Featured Poem

The River

I am a river, going down over wide stones,
going down over hard rocks,
my path drawn by the wind.
The trees around me are shrouded with rain.
I am a river, descending with greater fury,
with greater violence,
whenever a bridge reflects me in its curves.
I am a river, a river.
A river: clear as crystal every morning.
Sometimes I am tender and kind.
I slide smoothly through fertile valleys.
I let the cattle and the gentle people
drink as much as they want.
Children run to me by day.
At night, trembling lovers stare into my eyes
and plunge themselves
into the stark darkness of my ghostly waters.
I am a river.
But sometimes I am wild and strong.
Sometimes I have no respect for life or death.
Cascading in furious waterfalls,
I beat those stones again and again,
I smash them into interminable pieces.
The animals run. They run.
They run when I flood their fields,
when I sow their slopes with tiny pebbles,
when I flood their homes and their meadows,
when I flood their doors and their hearts,
their bodies and their hearts.
And this is when I come down even faster:
when I can reach into their hearts
and grasp their very blood
and I can look at them from inside.
Then my fury turns peaceful
and I become a tree.
I seal myself up like a tree
and I turn silent as a stone
and I go quiet as a thornless rose.
I am a river.
I am the river of eternal happiness.
I feel the neighbourly breezes,
I feel the wind on my face, till my journey
– across mountains, rivers, lakes and prairies –
becomes endless.
I am the river that travels
along banks, past trees and dry stones,
I am the river that surges
through your ears, your doors, your open hearts.
I am the river that travels
by meadows, by flowers, by tended roses,
I am the river that travels
along streets, across earth, under drenched sky.
I am the river that travels
by mountains, rocks and burned salt.
I am the river that travels
through homes, tables, chairs.
I am the river that travels
inside men – tree, fruit, rose, stone,
table, heart, heart, door –
everything turned over.
I am the river that sings to people at midday.
I sing before their graves.
I turn my face towards those sacred places.
I am the river become night.
I go down by the broken depths,
by the forgotten unknown villages,
by the cities crammed to the very windows with people.
I am the river,
I flow through the prairies.
The trees on my banks are alive with doves.
The trees sing with the river,
the trees sing with my bird’s heart,
the rivers sing with my arms.
The hour will come
when I will have to disperse
into the ocean,
to mix my clean waters with its murky waters.
I will have to silence my luminous song,
I will have to hush how I babble a hallo
to the dawn of each day,
I will wash my eyes with the sea.
That day will come,
and in those immense seas
I will no longer see my fertile fields,
I will never again see my green trees,
my neighbourly breeze,
my clear sky, my dark lake,
my sun, my clouds,
I will see nothing,
except that immense blue heaven
where everything is dissolved,
in that vast expanse of water,
where one more song or another poem
will mean nothing more
than a little river trickling down,
or a mighty river coming down to join me,
in my new luminous waters,
in my newly extinguished waters.

» Comment on this translation 1 comment(s)

» Read notes
About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Javier Heraud
Timothy Allen
Original language:
Spanish (Peru)
Series 3 No.14 - Polyphony

About the author

Original poet

Javier Heraud

Javier Heraud is remembered as much for the senseless tragedy of his violent death as for his precocious talent: an award-winn...

» Read more
Timothy Allen


Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen was born in Liverpool in 1960, and as a former aid worker has lived in many parts of the developing world. He ha...

» Read more


Patricia Boberg

19th Sep 2012

By far the best translation ever made to Javier Heraud's poem.
Thanks from my heart, Timothy Allen


Browse poems

By original language »

By issue of MPT »

Go Digital

Subscribe to the digital edition of MPT for access to all back issues and to the Exactly app.» View free trial issue

Back to top
Supported by Arts Council England

Copyright © Modern Poetry in Translation and contributors
Website design ashbydesign
Developed by Code Frontiers
Powered by Storemill