Rotten Flesh

 

Catazajá, Chiapas, Mexico. Photo: @j0rt, Unsplash.

K’’a’al ti’bal

Ta schanebal xujk k’aal ya kal  bael te k’opto, te st’ujbilal la yutsubtesbon tal te jkuxlejale, jich yu’un ja’ a k’atp’uj ta j-sit sok ja’ la ki’ch’ ta muk’ ta spasel te bintik ay xiweltiknax sba sok pukujtiknax sba te la jpase. Ma jna’ bit’il a k’ot ta pasel, ja’nax yu’un ya kalbeyex te bin la jpase, la jpas sok sla’ul ko’tan. Sok ma’yuk bin yan ta yalel, ja’nax te smelelil lum-k’inal, uts’nax sba’ ta ch’ich’eltik te bin la jbone.

Jun xmalk’aal te makal k’inal-ae, te k’alal spisil ya sujtikix tal ta yatelik, te k’alal te jtuuneletik ya sk’anik yu’un te slekilal yawal sts’unubik; sok sbats’il k’u’ik, ts’isbil ta stulanil yo’tan, ayme sok ya’bakulik-a, ayme te sak’bilik-ae, ayme te k’a’emikix-ae, ayme te yach’ilikto-ae, ajawetiknax ya’yel sok te sk’ayojike. Ja’ te ik’e ya xkoj tal ta spak’beyel yo’tanik, yalajme skuy ta sk’ayoj ala ik’-mutetik te bit’il a xch’abtawanejike. Jich a xk’atp’uj ta yo’tan ajwaliletik te lum-k’inale.

Ja’ me te xmal k’aal kalojix’e, k’alal banti spisil ch’ayem ta pasel, ja’ te banti la xmach’bon te jsite, Jich te bit’il ch’ayem sbak’ tujk’ a och ta ko’tan, yich’bel tal puro ok’el. Yuunixme ma’ jtebuk yutsil-a te ans te la kalixe. Ja jich te bit’il xchanul nichim ta yo’lil yax-k’inal, ja jichme la kil te bit’il x’elunajnax yutsil te ay bin ya wil. Ja’nax te manix bin ora a chojponix yu’un-a. Ja’ te Xmale, lajme slabtayon sok te site. Ja’tonixme jich la kich’ ta muk’-a, melel te ya yalik te jlabil ans laje. Sok te mach’atik la smamalalin tale, ox tu’l winiketik, yoxebalme chopolnax a lajik, mero k’atp’ujik ta bak. Ja’ jich te bit’il ayxanix bin la yuch’bey te xch’ich’elike, so’lel te’-bakbaktiknax a lajik bael. 

Mame sta jo’lajuneb k’aal-a k’ax, i ja’ te ko’tane k’unk’un a jajch ta ch’iel, k’axemtome jich smuk’ul a k’oy te bit’il jxiwele. Ma la jmaliy jxujt’uk, la kalbey jtat ta ora. La jakelbey te ya jk’an a xnujp’unon sok te Xmale. La kalbey te ayuk bit’il a xba sk’an ta stojol te sme-state, “baan k’anbon tal-a” la kut. Ja’me te jtate yuunix niwan sna’oj-a te bin ya xk’oy ta pasel, ma la sk’an a bajt. La yalbon te sojkem joles ok te bit’il mananix ayuk bin k’aalil a xba xk’an a te Xmale.

Ja jich k’ax te k’aale, ja’tome te bin ora, te mero te ma’yukix kutsilal-ae, te yuunixme ya jk’anix-a te kiname, la jt’un bael, ta slok’e ja’ , te banti ya xbajt yich’ tal te ja’e, yutsilnax-a te k’aale, xtiltonax te yik’ nichimetike, ak’ol yo’tan-a te jtatik k’aale, spetojotik-a te jmetik lum, te yutsil te lumk’inale. Jtukeltiknax tey ayotik-a, jkume-a, mananix bi la yal-a , la yilon, ayon me ta sts’eel-a, ¡Mero k’ax t’ujbilnax! Ayme ta yo’lil ya’-a te jk’abe, k’unk’un a to’y moel te yik’awe, ya xchik’inteswanej ta ju’ ajk’ te smulanel jbajtike, te yujts’iyele, te mero muk’ witsetike, ¡Mero muk’me! Melel sbabeyaltonanix-a te jich a jpase. Ma jch’uuntikix-a. Lajnax jnop te bitikxan a xk’ot jpas sok te xMale, t’ujbilnax ta a’antayel, mero mayukix jich-a.

