evaporating toward the stars."
The prose-poem above by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral is from Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, translated by Langston Hughes (Indiana University Press, 1957). The quote in the picture captions is from Women in Praise of the Sacred, edited Jane Hirshfield (HarperPerrenial, 1995). All rights reserved by the authors and translator or their estates.