Mama Chimonquero tells us of
the life of his friend,
a life like the life of the Murúa bird.
His words walk slowly
over our bodies …
reach the throat
a strange urgency obliges us to trill…
passing over the chest,
with every breath, they produce a sound of fluttering…
when words visit our hands
we feel a touch of lavender leaves…
descend toward the lines of the soles of our feet
and we surprise seven white larvae, dancing, on the ground.
We know that the story has no final flight
and, thus, fall asleep in a circular smile.
FLOR DE LA GUAJIRA
A vaporous air floats in Flor de la Guajira,
where dragonflies get stuck in scarce shrubs.
Alieetshi leads me to the only shade: Rosa Lipuana’s shop.
She receives us and, seeing our look,
takes us to a corner, hands us soft suet…
“Two yellow spirits are traveling on your backs,
the wanülu of sickness…
you must purge what you’ve eaten in these last days
don’t speak to each other in recovery.”
That’s what we did…
and the void of all the Wayuu dead
and the mystery of all the Wayuu live
mounted upon our shoulders.
We saw the face of abandonment in our likeness,
in front of a dusty rock…
he smiled at us and with his chief’s staff, signaled the hill Epitsü:
“They wait for you there” he said, “you will realize that half your life
belongs to your ancestors.”
Do not try to snatch it from them… they wait for you there
… you are the spring of your dead ones.”
We heard new songs of the birds
picked up six unknown pebbles and
our feet regained the way.
Shepherds are we
Men who live in a world of desert tracks.
We, too, graze and rest,
return to the fold… are nursed at the breast.
We are the milk of dream, flesh of the fiesta…blood of farewell.
Here, in our place,
life shepherds us.
Dance and birth
From the invisible realm someone dreams the dance
the movements of all existing beings
visit the feet of my little sister newly born.
The circle of the dance never ceases.
On the way to Palaausain, nearing Porshiina
rabbits dance a secret dance
with snakes that hunt kashiiwano ‘u…
and the shepherd children cup their hands
to whistle out ¡Waawai! ¡waawai!
and the desert finds itself in a hundred paths:
of rock and dust
of water and shadow
of dream and laughter
of trickery and fear
of the woman and the fiesta.
On the way to Palaausain, close to Ouutüsumana
the wanülüü drink chicha
in ranches long abandoned
silence brings forth the secret
dialogue of the dead.
“Word 3” and “Flor de la Guajira” from Encuentros en los senderos de Abya-Yala [Meetings on the paths of Abya-Yala] (2004)
“Pastores,” “Dance and birth,” and “Ancient Newcomers” from En las hondonadas maternas de la piel [In the maternal hollows of the skin] (2010)
Translated by Lorrie Lowenfield Jayne and Juan G. Sánchez Martínez
Alhucema: lavender, a medicinal plant.
Epitsü: a hill located in the northeast of the Alta Guajira; known as “Tit Hill.” Marks the western border with Venezuela.
Kasiiwanao’u: a grassland snake with domestic habits. also known as “the hunter.”
Mama (o Mamo): self-identified spiritual and social authority among the Kogui.
Murúa: small bird from the Sierra that is commonly found in villages.
Palaausain: a location in or outskirt of the Alta Guajira.
Porshiina: typical settlement, small town, outpost in the Alta Guajira.
Wanülüü: a malignant spirit that generates sickness.