Ta xmal k’aal a te awa’ye, la kaltik te ya x-a’notik bael, yu’un te smuk’ul te jk’aaltik ta sk’anel jbajtike. Bajt k’ich’ tal jo’tik te jk’u-jpak’tike, ya jmaliy jba jo’tik ta yolil ajk’abal. Swojtsinajnax-a te sk’aal ue, mero yorail-a te k’oyone. Xibentik sba te xch’abenal k’inal-ae, ma’yuk xa wa’iy te yaw ts’ie, ma’yuk xa wa’iy te xu-xub xoch’e. Ja’naxme la kil te teyix-a te Yalan Bak’ete. Te j’ajk’ot bak la stsalon ta smelelil k’op, te xch’ewch’onel bak, yakal snutsbelon-a, k’an smilon-a, ya sk’anbonix-a te jlajele. Ochon ta a’nel, ya’lon awunon. La jwik’ te jsite, sujtontal ta k’inal, la me kal te ma xkilix te smuk’ul ko’tane. Wokol yal te kajwaltik ma jichuk a k’ot. Yakalonax ta wayich-a. Jk’axel jk’axel te orae, ma xk’oy ta jkuy, mananix xk’oy-a xchion. Ta j’ajk’nax, tuchton k’oyel, jich te bit’il k’ex-u xtuchton a xbeene, sok te yutsil sbak’etale, yala ts’eeje. Yo’tan k’an xcholbon te bistuk tol a jalaje, lajnax kujts’bey sni’, ma la kak’ k’opojuk. 

Yakal ta sakubel-a te k’oyotik ta Slumal te Ijk’al Ajwalile, solel yakal ta tilel ta k’ajk’-a te jbak’etaltike-ae, te ja’xan toyem sk’aalel a te jbak’etaltike. La jmulan jbajtik jo’tik ta swutslejal parke, maba kich’ojtikix ta muk-a te banti ayotik-ae, ja’naxme jwentainejtik te smulanel jbajtik jo’tike. Ma’yuk mach’a ay-a te parkee jich yu’un k’axem ta jun buelta la jmulan jba jo’tik. Ta sakubel k’aal, ben sa’ab jajch jle’ k’atel, sok banti ya xnainon jo’tik. Ben lek a’tel la jta’, yuun te bit’il ayon-ae, ja’ wokol yal-a te yipal jbak’etale sok te sk’ajk’alil ko’tane, ochon ta kapatas tey ta rancho “El Alegre” laj sbiil, ya laj stojonik lajuneb-yoxwinik pesos, jujun k’aal, manixme jichuk-a te bit’il jlumal Tename, te jujun k’aale ya xtojawanik lajune-xchawinik. K’an la slej ya’tel-auk te xMale. Joon ma la jk’an, melel bit’il k’an ochuk ta a’tel teme ma sna jxujt’uk kastiyae, sok mayuk mach’a ya sna’bey sba, ja jich ya kal yu’un teme ayat ta muk’ul lume, te ansetik ma xtuunik ta bintik yan ta pasel, ja’nax ya xtuunik yu’un ta spasel we’elil, sok ta wayel sok te xch’ijtesel alaletik.

