Selvas en Mi Corazon …

by Marcela Davison Aviles
The news of Nora Ephron’s death on the eve of the 4th of July holiday made me think of John Adams reason for recruiting Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence … and wonder what might have been if Ms. Ephron, rather than Jefferson, brought her “happy talent of composition” to the nation’s need for copy in 1776. Liberty might have been dispensed with a wink and a smile, instead of a nudge and a wink, and possibly a recipe.
The girl writers I know do a very good job utilizing their talents of composition – most of them are reporters, some are public relations pros, one is a great writer of fiction, some are songwriters and fabulous interpreters of storytelling through music – and others are the writers who maintain the meaning in our lives every day with scripts for living – recipes, notes to remind us to take out the dogs, or bring in the cat, or wake up the kids or to come home safe.

After reading the many elegies for Ms. Ephron, I began to remember, again, the cadence of some of my favorite Latina writers.  And I wondered when they made their final journey, who grieved for them? Was there someone special — a child, a lover, a country – yearning to hear her tell one more story, one more time:   

 “Selvas tengo en mi corazon;

arboles gruesos prietos de ramas;

yuyos, retamas, flores de malvón;

pájaros en las ramas,

todo eso tengo en mi corazon.”


“Forests do I have in my heart;

stout trees dark with branches;

wildflowers; evergreen brooms;


birds in the branches;

all of this do I have in my heart. “

Alfosina_Storni Courtesy of Wiki

Alfosina_Storni Courtesy of

Alfonsina Storni, the Argentinian who penned these words, was one of the most important Latin American poets of the modernist period. She wrote La inquietud del rosal (“The Restless Rose Garden”) in 1916 and became known in literary circles in Buenos Aires; but it was her volume El dulce daño (“The Sweet Injury”) written in 1918 that brought her real acclaim.  She expressed the tension and passion of intimacy in poetry both simple and deeply sensual. A victim of breast cancer, she is perhaps most well known for her last act of expression.  This stunning embrace of mortality, in the poem, “Voy a Dormir, was written before she committed suicide in 1938: 

Dientes de flores, cofia de rocío,

manos de hierbas, tú, nodriza fina,

tenme prestas las sábanas terrosas

y el edredón de musgos encardados.


Voy a dormir, nodriza mía, acuéstame,

ponme una lámpara a la cabecera;

una constelación; la que te guste;

todas son buenas; bájala un poquito.


Déjame sola: oyes romper los brotes…

te acuna un pie celeste desde arriba

y un pájaro te traza unos compases


para que olvides… Gracias. Ah, un encargo:

si él llama nuevamente por teléfono

le dices que no insista, que he salido…


Teeth of flowers, bonnet of dew,

handfuls of herbs, oh sweet nursemaid,

lend me your earthly bedsheets

and prepare my quilt of carded moss.


Nanny, I’m going to sleep — lay me down;

place a lamp on the nightstand for me,

or a constellation, whichever you like—

both are fine; turn the light down a bit.


Leave me alone: and hear the buds break …

as you’re rocked by a heavenly foot,

and a bird traces your path

so that you can forget … Thank you. Oh, a favor:

if he telephones again

tell him not to insist, for I have gone out …


The story of her life also inspired new writing through music, interpreted here by Placido Domingo and Mercedes Sosa, in “Alfonsina y el Mar:”


And I love the words of Juana de Ibarbarou, fromUruguay, in “La higuera.” Haven’t we all felt this way at one time or another – either the wall flower or the comadre – needing friendship and needing to give consolance, sometimes alone, sometimes together:

Porque es áspera y fea,

porque todas sus ramas son grises

yo le tengo piedad a la higuera.


En mi quinta hay cien árboles bellos,

ciruelos redondos,

limoneros rectos

y naranjos de brotes lustrosos.


En las primaveras

todos ellos se cubren de flores

en torno a la higuera.

Y la pobre parece tan triste

con sus gajos torcidos, que nunca

de apretados capullos se viste…


Por eso,

cada vez que yo paso a su lado

digo, procurando

hacer dulce y alegre mi acento:

“Es la higuera el mas bello

de los árboles todos del huerto”.


Si ella escucha,

si comprende el idioma en que hablo,

¡Que dulzura tan honda hará nido

en su alma sensible de árbol!


Y tal vez, a la noche,

cuando el viento abanique su copa,

embriagada de gozo le cuente:

“Hoy a mí me dijeron hermosa”.

There is joy in giving confidence and love – and Juana’s original words inspired both in this interpretation and translation of her work:

All storytelling is the foundation of history. And history is the muse of our present policy – good and bad. This is an elegy, then, for the written song of our Latina warriors who fought their inner demons, rules of society, even illness, by celebrating their humanity in ways that are impossible to forget.  Their song remains the last word, which for these musings shall be from the great Mexican poet Rosario Castellanos.  Her grace is simple, forceful, and especially prescient for life today, along and beyond, our southern border:


Paravivir es demasiado el tiempo;

para saber no es nada.

¿A qué vinimos, noche, corazón de la noche?

No es posible sino soñar, morir,

soñar que no morimos

y, a veces, un instante, despertar.


Time is too long, in order to live;

In order to know, not enough.

What have we come for, night, heart of night?

Nothing is possible but dreaming and dying,

Dreaming that we do not die

and, at times, for a moment, that we awake.

Marcela Davison Aviles is an author, lawyer and CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corporation and Executive Producer of VivaFest, a leading Latino cultural festival of Latino music, theatre, education, film, new media and the visual arts.