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I Love My Master

Poem text

I love my master.
I gather firewood to light his daily fire.
I love his clear eyes.
Tame as any lamb,
I scatter drops of honey on his ears.
I love his hands
which laid me down on a bed of grass:
My master bites, subjugates.
He tells me secret stories while
I fan his whole body, full of sores and bullet wounds,
of days in the sun and plunderous war.
I love his feet, which buccaneered and wandered round
in foreign lands.
I massage them with the finest powders,
which I found one morning
while leaving the tobacco field.
He strummed his guitar and from his throat came
sonorous verses, as if born from the throat of Manrique.

I wished I had heard a marímbula play.
I love his delicate red mouth,
from which spill words
that I cannot quite decipher
yet. My tongue for him is no longer his own.

And the silk of time in tatters.

Hearing the old field guards talking, I learned
that my love
gives lashings in the cauldrons of the sugar mill,
steaming like some Hell, the Hell of that Lord God
he used to talk to me about unendingly.
What could he tell me?
Why am I living in a lodging perfect for a bat?
Why must I serve him?
Where could he go in his splendid carriage,
drawn by horses happier than I?
My love is like the weeds that cover the dowry,
the only possession he cannot take from me.

I curse

this muslin robe he has imposed on me;
these vain lace dresses he forced on me without pity;
these chores of mine in the sunflowerless afternoon;
this baroquely hostile tongue I can’t get between my teeth;
these stone breasts that can’t even suckle him;
this womb, raked by his immemorial lashings;
this accursed heart.

I love my master, but every night
when I cross the flowery pathway to the cane fields
where we have surreptitiously made love,
I can see myself with knife in hand, butchering him like
innocent cattle.

Deafening drumbeats no longer let me
hear neither his sorrows, nor his complaints.
The tolling bells call me.

(Translated by David Frye)

From LOOKING WITHIN / MIRAR ADENTRO (Wayne State University Press, 2003)

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