Ja’ jich lek a te jkuxlejaltike, ma’yuk bin ma’yuk ku’un jo’tik, k’exu ay jchenek’tik, jwajtik, kichtik, sok baelnix a jti’tik jo’tik ala ti’bal. Jich a k’ax bael te k’aale, ja’tots’in te bin ora jajch snak xe’nel te xMale. Te jo’one la kalbey te ma smel yo’tane, ja’ te alal te ayix tal ta bee, maxa mel-a wo’tan xchion. K’ax jun uj, ja’nanix jich-a te bin-a snake, k’oyon sok ta banti te klinica ya yalike. K’oyon jo’tik ta wakeb ora sakubel k’inal. Bayalotikik-a te bats’il winikotikik-ae, ja’ te jpoxtawanejetike ma xyilotikik jo’tik, pero teme ay a k’oy jtuluk jkaxlane bueltanaxme a x’ik’ot ochel stukel. Aywan a k’ax wakeb ora, jtul jpoxtaywanej ans la yik’ ochel te kinam, mero muk’ul ans, toyol sok ben k’ajk’al ans ta ilel. La sbol k’eluy te kiname, la sjojk’obey xMal teme melelil-a te ay ta chamel-ae. Ma lajbal lotuknax yu’un swenta sk’anel koltayel sok te ajwalile. Te xMale, la yalbey te smelel te ay xchamele, ja jich k’axotik ta yutil te banti-a xpoxtaywanej. Lajnax sk’elulan jtebuk te ki’name, sok la yalbotik te mato yorailuk ta sna’el teme aynix a te chamel-e, ja’me lek teme ya maliyikxan jun-chebuk ue’, xchi te jpoxtawaneje. La jak’bey teme yabal spas te ya yil teme ma’yuk yan chamelil jich’oj-a te kiname, ja’nax la yalbon te ma’yuk styempo-ae, ayto laj toyol sk’plal ta spasel te yantik bi a spase, sok k’a tal aj ba we’uk. 

K’ax niwan che-oxe’ semana, spisil lek ayix-a. Jun ajk’abal, te bit’il x’elunajnax  te sk’aal ue ta stoyolil ch’uluchan, te Xmale, jajch snak xiwel. Yakalon ta xiwe-a melel ma’yuk jich kilij a te xMale. Te k’alal a sakub k’inale, jajch la xk’uxul sol, la ka’bey pox, ja’ tik’ a koltayot yu’un-a. Boon ta a’tel, wayal a jil xch’ixil k’aal stukel. Ta ajk’abal ts’iin, ay bin yakal jmelbel ko’tan yu’un-a, melel ya kal te ay a x’abot xal te chamele. La jmejtsan jba mananix yu’unuk a och jwayel-a. La jamaliy wayuk te kiname, maa way, lok’ bael. La jt’un bael, pero ma jch’uùntikix-a. Ta jsit, tey ta sit ajk’abal-ae, te sk’ulejal te bintik ijk’ik, ja te Yalan Bak’ete. Manixme bin ora-a k’ax ta ko’tan te bin yakal kilbel-ae, mero mayukix jich ta pasel ta jkuy-a. 

Ta yan ajk’abal la jcha t’un bael. Wayalonix la skuyon-a, jich yu’un bajt ta ajk’ot xal te Yalan Bak’ete. Te sk’aalil ue ya xchiknajtes ta witsetik te xojobale. Te ajk’abal awaye, chajpanejix jba-a, la jlej elemux, ats’am, ich sok te may, jich te bit’il la xcholbon j-ochel te jchichmam. La jt’un bael, la jk’eluy te bit’il te sbak’etal, ya xch’uunbey te sk’ope, k’ax xiwtikix sba a te sk’ope, - ¡yalan koel bak’et! ¡koan xchion! ¡yalan koel bak’et!   ¡yalan… - J’ajk’nax yakalix ta wilel ts’iin-a te chox-chox-bake, ma ja’ukix-a te t’ujbil nichim te ch’ij ta ko’tane. Tey-a te sbak’etale, la jbiyulan, la kujts’iy, la jlej teme ay alal ta yutil sbilubale. Mero ilinemon jilel, la jch’oj te sbak’tale, la kal yijkitayel ta chox-chox-bak te mach’a jk’anoj tal ta spisil jkuxlejale. Ma la jna’. Ya jokin spisil ora, ja’to teme lajon jo’tike xchion. Ma’ bin la kal, sujton tal ta jnaj, ch’ayem tal jol yilel, meloj tal ko’tan, ilinemon tal. 

