Seven Poems


Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico.

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.
 Bchoo laza.
Mas nal queityru rziendyi. 
Nacu naa.
Rchanën gaxlyu.


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.


Wxiny re

lo da.
Gal ncai.
Rata bzhiri.
Rual gyitsëiny.

That night

the petate.
The night,
the stars,
the Moon.
Your heart is playful.
You smile.
We look at each other.
Everything becomes quiet.
The crickets sing.


Rzhaga liu

Zicy nyis nacu.
Rrulyu losna,
rcaza cwezu. 
mas queity rcazu.
Riaa liu,
queity rzhadya. 


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.



Marty briaa.
Rzhibya, rcyetlazadana.
Gal raclde,
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,
Ladi chaa.
Nucaidizy guecya.
“Bcalzac-i,” narëng.
Cali rian lat chaa?
Tu gan na?
Sgaa e?

A good dream

I left on a Tuesday.
Scared, excited.
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?
Who knows!
Will I be caught?
Let’s see!


Gyec muly

Laty rria muly
zhyet riani loguezh.
Bzeinya ricy,
brua ricy.
Tu buny naa?
Dizhsa rgwia,
per nazh dicwat ri ricy.
Wzhiny runua—
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.
Gyets caria.
Nazhi bicya, cariu.
Zeu, ladi nua.
Xini zeu? Xini zaa?
Rbanaduaxa liu,
wxiny rgwia loo.
Rbanya rzhunyu.
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.


Gueizh Anym

Bwia lua zhii.
Naani nata ricy.
Nata zhi.
Rnia naa, “Re queitya gyana.
Lazha gyicya.”
Buny ze, buny zied.
Gal ruan rac.
“A zeëng,” rinydyaga.
Rcaza ynibya.
Queity rzhyeilydi bzilua.
Xini queity nyaga?
Loguezh nyana.
Jwers runya cuzha.
Rgwia lua steiby, niuag bzilua.
Caria ra xaba —
Nu tu gacwri e?
Guet cariainy losnaa —
Xi gaua?
Caria muly gyinylua —
Xu teidya gueu?
Xu yzeinya gueizh anym?


I saw myself with eyes closed.
It’s me that is lying there,
lying still.
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.


LALT No. 7
Number 7

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

Editor's Note

Translation Previews and New Releases

Featured Author: Eugenio Montejo

Dossier: Wayuu Literature


Latin American Science Fiction

Indigenous Literature

Brazilian Literature




Nota Bene