Rhina Espaillat, translation from the Spanish of “A Bout Rime Pair of Sonnets” by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Der-Hovanessian Award, selected by Chloe Roberts-Garcia
Winning Poet: Rhina Espaillat, translation from the Spanish of “A Bout Rime Pair of Sonnets” by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

 

Sonnet I

To Celio, who, unregarded, does not wish
to seem forgotten.

You say that I forget you, but you lie:
it would require thinking to forget you,
and nowhere in my thinking have I let you—
even as one forgotten—saunter by.
My thoughts are far—so far—from you, that I,
focused elsewhere, as if I’d never met you,
have no idea what thoughts of mine upset you,
or if your absence from them makes you sigh.
If anyone could love you, one could, yes,
forget you: what a triumph that would be,
affirming your existence; none the less,
you are so far from such a victory
that you’re eclipsed, not through forgetfulness,
but sheer rejection by my memory.

Sonnet II

Celio, employing the same rhymes, refutes Clori’s
hyperbole, with his own even more ingenious truth.

You claim to have forgotten me, but lie
when you say, “I’ve forgotten to forget you,”
since clearly, thinking so, your mind won’t let you
forget forgotten me, and keeps me by.
If your thoughts differ from Albiro’s, I
suspect you’ll come around, for since I met you
it’s you who think the thoughts that most upset you,
saying things you don’t mean that make you sigh.
You say that I’m not lovable, but yes,
it’s you yourself who prove I well may be,
so all your arguments profit you less
than they do me; since to gain victory
you keep forgetting your forgetfulness,
I’m not rejected by your memory.

 

Rhina P. Espaillat
Rhina P. Espaillat’s 3 chapbooks and 10 books comprise poetry, short stories and essays in English and Spanish, and translations. Her work appears in numerous journals and over 80 anthologies, and earned national and international awards, including the NEPC 2006 May Sarton Award, several honors from the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Culture, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Salem State College.