Marjorie Agosín’s intensely personal long poem The Light of Desire is both a secular and sacred meditation on love and its meanings in the land of Israel. Following the tradition of the Song of Songs and the secular poetry of Sepharad, the beloved in The Light of Desire is both physical and metaphorical. The lovers’ bodies are the paths, the geography, leading not only from desire to sensual pleasure, but to memory and illumination. The light on the pink stones of Jerusalem, the sunlight of Galilee, from hills to the sea, the fragrant air and “mantle of stars,” all become one in this tender, rhapsodic expression of longing and desire. This is not unrequited love, but rather a reciprocal passion that brings exquisite pleasure, pain, a sense of fragility, and the hope and belief in that which is eternal.
The poem was written over a four-year span in Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood, overlooking the wall of the Second Temple, and these hallowed surroundings imbued Agosín’s poetic voice. Lori Marie Carlson’s sensitive translation maintains the spirit of the original Spanish in this bilingual edition.