Ernesto Cardenal – Take care of yourself, Claudia, when with me.

(Original can be found on the blog Atrapadas en Azul.)


My first impression upon entering the poem was of immediate sadness. There are many casual rhymes, natural with Spanish, and a freedom of verse that gives the poem a sense of sincerity, while an intriguing use of punctuation adds both urgency and hesitation: I imagine the author suffered as he wrote, penning a line, stopping, writing some more, stopping again, repeat. Here Cardenal seems to have recorded a series of exasperated pleas that end in an address to future readers (whom he presumes will be other females).


Ernesto Cardenal – Take care of yourself, Claudia, when with me.

Epigrams* from Ernesto Cardenal (*epigrams are concise, clever sayings or poems, as defined by Grammarist).



I give to you, Claudia, these verses, because you are their owner.

I have written them to be simple, so that you may understand.

They are for you only, but if you don’t like them,

One day they will spread through all of Latin America;

And if the love, with which I have penned them, you also reject,

Other women will dream with this love that had not been for them.

Perhaps then you will see, Claudia, that these poems,

(Written to conquer you) Awaken

In other couples who read them

The kisses that in you this poet could not awaken.


Take care of yourself, Claudia, when with me.

Because the lightest gesture, any word, any whisper

By you, Claudia, the slightest oversight,

Perhaps one day will be examined by scholars,

And this, your dance, remembered for centuries.

Claudia, you have been warned.


Of these theaters, Claudia, and of these holidays,

And of these horse races,

Nothing will be left to posterity,

Except these verses by Ernesto Cardenal for Claudia

(If only)

And the name of Claudia I put in these verses

Like those of my enemies, that is, if I decide to save them

From oblivion, and to include them in my verses too

For ridicule.


This will be my vengeance:

That one day in your hands the book of a famous poet will land

And you will read these lines that the author wrote for you

And you not even realize.


They told me you were already in love with someone else

So I went to my room

And wrote that article against the Government

For which I am now in jail.


In losing you, we both have lost:

I, because you were the one I most loved

And you, because you lost the one who most loved you.

In the end, though, you loss more than me:

Because I can love another as much as I’ve loved you,

Yet you will never find someone who loves you like I loved you.


To the women that will one day read these lines with emotion

And dream with its poet:

Know that I wrote them for one among you

And that it was in vain.




Translation dedicated to my good friend, Ahmed Shaibani, who requested this work.


What do you think? Please let your comments below.

Posted in Poetry and tagged , , , .


  1. Ernesto Cardenal is one of my most respected romantic poets of Latin America. This is the first time I see a translation (excellent translation) of his epigrams. Congrats!

    • Dear Nicolas,
      Thank you for your kind words.

      I must admit, I only translated this wonderful piece when a friend of mine started dating a Claudia, and he asked me what Cardenal’s lines meant. Eventually, this poem really moved me, too. All this to say, I may never have discovered this hidden gem of Latin America otherwise.

      If ever you could share how you’ve discovered him (maybe you are from Nicaragua?) please drop me another line. Curious . . .

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