Xojobil k’inal a k’oy. La jojk’obey teme lekix k’inal aya’y-ae. La yal te lek ayix-ae, ja’nax laj xk’uxul xch’ujt yu’un te xchamelul antse. Ma’yuk laj ts’in a te alale. Ma bi la kal, lanax jch’uun te bin la yalbone, i jich a boon ta ka’tel. Xch’ixil k’aal la jnop lek te bin k’an jpase. Te k’alal a sujton tal ta jnae, la kalbey te ya sujtotik bael ta jlumaltik Tename, mawan bin ora a xk’ayotik li’ ta muk’ul lum ini, repente ya xch’ay  te jtaleltik teme jilotik li-e. Ma la snop che buelta te ki’name, ak’olnax yo’tan yu’un-a te bi la kalbeye. Sujto tal jo’tik ta jlumaltik ta yan k’aal. Te k’ala a k’oyotik ta jlumaltike ma’yuk banti k’an nainokotik jo’tik, ja’nax ta sna jme-jtat. Mero ilinemiknax ta jtojol jo’tik-a, jichme la yak’on jo’tik ayinokotik tey-a, pero la yalbon ta jamal te persa lajme-a jchojtan te jnae. Ma sk’anik te ya jlak’ik ta nainele, jich u’un la yalbonik ta spasel jna tey ta slok’ibal bael lume. 

Sok te j-sujteltale, k’ax jelonme te jkuxlejale, sok te bitik la kalixe. La kal te aywan ya xlekub te jkuxlejal jo’tik sok te kinam te k’alal a sujtotik tal jo’tik li’ ta jlumale, pero ma jichuk a k’ot ta pasel. Jchebal jo’tik ya xbootik ta a’tel spisil k’aal, jich ta jich. Baeltikto te ya xlok’ bael ta wits te xMale, ma’yuk mach’a a xba yil, sok ma’yuk mach’a a x’ilot yu’un auk. Te jo’one baeltik a xba kil te jme’-jtate, ta tsoblej yu’un kawilto sok te ay bay komunal a’tel. Spisil jlumaltik ya sk’elulayonik. Te jnial sok te kalibe ma xk’opojik ta jtojol. Te ya yal te ants-winiketike ja’ te te bit’il te pukuj kuybil te kiname, ma xk’ax ora ya ta alajel, xchi jk’oplal, ya yalbonik te ay la slabe, bayal nax bi a yalik ta swenta. Maba la kich’ ta muk’ te bin ya yalike, pero ayme k’un-k’un yakal ta ch’iel te sla’ ko’tan yu’unike. K’atp’ujon ta j’ilimba-mamal, k’ex chopol a ka’iy te bi a yalbonike, jk’axel yuunix mabi jk’anix-a, ma jk’nix-a te ixta k’ope. Te jkuxlejale ma’yukix swentail a bajt, k’atp’uj ta k’atinbak.

Te ki’name jujun k’aal a meelub bael, ma lekuk a slap’ix sba-a te snujkulele, mero kilajtikxanix ta ju’ju xujk-a te snujkulele. Ya ya’bonix xe’nel-a. Te ja’ jich ma’yuk la kal yijkitayel te ki’name, ma la yal ko’tan yijkitayel jichuk me-ts’i’, te ko’tanineje, ja’ te ayuk bit’il aynax ben lek yutsil bin a jpas sok a te sk’a’emal kuxlejale tey-ae. 

Jun xmal-k’aal, ja’ te k’alal a sujton tal ta tsoblej yu’un kawiltoe, la sk’ebenbonik che-oxeb jlop tra’ te xpoxil Kux Ton. Tolme la kuch’. Jteb a jna’-a te k’oyon ta jnae. Tey-a te ki’name, ja’ jich te bit’i yutsilal nax te Yalan Bak’ete, ja’ ts’in te jo’one, mero tol ay te sla’-ko’tan-ae. La jch’oj bael jba ta sba, la jpik, la kujts’ibey sin’, la sts’otbey ta sjol. Maba awun, ja’nax sok te sbakelale la slowbon ochel ta jk’ab. La xcha-ilinteson, La jlilin ta ch’ujtebetik. Jajchme ts’iin te ok’ele, te ma la kich’ ta muk’, yakalnax jnopbel te bin ya spas te ko’tane. La jch’oj bael ta xujk pajk’, la jlokilambey ya’iy, ja’to a komon-a te k-alal la kilbey xch’ich’ele, la k’ujtsibey sin’, la jbek’ jba ta xch’ich’el, jich te jk’anoj jbajtike-ae.

