The Ancestors Are...
An orchestra of seagulls
among the symphony of the soul’s afternoons
moistens the mythic ships of memory
with a kiss.
The ancestors are:
And the tears
that row with their oars of fertile sand
between the shores of consciousness,
Dressed in ebony and marble,
with their watery smiles,
and their Cosmic-Serpent footsteps,
the ancestors speak from the fluid region of dreams:
with their squid ink the ancestors
paint picto-graphs on our bodies,
shade trees on our pupils,
hew mangroves from nostalgia
tattoo atlases and fragments of ancient cartography.
appear with eyes on their tongues
in the windows of your vision,
weaving together the skin of time,
murmuring the notebooks of existence,
and breathing in the woods of our infancies.
The ancestors lick the heat from our swelling blood,
smell the green hue of our suffering flesh
and remember our fresh, still-wet wounds,
the wounds we hide in the cracks of dry leaves
between the interstices of history.
The Language of Time
When the wind’s mouth arches like a bird of time,
filtered by cracks in the mysteries,
I hear a drumbeat growing on the wings of a memory
that fills the sails of thoughts from out of the blue silence,
illuminated with memory’s shadows,
flashing through the inner night I carry.
It’s a crackling that sometimes whistles in a sonorous alphabet,
like music raining in the background,
that slowly becomes a song.
A deep song in an arcane language that
the stairway of my throat like a mass of ants
until I am silenced.
It seems strange…
but every time I pass my fingertips
over memory’s curved neck,
I feel like language is code, a thundering voice that distills honey,
the stone that shatters a calm lake.
Inside the silence of flesh rains down,
carrying the stamp of the moment
it came into existence.
I’ve walked through crowds of words with my voice,
words tinged with dawns the fled into the night
with their naked, shadowy feet.
Brush in hand, I sketch the fibers of syllables
and navigate how each echoes
through the interstices of thought.
My voice is like a music box with a secret, unplayed song:
outlined on my bird’s tongue
speech bursts forth, climbing my eyes like vines,
and outline on my bird’s tongue
primal phrases curling in spiral threads of air.
I don’t know… it’s an undulating voice, a whistling breath from deep within
born from birds that murmur primordial rains
in the morning rivers’ sonata,
drowning the backbone of my days with their arterial vegetation.
Maybe one day it will bloom…
Translated by Paul M. Worley
Ashanti Dinah Orozco-Herrera was born in Barranquilla (Colombian Caribbean). She is an activist and a militant afrofeminist, and a member of the “Angela Davis” Organization of Black Communities in Barranquilla. She holds a BA in Education from the Universidad del Atlántico, and an MA in Hispanic American Literature from the Instituto Caro y Cuervo. She is a practicing Santera in the Regla de Osha of the Afro-Cuban spritual tradition. A number of her poems published in Poética del Munta Renaciente were published previously in Revista Kumba of the Universidad Nacional, Afroféminas in Spain, Literariedad, Afro-Hispanic Review in the United States, the literary magazine Otro páramo, Nueva Poesía y Narrativa Hispanoamericana del Siglo XXI, Lord Byron Ediciones, Madrid, in the book Más allá del decenio de los pueblos afrodescendientes, and in Investigando el racismo y la discriminación en la escuela, of the “Proyecto Dignificación de las y los afrodescendientes a través de la afroetnoeducación” in Colombia. She won the Premio Benkos Biohó, 2016, in the category of Ethnoeducation, on Colombia’s Día Nacional de la Afrocolombianidad. The award was given to her by the IDPAC, in recognition of her contributions as a teacher in the Universidad Distrital de Bogotá’s Childhood Teaching Program in its implementation of a Chair in Afro-Colombian Studies.
Paul M. Worley is Associate Professor of Global Literature at Western Carolina University. He is the author of Telling and Being Told: Storytelling and Cultural Control in Contemporary Yucatec Maya Literatures (2013; oral performances recorded as part of this book project are available at tsikbalichmaya.org), and with Rita M. Palacios is co-author of the forthcoming Unwriting Maya Literature: Ts’íib as Recorded Knowledge (2019). He is a Fulbright Scholar, and 2018 winner of the Sturgis Leavitt Award from the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies. In addition to his academic work, he has translated selected works by Indigenous authors such as Hubert Malina, Adriana López, and Ruperta Bautista, serves as editor-at-large for México for the journal of world literature in English translation, Asymptote, and as poetry editor for the North Dakota Quarterly.
The fourteenth issue of Latin American Literature Today features dossiers dedicated to the dislocated writing of Latin American authors based in the United States and the gothic fiction of Mariana Enriquez, plus reflections on writing in a second language by Fabio Morábito, an interview with 2019 Alfaguara Prize winner Patricio Pron, and exclusive translation previews from Guadalupe Nettel, Gabriela Wiener, and Luis Alejandro Ordóñez.