Nieto’s Song of the Wild Woman’s Retreat

Luís Nieto, the great poet of Cuzco and the author of the Romancero Cholo, does not just write of the young man’s attempts to seduce the chola, the figurative woman of Cuzco, but also of the despair of a broken heart. One would think he writes only of the romantic agency of men, but in this poem we read the words of a young man in sorrow because of the romantic agency of a woman who rejected him.

Nieto relies on the imagery of religious passion to make his point, as well as natural elements of the wind and the rain. In these he captures poetically and beautifully the feeling of loss and hope, while still recognizing love and desire.

Song of the Wild Woman’s Retreat

Because I loved her, my friends,
because it was like being born again
like growing up with no sorrow,
living without sobs
ignoring my bitter neighbor, pain.

It was like living drunk
between heaven and earth,
with my hands filled with roses,
and my forehead crowned with tears,
and my eyes flooded with smiles and dew.

Because she had the gestures of the dove
roaming between butchers’ knives.
Because in her voice slept the wing-beat of bells
and her electric hands shouted in the air
like frightened gulls on the edge of suicide.

Because her body of poppies and hyacinths
was like a fall filled with white
melancholy pianos.

Because seeing her mouth
tight with garlands
and songs,

was like forgetting about everything,
like laughing on the border of dusk
like drinking the poet’s red wine,
and that of vagabonds.

For that love, my friends from yesterday,
my dear comrades, yes mine;
for that masculine and sad love
that raised the cross of my death,
for the torment of my youthful years
made of song and fighting.

Fuchsia Hanging by the Sidewalk
Fuchsia Hanging by the Sidewalk


I waited for her. We waited for her.
And she arrived suddenly like a wild fire,
like that wind that comes from far away,
like the echo of a lost word
unexpectedly recovered.

She arrived like the rain
that leaves a sewing of tears in the
like the road that brings on its shoulders
its harvest of birds.

That’s how she came, the conqueror,
my happy comrades.
With her fugitive and burning caress,
like a whirlwind of petals
or the whip strike of an unforgotten kiss.

She appeared and now we do not know
who brought us that shadow
that hung us
from the highest peak of the soul.
Who made the star’s old age
grow in our eyes,
the fatigue of a gypsy’s road,
the song of a guitar in retreat . . .


Because we love her, she bounced within our chest,
because she was ours and that burned deep within us,
because no mouth ever
brought the attitude of a wound among teeth,
it is because today so much death sounds
in the bronze funeral within our breast.

And now, only a wounded voice,
wounded the dove,
broken the tear,
more broken still the roaming glance.

And of her steps, my friends,
what is left,
if not the cross of our bones,
the beating and fiery eye
of so much waiting for her return,
and that like our crazed blood
that cries for the hell of her flesh.

–Luís Nieto Miranda
Translated by David Knowlton

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