Alma y Hueso

Illustration by Gabriela Riveros

This is an illustration of the poem "You Want Me White" by the early 20th Century Argentinian poet Alfonsina Storni. Alfonsina was among the first of well known female poets and feminist activist in Latin America. She wrote many poems concerning female oppression and challenged the double standard held for men and women in society. In this poem, she is basically telling male oppressors to go to hell. She critically looks at the idea of men wanting women to remain pure, white, chaste and moral while men are guilty of the same vices they attack women for. She is attacking the idea that in patriarchal hierarchy the feelings and rights of women do not matter, and by placing the male subject in the wild, running around like Bacchus, she is asking her male readers consider themselves of what they do that is considered immoral before punishing women for the same immoral acts.

I made the illustration a hot pink mostly to convey the overpowering femininity happening in the poem. Pink, to me, is a commanding and energetic color. While pink is also traditionally feminine in our culture, I wanted to use it not as a delicate color, but a color that creates intensity. It also contrasts the green of the nature (meant to be opposing and masculine) that is creeping on the left side. The composition is split with the man and woman on either side-the woman scorned in her domestic setting while the man freely coincides outside in nature. Since my anthology focuses on cultural identity, the man is an Argentinian gaucho (18th and 19th century cowboy) and his wife remains at home while he roams the Pampas. The horses in the illustration mirror the role of the woman as something "domesticated" and used for man's benefit. Except the horses surrounding the woman also can be a subtle interpretation to the medieval myth of the maiden and the unicorn-where chaste, virtuous virgins where used to lure unicorns for their magical properties to again, emphasize on the level of purity men expect women to be.

You Want Me While
by Alfonsina Storni

You’d like me to be white as dawn,
You’d like me to be made of foam,
You wish I were mother of pearl,
A lily
Chaste above all others.
A delicate perfume.
A closed bud.
Not one ray of the moon
Should have filtered me,
Not one daisy
Should have called me sister.
You want me to be snowy,
You want me to be white,
You want me to be like dawn.

You who have held all the wineglasses
In your hand,
Your lips stained purple
With fruit and honey
You who in the banquet
crowned with young vines
Made toasts with your flesh to Bacchus.
You who in the gardens
Black with Deceit
Dressed in red
Ran to your Ruin.

You who keep your skeleton
Well preserved, intact,
I don’t know yet
Through what miracles
You want to make me white
(God forgive you),
You want to make me chaste
(God forgive you),
You want to make me like dawn!

Run away to the woods;
Go to the mountain;
Wash your mouth;
Get to know the wet earth
With your hands;
Feed your body
With bitter roots;
Drink from the rocks;
Sleep on the white frost;
Renew your tissue
With the salt of rocks and water;
Talk to the birds
And get up at dawn.
And when your flesh
Has returned to you,
And when you have put
Your soul back into it,
Your soul which was left entangled
In all the bedrooms,
Then, my good man,
Ask me to be white,
Ask me to be snowy,
Ask me to be chaste.

Gabriela RiverosComment