La jmojtes ta jnejkel, jich a jajchon bael ta beel, ma jna’ banti k’alal a xk’oy te jbolile, ja’nax yakal yik’belon bael-a te sla’-ko’tane. K’oyon jo’tik ta Yan Ch’en, tey a te banti yalojik te snak’oj sbaj-a te chupakwra a yalike. Ma xtup’ ak te sk’aal te jtaje, te yat-k’ajk’e jk’axel iniktoxanix smuk’ul-a, la k’ich’ ochel ta ye’tal ch’en, te banti ya xlok’ te sots’etike, sok te chanetike, sok yantik yijk’al chambalametik, ma’yuk stukel te xiwele, ja’nax ay ta ko’tan te ya ku’unintaye. 

Ch’axal ta jk’axel-a, mayuk smajkil-sit-a, pak’al jilel ta lum, la jach’bey te sk’abe, ja’ jich te bit’il te jch’ul-me’tik nopol ayix ta jojk’anel ta kruse. La jbaj ta te’ te sbak’etale, chox-chox-baknax la kijkitay, jich te bit’il te stalele. Te bin a te lok’ bael te ajk’abal awa’ye ja’xanix te chox-chox-bak te wil lok’ele, yakal laj bael chajchonel jich te bit’il te ay mach’a ya yok’etay yanimae,  

Ja’ ts’iin i to, jo’on te mach’a ma’yukix stuubal jilel, te o’bol pukuj te k’ax yo’tan yu’un te la xch’ay te yiname, ja’me jich jo’on te jsots’on jilel li’ ta yolil yantik sots’etike, te aywan k’axemto-a, jo’on te sojkolejal kuxlejale, melel mame ja’uk ts’iin, pero ja’ te jo’one, sk’a’al ti’balulon jilel li’ ta ch’en ini.

 

***

 

Rotten Flesh

I must set this story free on the four winds, this artifice that led my life to bloom, for it is my muse and point of origin from which to carry out mortal, diabolical acts. I know not how it happened, but I dare say I acted with delicate anger, and lacking any detail beyond the world’s clarity, I have painted a wonderfully bloodied vision.

One afternoon when the clouds tenderly cover the skies, when folks return from the fields, when the j-tuuneletik1 clamor and cry for the harvest; with their white suits embroidered by dint of the soul; some clean and others dirty, some old and others new, they are ajawes2 with human song about them. The wind comes down to greet them because it confuses their prayers for birdsong, and so the earth turns into the heart of the gods.

That afternoon, that blighted misstep; that which would take possession of my eyes, which like an arrow shot and lost would hit the target, infiltrating my soul, snivels and laments its only reward. She was nothing less, that woman, that flower-sucking parasite, that orchid in the shadowed forest was for me an inkling that could never be healed. María bewitched me with her gaze. I understood then why they said she was a witch. Folks were afraid of her because they said her three previous husbands had died in a very strange way. No one could explain why her deceased husbands had dried out as if something had eaten away their flesh from the inside, ending up spindlier than skeletons.

No more than two weeks passed, and my heart grew and grew, getting bigger even than my own fear. Just like that, I asked my dad if I could go ask for María’s hand, I told him I wanted to marry her. My father, knowing her condition and what would likely become of me too, told me I was sick in the head, he would never acquiesce to such a request.

And so time passed, until one day, desperate to talk with her, I followed her to the water hole. It was the right day for it! Arousing was the perfume of the flowers, the sun gave its all, and there we were, alone, under cover of nature. The trilling of the birds and the creaking of the trees insulated our silence, as if singing a chorus to our encounter. There was no need to interrupt the orchestra; a glance was enough to delve into María’s feelings. We were alone, she could not resist, looking at me, and I was there beside her. It was wonderful! Touching our bodies, feeling fingers slip between her legs, gasping at every thrust, sweating with every movement, kissing those tremendous hills! Tremendous for a novice! It was I in the world, but I could not believe it. But to think of what we might do, it would be incredible, it was exceptional.

That very day we decided to flee before our urges for uncontainable pleasure—an obstacle our future evaded or salvaged. We went to get our things, we would see each other at twelve at the same place. The moon’s glow made for a splendid night. I was there right on time. The silence hung in gloom, not a bark from the dogs, not a hoot from the owl. All of a sudden, the Yalan Bak’et3 was there, the bone dance fell over my reality, the skeleton’s creak came after me, wanted to kill me, just like that, I went running, I tripped and screamed in terror. I awoke, I returned to my reality. I thought for a moment I would never again see my true love. It was all a nightmare. Hours had passed since midnight and she had not come. I thought she would never come, what people would say overshadowed my love for her. Not long before dawn, she appeared with her slender body and angelic smile. She wanted to explain away her lateness, but I gave her a kiss and did not let her speak.

