Editor's Note: LALT thanks Felipe H. Lopez and translator Brook Danielle Lillehaugen for graciously providing audio recordings of these poems in the poet's own voice and in the original Zapotec.
Chi mna loo, bdyen Wbixh.
Bzinyiu lainy xcalncaya.
Mas nal queityru rziendyi.
When I saw you, the Sun rose.
You illuminated my darkness.
You warmed my heart.
Even though it’s cold, I don’t feel it.
You are it.
You are me.
We are it.
We warm the earth.
Your heart is playful.
We look at each other.
Everything becomes quiet.
The crickets sing.
Zicy nyis nacu.
mas queity rcazu.
You are like the water.
You slip through my hands,
though I want to stop you.
You keep running,
though you do not want to go.
I drink from you
and my thirst is not quenched.
lady ngas par queity yga.
Gal nlas ysana,
Gal nzac chicaa.
Tyopchon pes caa,
dolr gac gan.
Gal rran zyet gyan.
Ni gyo guan gac gan.
Loguezh zyet gyan,
Cali rian lat chaa?
Tu gan na?
A good dream
I left on a Tuesday.
dark clothes so I won’t get caught.
I will leave poverty behind,
I will get the good things.
I have only a few pesos,
I will earn dollars.
The plowing abandoned.
I’ll get the money to buy oxen.
My pueblo abandoned,
I’m going to the Other Side.
My head is in darkness.
“It’s a good dream,” they say.
What is this place that I’m going to?
Will I be caught?
Laty rria muly
zhyet riani loguezh.
Tu buny naa?
per nazh dicwat ri ricy.
cuan ra sa?
Lazhzyet bunyi nua.
Gyec mulyi nai.
The money cage
The place where you can just scoop up money,
it’s far away from home.
I arrived here,
I grew up here.
What kind of person am I?
I speak Zapotec,
but only deaf people live here.
I cry at night—
where is my family?
I live in the foreigners’ country.
This place is a money cage.
Naiga mna loo.
Nazhi bicya, cariu.
Zeu, ladi nua.
Xini zeu? Xini zaa?
wxiny rgwia loo.
Rbeza wxiny steiby.
Just yesterday I saw you.
I didn’t have my papers.
Today I returned, you are not here.
You left and I was on the Other Side.
Why did you leave? Why did I go?
I really miss you,
at night I see you.
I wake up and you run off.
I wait for the night again.
Bwia lua zhii.
Naani nata ricy.
Rnia naa, “Re queitya gyana.
Buny ze, buny zied.
Gal ruan rac.
“A zeëng,” rinydyaga.
Queity rzhyeilydi bzilua.
Xini queity nyaga?
Jwers runya cuzha.
Rgwia lua steiby, niuag bzilua.
Caria ra xaba —
Nu tu gacwri e?
Guet cariainy losnaa —
Caria muly gyinylua —
Xu teidya gueu?
Xu yzeinya gueizh anym?
I saw myself with eyes closed.
It’s me that is lying there,
I said to myself, “I will not stay here.
I will go back to my pueblo.”
People are coming in and out.
There’s lots of crying.
“He’s already gone,” I hear.
I want to move.
My eyes don’t open.
I should have gone back sooner.
I should have stayed in my pueblo.
I try to yell.
I look at my face again, my eyes shut.
I don’t have my clothes—
Will someone else dare to wear them?
There are no tortillas in my hands—
What will I eat?
I don’t see any coins—
How will I cross the river?
How will I reach Mitla?
Translated by Brook Danielle Lillehaugen
The poem "Thirst" was used as lyrics for an art song composed by Kathryn Goldberg in 2018.
The poem "The money cage" was originally published in The Acentos Review, May 2018.
Special thanks to Mike Galant and Julie Gonzles for their comments and editorial support.
Dr. Felipe H. Lopez is originally from the Zapotec town of San Lucas Quiaviní, Oaxaca. He currently serves as advisor to the Oaxacan State Commission on Human Rights. At the age of 16 he migrated to Los Angeles, California, speaking no English and little Spanish. By 2007 he had earned his Ph.D. from UCLA in urban planning. It was at UCLA that he began working with linguists to document his language, resulting in a trilingual Zapotec-Spanish-English dictionary (Munro & Lopez et al. 1999). His Zapotec poetry has also been published in the Latin American Literary Review and The Acentos Review. The short story featured in LALT, "Liaza chaa / I am going home," was awarded first place in the narrative category in the 2017 Premios CaSa competition for the creation of literature in Zapotec. The Spanish translations are his own. He is presently working on a book of Zapotec language poetry. More of his writing can be found at http://felipehlopez.weebly.com/.
The seventh issue of Latin American Literature Today highlights indigenous voices with dossiers dedicated to three Wayuu writers from Colombia and Zapotec poetry and prose. We also pay homage to renowned Venezuelan poet Eugenio Montejo with a special dossier, as well as returning to the strange worlds of Latin American science fiction and opening a new space for Brazilian literature in Portuguese and English.
Table of Contents
- ESSAY: "Eugenio Montejo: An Introduction" by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza
- ESSAY: "Eugenio Montejo: A Living Presence Ten Years After His Passing" by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza
- ESSAY: "Eugenio Montejo and the Poetics of the Essay" by Miguel Gomes
- ESSAY: "The Joyous Excess of Eugenio Montejo’s Heteronymy" by Nicholas Roberts
- ESSAY: "So the Song Remains: Cosmic Orientation and Landscape in the Poetry of Eugenio Montejo" by Luis Enrique Belmonte
- POETRY: Five Poems by Eugenio Montejo
- ESSAY: "The White Workshop" by Eugenio Montejo
- POETRY: "Final sin fin" by Eugenio Montejo
- INTERVIEW: "A Choral Interview with Eugenio Montejo" by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza, Julio Bolívar, Edmundo Bracho, Marina Gasparini, and José Pulido
- ESSAY: "Three Wayuu Writers Bring Winds of Renewal from the Desert" by Ana María Ferreira
- ESSAY: "Estercilia Simanca: A Writer who Makes the Desert Blossom" by Ana María Ferreira
- ESSAY: "Vito Apüshana: from Woumain to Wallmapu and from there to Rockies" by Juan Guillermo Sánchez
- ESSAY: "Pulowi of Uuchimüin" by Estercilia Simanca
- FICTION: "I Never Heard the Birds Again" by Vicenta Siosi
- POETRY: Five Poems by Vito Apüshana
- "Andean Science Fiction: An Introduction" by Marcelo Novoa
- "Andean Science Fiction: If Everything Unites Us… Does Nothingness Separate Us?" by Marcelo Novoa
- "Andean Dystopias: When the Future Clashes with Desire" by Iván Rodrigo Mendizábal
- "Andean Science Fiction: Pitfalls and Possibilities" by Daniel Salvo
- El asesinato de Laura Olivo by Jorge Eduardo Benavides
- Los terneros by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón
- Baroni: A Journey by Sergio Chejfec
- Desalojo de la naturaleza by Juan Arabia
- Teoría y práctica de La Habana by Rubén Gallo
- Paisajes en movimiento by Gustavo Guerrero
- Ya nadie llora por mí by Sergio Ramírez
- Huracán by Sofía Segovia
- Casa transparente by María Luque
- La casa devastada by Carlos Cociña