– Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. She Attempts to Minimize the Praise Occasioned by a Portrait of Herself…

translated by Margaret Sayers Peden



He who has compared himself with the eye of a horse
Peers, looks, sees, identifies,
And instantly like molten diamonds
Puddles shine, ice grieves and liquefies.

In lilac mists the backyards drowse,
And depots, logs, leaves, clouds above;
That hooting train, that crunch of watermelon rind,
That timid hand in a perfumed kid glove . . .

All’s ringing, roaring, grinding, breakers’ crash –
And silence all at once, release;
It means he is tiptoeing over pine-needles,
So as not to startle the light sleep of space.

And it means he is counting the grains
In the blasted ears: it means
He has come again to the Daryal Wall,
Accursed and black, from another funeral.

And again Moscow, sweltering, burns,
Far off the deadly sleighbell chimes;
Someone is lost two steps from home
In waist-high snow. The worst of times . . .

For having compared smoke with the Laocoon,
For making a song out of graveyard thistles,
For filling the world with a new sound
Of verse reverberating in new space,

He has been rewarded by a kind of eternal childhood,
With the generosity and brilliance of the stars;
The whole of the earth was his to inherit
And his to share with every human spirit.

– Anna Akhmatova. Boris Pasternak

translated by Stanley Kunitz

No ornaments adorn
the glowing moon.
Stars are scattered
through the sky.
Love’s bow is frozen now,
and the dark lotus
sealed away.
The cuckoo’s moans
have melted to a gentle stillness,
the mild breathing of the breeze.
The campaka vine with its round clusters
has ceased its rhythmic swaying, and
beyond all this there is nothing
I can know.

– Bhavabhuti

translated by Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman

In a little while when
once again,
my heart will confront the thought
of loneliness, what will I do?
pain will come, on soft feet
carrying a red lamp

that pain which beats a beat
from my heart

its flame will flare in my side
blazing onto my heart’s wall
each shadow’s contour:
curl of hair
curve of cheek
desert of separation
garden of sights

we’ll talk, then,
my heart and I:

O heart, my heart
this beloved you hold in your loneliness,
is your guest but for a moment;
will leave.
It’s not the balm you seek
for the savage flames it ignites …

will depart,
leaving only shadows behind that will, all night long
shed your blood

– Faiz Ahmed Faiz. excerpt from Pain Will Come, On Soft Feet

translated by Manan Ahmed Asif


There were two kingdoms only:
the first of them threw out both him and me.
The second we abandoned.

Under a bare sky
I for a long time soaked in the rain of my body,
he for a long time rotted in the rain of his.

Then like a poison he drank the fondness of the years.
He held my hand with a trembling hand.
“Come, let’s have a roof over our heads awhile.
Look, further on ahead, there
between truth and falsehood, a little empty space.”

– Amrita Pritam. Empty Space

translated by D. H. Tracy and Mohan Tracy