At dusk we reached “the Place of the Black Lord.” The heat of the day had burned our skin as we walked, but the fire inside was stronger. We had to catch our breath for a while on one of the park benches, it didn’t matter to us where, making love with her was what mattered. The park’s desolation meant we went undetected, doing again and again what god created us to do in this world. At dawn it was time to find work and a room to live in. Thanks to my physical condition and my arrogance, it would not be long before I was bossing the peons on the biggest ranch around; they took me on as an overseer at a ranch called “El Alegre,” where I would make fifty pesos a day—a tidy sum, since in Tenam one never got more than thirty pesos a day. María wanted to work as well. I didn’t want her to work because she knew no Spanish and she didn’t know the people around there. Besides, in such places women are only good for cooking food, watching television, and raising children, if you ask me.

We were happy, we wanted not for beans nor tortillas nor chilis, nor even a pound of meat from time to time. One day, María started in with waves of dizziness. I, not knowing, told her it might be our son on his way, not to worry, everything would be alright. A month passed and she was the same. We went to the clinic. We got there around six in the morning. There were lots of us natives in there and they weren’t seeing us, but when ladinos showed up they got in quick, without waiting in line. After six hours, a woman doctor finally saw my wife; a tall woman with a thick body and a strong personality, she made a sour face as she let María in. She asked her if she was sure she was pregnant, if it wasn’t just a story told to get a handout. María shook her head as if guessing right. She halfway examined my María and told us it was still too soon to tell, we’d better wait a few more months. I asked her if she could give her a general examination, and she answered, indignant, that she had more important things to do and, besides that, it was lunchtime.

A few weeks passed and everything was normal again. Suddenly, one of those nights when the moon spreads out up high, María started getting nervous fits. I was afraid because I had never seen her like that before. When the dawn unfurled, she told me she hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep all night. Her head hurt, so I gave her some pills, and that calmed her down. I went to work and she stayed in sleeping all day. That night I had a bad premonition, and I thought perhaps she would start feeling bad again, but she seemed to think nothing was the matter. I lay down, but sleep would not come into me. I waited for her to lie down too, so I could sleep. She, thinking I was already asleep, crept stealthily out of the room. I decided to follow her unnoticed. I couldn’t believe it. Before me, in the waning twilight, the confection of the dark, was the Yalan Bak’et. I could never have imagined what I was then watching.

The next night I feigned sleep again, and she, believing me, decided once again to carry out the bone dance. The moon’s glow cast the skeleton’s shadow over the hills, and the creak of every moment echoed far, as if the shadows were coming to life. That night I had readied myself with lime, salt, chili, and a little jmamuchtik4, as my grandfather had told me in those stories of his to scare off demons. I followed her. I watched how the flesh obeyed every one of her words, that voice that was commanding, tenebrous: “Down you get, flesh! I order you, get down! Down you get!” In mere seconds the skeleton was flying, in place of that wild flower that had taken root in my soul. I was before her flesh, I took it up in my hands, I stroked it, I kissed it. Among her gristly belly I sought the baby who had been on his way, and I found nothing but entrails. I was furious, I threw the flesh aside, I thought of leaving behind the bones of the woman of my life. I wavered. I decided to stay beside her until our death. I went back to the room, gone out, disappointed, sad, enraged.

She came with the dawn. I asked her if she was feeling better, and she answered that she was, that it was menstrual cramps, that’s all. So the pregnancy thing had been just a false alarm. She told me maybe it was just stomach trouble. With no change in my expression, I nodded my head and prepared to go to work. I did not stop thinking about what I ought to do. When I got back to the room, I suggested to María that we should return to Tenam. I explained that our culture did not fit in with the city, and that perhaps we would lose it if we stayed there. She didn’t give it a second thought; she looked very happy. We came back the next day. When we arrived in the village, we had no place to go but my parents’ house. They received us with great annoyance and told me, starting the next day, we would have to build a house for ourselves on a plot of land outside the village. They didn’t want us living in their house or anywhere near them.

