“Ghazal of the Bitter Root” by Federico García Lorca

“Ghazal of the Bitter Root” is my translation of “Gacela de la Raíz Amarga,” a poem from Federico García Lorca’s Diván del Tamarit.

My ghazal “American Boy” samples a line from “Ghazal of the Bitter Root.” A naked boy cowers as he is beaten by his beloved father, whose strap is “a battle of raging bees.”

Agha Shahid Ali, the Kashmiri-American poet who taught English-language poets the traditional ghazal, introduced this sampling technique as a way for the poet to honor and acknowledge literary forebears.

“Ghazal of the Bitter Root,” an English Translation of “Gacela de la Raíz Amarga”

There is a bitter root
and a world of a thousand terraces.

Nor does the smaller hand
breach the water door

Where are you going? Where, Where?
There, a sky of a thousand windows
— a battle of raging bees —
and a bitter root.


A pain in the sole of the foot,
the inside of the face,
and pain of the sapling
of night newly cut down.

My love, my enemy,
bite your bitter root.

by Federico García Lorca,
From Diván del Tamarit (1934)
Translated by E.A. Melino

Back to “American Boy”

Selections from Lorca’s Diván del Tamarit

“Gacela de la Raíz Amarga,” Spanish Original of “Ghazal of the Bitter Root”

Hay una raíz amarga
y un mundo de mil terrazas.

Ni la mano más pequeña
quiebra la porta del agua.

¿Dónde vas, adónde, dónde?
Hay un cielo de mil ventanas
— batalla de abejas lívidas —
y hay una raíz amarga.


Duele en la planta del pie,
el interior de la cara,
y duele en el tronco fresco
de noche recién cortada.

Amor, enemigo mío,
muerde tu raíz amarga!

by Federico García Lorca,
From Diván del Tamarit (1934)

Back to “American Boy”

Selections from Lorca’s Diván del Tamarit

Image: “Federico García Lorca: From a mural on a barn in his birthplace, Fuente Vaqueros, Andalucía, Spain.” Photos by Spencer Means. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

To see the mural and its detail images as well as more photos from Andalucía, Provence and other places in Europe and the U.S., visit Spencer’s Flickr Page.