Nahual

Land I have lost.

Scars on my eyes.

A wounded deer

comes to my door.

The forest of her fate

is private property now.

Her hooves mark the woolly thyme

that edges the garden path,

her breath marks the coming of winter.

I remember, I tell her:

We dug a hole in the ground

we buried our treasures

and promised never to forget

the wordless knowledge

the bond from earth to flesh

the close fragrance of dampening leaves

the countless colors of brown and green

the circle of friends

offering ourselves

to the circle of pines

innocent in our rituals.

And now she comes

wandering wounded.

The rivers of her thirst are dust,

the old paths have been

carelessly renamed,

the pines of our sacred ground

felled.

I make a place for her

in my garden.

I stroke her fur,

look into her almond eyes.

I haven’t forgotten, I tell her:

You stood guard

over our innocence,

my nahual, animal spirit,

but the tables have turned

and now I must fight

for your life.

Grace

Two giraffes delicately circle

a eucalyptus tree

primordial necks

like swaying highways

running

they are the envy

of elephants.

Nothing is finer

than that place of grace

where each toad and tapir

meets its moment

of perfection:

the elegant sweep

of the extravagant-tailed quetzal

resplendent in the rain forest

the whiskered manatee

floating among the mangroves

like a perfect potato

the rhinoceros

wading weightless

in the watering hole

the lanky flamingo

pink in flight

in the blue Caribbean sky.

La montaña/The Mountain

La montaña

  “. . . y el pueblo parece enterrado

Pero el maíz vuelve a la tierra. . . “

                              —Pablo Neruda

 La montaña sigue

verde por nuestra mano

y por la sangre

que la ha regado

Las nubes siguen

escuchando nuestros cantos

con sus lluvias

Porque los abuelos no han muerto

De su mano está hecho todo

y nadie podrá borrar

la profecía del tabaco y las estrellas

Deslumbrados por dioses ajenos

los hombrecillos de palo abandonaron la vida

de los ancestros

y ahora lloran

como niños huérfanos

Pero los viejos

siguen soplándonos

su aliento por las noches

la montña sigue

verde por la mano de nuestros hijos

–“el maíz vuelve a la tierra”—

The Mountain 

“. . . and the people seem to have been buried

But the corn returns to the earth. . . “

                          –Pablo Neruda

The mountain is still green

by our hands

and from the blood

we have spilled

The clouds still answer

our songs

with their rain

Because the old ones have not died

All is made by their hands

and no one can erase

what tobacco and stars foretold

Blinded by foreign gods

the wooden men abandoned the ways

of the ancestors

and now they cry

like orphaned children

But the old ones still breathe

life into us at night

our children’s hands

keep the mountain green

    –“the corn returns to the earth”—

Amanda Castro (Honduras)

from Onironautas (2001)

Translation by Janet N. Gold

The Green Turtle

A green turtle

lies on her back

on the pink sand

of the turquoise beach.

The man’s eyes are dry

as he cuts

the beet red flesh

from her okra shell.

Tell her you love her,

I whisper.

Tell her:

that the soup

of her softness

will feed your children,

that you will wear her patterned shell

like jewelry on your wrist,

that you will make your wife

a dappled comb

for her thick black hair,

that when you sit on your doorstep

this evening,

having feasted on her flesh,

you will hear her

calling to her mate,

you will know her voice

in your bones

and when you turn

in the night

to reach for the soft flesh

beside you

only the tissue thin membrane

of your own survival

will shield you

from her revenge.

Kingfisher

A perfect pool

as red as blood

the round eye

of the kingfisher

searches

circles.

Wings,

then stillness.

A path beside the stream

traced through the forest.

Irresistible becomes the desire

to cross the moving water.

Plunge, then, into

autumn’s muted mystery.

Stir up layers of fallen leaves,

step into unseen currents.

On the other shore

rejoin the path

new to you

familiar though

it becomes you

this meandering

exploring.