My feelings took a full turn from that night on. Although I had been certain that returning to the village was the best choice for us, things took a different path. María and I would go to work in the fields every day, and back from the fields to the house. María seldom set out from the house to the hills, but she visited nobody and nobody visited her. I sometimes went to the village to see my family, for council meetings, and for communal work. I felt how their eyes followed me. My in-laws did not speak a word to me, not even to say hello. Folks whispered from one ear to another, that woman was the devil, I was soon going to die, she had a nahual5 from the devil, among many other things. I paid them no heed, I tried to avoid the subject, although inside my blood was boiling with anger. Little by little, I grew ever more bitter, ill-tempered all the time, unwilling even to spend any downtime with those who were my friends. My life went from an agony to a living hell.

My wife grew older by the day, her skin no longer stuck firm to her body, those horrible pieces of skin that hung off her everywhere left me disgusted. In spite of everything, my decision was not to abandon her, but rather to make of this rotting an art.

One afternoon, after the village council meeting, they invited me to share a few cups of the finest posh6, brought in from Kux Ton. I drank too much. I remember getting home. My wife was there, in all her Yalan Bak’et’s thinness, and I was sick of everything. I threw myself on top of her, I caressed her, I kissed her, I grabbed her by the hair. She did not scream, and with her bones she pierced my arm. This made me all the more furious. I shook her against the boards of the house. The tears came, I was thinking only of myself, of my idiotic revenge. I threw her into a corner of the house, I kicked her until I saw blood, I kissed her, I stained myself with her blood. This was how we loved one another.

I picked her up over my shoulder and set out for I knew not where, guided only by my own shrewdness. We reached the Yan Ch’en7, where they say the chupacabra hides. The pine did not abandon me, his flames were greater than ever. We went to the back of the cave, from which serpents, bats, and more nocturnal creatures emerged, but the fear and fright turned into an urge to make her mine.

She was naked, unmasked, she lay there, I stretched out her arms, she was a virgin about to be crucified. I nailed her flesh to the wood, I left her only as bones, as was her nature. The only thing that left the cave that night was a skeleton, flying, that creaked like a soul in torment.

And here I am, wretched, the poor devil who suffered the loss of his wife, and so it goes, I am one bat among many, but more than that, a death throe of reality, but, above all, I am myself and not her, rotten flesh in this cave.

Translated via the Spanish by Arthur Malcolm Dixon

1 Local authorities in charge of maintaining harmony between humans and harmony between humans and nature.

2 Divinities incarnated in nature, often rashly translated as “gods” or “deities,” although the meaning goes far beyond these terms.

3 A woman who has the power to shed her flesh so her skeleton can fly.

4 A mushy (sometimes dry) mixture produced from the grounds of tobacco leaves, lime (produced by grinding the shells of edible river snails, or commercial lime), and another native plant that lends its aroma.

5 Symbolic animal representing a person’s protective spirit.

6 Literally translated as “medicine,” but refers to alcohol, traditionally distilled from corn stalks.

7 “Foot of the cave.”

 

Arthur Malcolm Dixon is co-founder, lead translator, and Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. He has translated the novels Immigration: The Contest by Carlos Gámez Pérez and There Are Not So Many Stars by Isaí Moreno (Katakana Editores), as well as the verse collection Intensive Care by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza (Alliteratïon). He also works as a community interpreter in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2020-2021 Tulsa Artist Fellow.

Languages

LALT No. 17
Number 17

In our seventeenth issue, we highlight the work of groundbreaking Colombian writer Albalucía Ángel, alongside Octavio Paz, a towering figure of Mexican letters and the second Latin American winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. We also feature Peruvian poet Eduardo Chirinos, a series of photo portraits of writers in the pandemic, a selection of new translations seeking publisher, plus writing in the Murui, Quechua, and Tseltal lenguages in our ongoing Indigenous Literature section.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Featured Author: Albalucía Ángel

Dossier: Octavio Paz

Dispatches from the Republic of Letters

Fiction

Poetry

Essays

Chronicle

Interviews

Pandemic Postcards

Indigenous Literature

Translation Previews and New Releases

On Translation: Seeking Publisher

Dossier: Eduardo Chirinos

Nota Bene