The fire weighs less than silence, papay, your
thick shadow that burns
among wet logs;
less than the silence of night
the light that shines
off birds and rivers.
“May the fire be your brother,” it speaks, it lights up
the story of fallen plains
the war between gods, serpents
the passage of men
through lightning and blood.
You hear the gallop of the generations,
the names buried
with pitchers and fruits,
the tear, the clamor of slow caravans
escaping to the hills of death and life.
You hear the puma strike
the trout leap into blue
you hear the song of birds, you foretell
you hide behind ferns
and flowering fuchsias.
Now you breathe the dust of the nguillatunes,
the machi cutting the throat
of the chosen ram;
now you breathe the smoke before the rehue, the fire
that burns the bones of the long sacrifice.
“May the fire be your brother,” you say returning,
may the wide sun of the day
reunite brothers and sisters;
may the fire be your brother, papay, the memory
that silently embraces the shadow
and the light.
*Papay is a term of endearment for elder women in Huilliche.
Those eyes the color of color
from a gray height, watch
bellflowers, trickling water.
Does the silence come from the wind at this hour or
is it the drunken bees
bringing honey and blood
to the hive of your temples?
Because the water is beautiful,
and the sky is beautiful
and both are good friends - she says.
Because the light is my soul in the star,
and my breasts are fountains of light.
Because in silence we know what we are:
the eagle and the swan,
the deer and the puma,
mountains, spring and wind,
sowing the seeds of eternity.
*The lines in italics are by the poet Pablo de Rokha.
Translated by Arthur Dixon
Jaime Luis Huenún is a Huilliche-Chilean poet. He grew up in Osorno, near the Rahue River, which appears in many of his poems. He normally writes in Spanish, and his work represents an effort to construct a new indigenous poetics combining traditional themes with novel, sometimes experimental styles. His published works include Ceremonias (1999), El pozo negro y otros relatos mapuches (2001), and Los cantos ocultos (2008), and he served from 1993 to 2000 as director of Pewma, a journal of art and literature. He received the Pablo Neruda Prize in 2003 for his verse collection Puerto trakl (2001).
Arthur Dixon works as a translator and as Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. His translation of Andrés Felipe Solano’s “The Nameless Saints” (WLT, Sept. 2014) was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize, and his most recent project is a book-length translation of Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza’s Cuidados intensivos (see WLT, Sept. 2016).
The fourth issue of LALT highlights underrepresented but deserving voices from across Latin America, with a focus on women writers as well as special sections dedicated to genre-bending science fiction, indigenous-language poetry and prose, and the essential relationship between author and translator.