Because of this Modest Style

By Ramón López Velarde Ramon Lopez Velarde

Translated By Michael Schmidt Read the translator's notes

September 14, 1915

It's how she spreads, without a sound, her scent
of orange blossom on the dark of me,
it is the way she shrouds in mourning black   
her mother-of-pearl and ivory, the way
she wears the lace ruff at her throat, and how
she turns her face, quite voiceless, self-possessed,   
because she takes the language straight to heart,   
is thrifty with the words she speaks.
                                                                                                 It's how   
she is so reticent yet welcoming
when she comes out to face my panegyrics,
the way she says my name
mocking and mimicking, makes gentle fun,
yet she's aware that my unspoken drama
is really of the heart, though a little silly;
it's how, when night is deep and at its darkest,
we linger after dinner, vaguely talking
and her laughing smile grows fainter and then falls
gently on the tablecloth; it's the teasing way
she won't give me her arm and then allows
deep feeling to come with us when we walk out,
promenading on the hot colonial boulevard. . .

Because of this, your sighing, modest style
of love, I worship you, my faithful star
who like to cloud yourself about in mourning,
generous, hidden blossom; kindly
mellowness who have presided over   
my thirty years with the self-denying singleness   
a vase has, whose half-blown roses wreathe with scent
the headboard of a convalescent man;
cautious nurse, shy
serving maid, dear friend who trembles
with the trembling of a child when you revise
the reading that we share; apprehensive, always timid
guest at the feast I give; my ally,
humble dove that coos when it is morning
in a minor key, a key that's wholly yours.

May you be blessed, modest, magnificent;
you have possessed the highest summit of my heart,
you who are at once the artist   
of lowly and most lofty things, who bear in your hands
my life as if it was your work of art!

O star and orange blossom, may you dwindle
gently rocked in an unwedded peace,
and may you fade out like a morning star
which the lightening greenness of a meadow darkens
or like a flower that finds transfiguration
on the blue west, as it might on a simple bed.

Source: Poetry (April 2008).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2008

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Romantic Love

POET’S REGION Mexico

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