Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Diary of a Young Mother

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Written 1918-1920 by Juana de Ibarbourou
Translation by Liz Henry

          Is there anywhere in the world a child more lovely than my son? I will tell the whole world about my son and then they'll tell me that I am right to believe that he is the most beautiful, the most intelligent of all babies.

          Today I put on him a scarlet suit that I had knitted from thick silk over many days, through many wakeful nights, and all were astonished, seeing my infant. I had walked down the Prado, where, when it's nice out, the mothers and the nannies walk with their babies, and I heard many people say, staring, "Such a beautiful baby!" And I wanted to shout after
them: I am his mom! Don't walk away thinking, as sometimes happens, that I'm his sister or his aunt. This baby is mine, mine, mine.
          And I say at such times, taking him from the arms of his nanny: "Come with your little mother, my treasure!"
          Could there be anyone that doubts that I am the mother of this baby, so pretty, dressed in scarlet silk?

          I laugh at the rich people that have gold and jeweled necklaces, that own enormous amounts of diamonds, of pearls, of rubies. That want to have worked silver plate and kill themselves buying fine jewelry. If they all had sons like mine, they could be content. At times his father and I say:
          "How much could we get for this baby? "
          And we ask each other:
          "Would you sell him for one, for two, for three million? Would you resign yourself to never seeing him again, to sell him to the Shah in Persia, if in exchange he'd give you all his sparkling treasure and you could be the richest person in the world?"
          And as no quantity is high enough for me to decide to give up my son, I convince myself that there isn't in all the world a richer woman, given that I am the owner of this child, whose price can't be reached, even if we gained millions and millions.

          I will be old when my son becomes a man. And when we go out to walk together, I will pretend to be hunchbacked, so that he will seem, at my side, to be more gallant. I will be a little old woman full of crafty tricks. I will learn to stumble once in a while, so that he can support me. I'll have to feign exhaustion, so that he'll give me his arm, saying:
          "You're tired, Mom?"
          And the girls, who surely will all fall in love with him like fools, will say:
          "That crippled old lady on the arm of this handsome elegant man -- it's his mother."
          And I'll walk on secretly swelled with pride!

          "What would you do," they asked me, "if a thief came to steal your baby?"
          And I answered:
          "I'd leap to put myself in front of the cradle to defend him. But first, pretending to be calm, I'd say, "Why would you want such a bad child, so ugly, such a crybaby? In that chest there's money and fine clothes. Take all that stuff, but leave me the infant, who can't be any use to you, and besides, I want him, sort of, since in the end, I'm his mother."
          And the thief, believing this, would get busy looting the chest and would be convinced that this baby is awful, although he's the best baby in the world.

          Oh yes! He is the best and most lovely and the most lively and most enthusiastic!
          My baby only pays attention to the most beautiful and picturesque things; he reaches out his arms to embrace the moon, to touch the little black larks, the flag, red, blue, and white, of the French embassy, our neighbor, the flag that hangs on holidays right across from our balcony; he's desperate to grab the most beautiful flowers, the books of nursery rhymes with the prettiest, bright colored covers; he exults when we give him the gold head of his grandfather's cane, his father's watch, my necklaces and my kisses.
          And every morning, on waking, with his sparkly brown eyes wide open, his curls all tangled, gurgling in a particular enchanting way, he wants to clutch in his little fists a ray of sunlight that comes in through a crack in the door and sinks, like a shining arrow, through the mosquito net that I, when I woke up, had tucked into both sides of his cradle.

The Uruguayan poet Juana de Ibarbourou (1895-1979) earned a world-wide reputation in 1918 with the publication of her first book, Las Lenguas de Diamante. Her prose poems in El ntaro Fresco (1920) were hailed by critics as vivid word-paintings of her childhood memories. Ra'z Salvaje (1922) and La Rosa de los vientos (1930) proved her staying power as a poet. De Ibarbourou's early work often focused on love, passion, and a keen spiritual longing. In the midst of love, she thinks of death; when she longs for death and oblivion, the beauty of a flower or a bird's song calls her back to the physical world. She flies to a new world in a seagull ship, or shouts to the stars, trying to leap off the wheel of life, but her feet, her senses, are anchored in this world. The scope of her poems is far beyond simple celebrations of beauty, or passionate love poems; in fact, they take the reader on a profound mystical journey. Later in life she wrote a cycle of poems about Biblical figures and another addressed to various aspects of the Virgin Mary. She also wrote plays for children. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1959.

Liz Henry’s poems, fiction, and translations from Spanish have been published most recently in Two Lines, Poetry Flash, Other, Strange Horizons, Convergence, and Fantastic Metropolis. She is currently working on translating the poems of Juana de Ibarbourou and other modernists and early postmodernists.

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