My mother had a white breast and a black breast.
Upon waking she would take the white breast in her hand
and lifting it to my lips say: Drink, my child,
and I would drink a very sweet, thick white milk.
Later she would pinch the black nipple between her fingers
and putting it to my mouth repeat: Drink, my child,
and I would drink a dark and infinitely bitter milk.
My mother had a white breast and a black breast.
By day, cupping the white breast in her hand
like a dove, she would whisper: It’s the light of the world;
and at night, while sighing and squeezing
the black breast, she would exclaim: It’s darkness.
My mother had a white breast and a black breast.
Sometimes she would expose the white breast to the sun,
and while covering the black breast with her shirt
she would croon: This is the milk that soothes all hunger,
and her face would brighten with an immortal smile.
But my mouth would search again for the black breast
and with pious resignation she would take it in her hand
and put it to my lips saying: Drink, my child,
and I would drink avidly the milk that gives more hunger.     
My mother had a white breast and a black breast.

Translation of “El pecho blanco, el pecho negro.” Copyright the estate of Horacio Castillo. Translation copyright 2011 by Samuel Gray. All rights reserved.

Mi madre tenía un pecho blanco y un pecho negro.
Al despertar tomaba el pecho blanco en su mano
y acercándolo a mis labios decía: Bebe, hijo mío,
y yo bebía una leche blanca, espesa, dulcísima.
Luego apretaba entre los dedos el pezón negro
y colocándolo en mi boca repetía: Bebe, hijo mío,
y yo bebía una leche oscura, infinitamente agria.
Mi madre tenía un pecho blanco y un pecho negro.
De día, sosteniendo el pecho blanco en su mano
como una paloma, susurraba: Es la luz del mundo;
y a la noche, mientras exprimía suspirando
el pecho negro, prorrumpía: Es la oscuridad.
Mi madre tenía un pecho blanco y un pecho negro.
A veces exponía el pecho blanco al sol
y escondiendo bajo su ropa el pecho negro
canturreaba: Esta es la leche que sacia toda hambre,
y su rostro se iluminaba con una sonrisa inmortal.
Pero mi boca buscaba otra vez el pecho negro
y tomándolo en su mano con piadosa resignación
lo ponía en mis labios diciendo: Bebe, hijo mío,
y yo bebía ávidamente la leche que da más hambre.
Mi madre tenía un pecho blanco y un pecho negro.




Horacio CastilloHoracio Castillo

Horacio Castillo (Ensenada, Argentina, 1934–2010) published eight books of poetry, as well as numerous volumes of Greek and Portugese poetry in translation. His own work has been translated into French, English, Italian, Greek, and Portuguese, and his critical essays on Latin American and Greek poetry have appeared in six different book-length collections. Horacio Castillo’s work as a poet, translator, and critic has brought him dozens of awards and honorary distinctions, including the Argentine National Foundation for the Arts Literary Translation Award (1988), the Konex honorary diploma (1994), the Argentine Poetry Foundation Award (2002), and the Faro de Oro (2005).

Translated from SpanishSpanish by Samuel GraySamuel Gray

Samuel Gray is currently a graduate student at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where he teaches courses in creative writing and literature. His translations of Horacio Castillo's poetry have previously appeared in International Poetry Review.