Shopping Cart



On Death: Little Odes

Hilda Hilst

Translated from the Portuguese by Julia Powers

  1. Baptize you again.
    Name you in a braid of webs
    Not Death, rather
    Call you    Insane
    Bundle of fifes
    Palm—why shouldn’t I?
    Make you new in rainbows
    Of the soul, build your
    Name on possibles
    Sing them as they rot:
    Why shouldn’t I?

  2. Dally over my hour. Before
    You take me, take your time.
    Ethereal, look me over with care
    Let me know you earthy, fair

    A pair of hardy women
    In their hardest hour.

    Take me without pity
    Yet in fullness and forever
    As earth’s females do.

    And, in knowing you
    I’ll make myself
    Flesh and possession
    As men do.

  3. Appurtenance, I bear you:
    Mutant dorsum, death.
    For millennia I’ve
    Known about you
    But know you not.
    We are the consorts
    Of time
    Death, dear one
    I’ll kiss your flank
    Your teeth
    A glowing road, your fate
    And mine. I ride you. I try.

  4. From the deep, gleaming
    You come
    Or as ligature, dissembling,
    Coming darkly
    Or licking, clingy
    You come from on high
    Or from horseshoes
    You call yourself
    Mute or girlish
    Come from woe
    Or regal on the stair



  5. Turgid-little
    Death of mine
    How do you come?

    Tangled. In the knots.
    In a corridor of cords.
    How do you come?

    By snail or seed
    In sepia, in stinging rose
    How should I picture you?

    Stabbing like a stake
    Or sweetly licking

    How will you take me?

  6. Rusted trace

    Profile sans drachma
    Pointed crest
    Upon the worn seal

    Unfathomed hollow
    In the field.

    A mote, a nothing
    Suspended on water

    Contraction’s flash:
    My love, I know
    It’s you.

Julia Powers received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University and was awarded a 2019 PEN/Heim translation grant for her work on a volume of Hilda Hilst's poetry.


About the author

Hilda Hilst (1930– 2004) was born in Jaú, a small town in the state of São Paulo. A poet, novelist, and playwright, she is recognized as one of the most important and controversial names in Brazilian contemporary literature and received some of Brazil’s most prestigious literary prizes. Several of her books are available in English translation from Nightboat Books, including The Obscene Madame D, Letters from a Seducer, and Fluxo-Floema.

Sign up for A Public Space's Newsletter