Featured Poem

The Black Flower


A girl lifts her laughter to the black-leafed tree
golden leaves open
on a bare branch
so she can count the marks of desire.
The leaves will tell her how many loves she’ll have
for each blemish her finger counts
destiny will reveal a name. 

               *

If I could go to the market
with the pale-eyed girl,
I’d buy her: a game of chance,
a feather the colour of black coco plum,
some sandals with golden buckles and,
so that her totem could eat beneath a ceiba tree,
the luscious fruit of tart plums.
I would carpet her house with handfuls of basil and hoja santa,
that would be her huipil
and all those who gaze on her
would want her for the lasting dew of her body. 

               *

I wish you could walk with me on petals but also over pebbles.
My heart was sad that you left me in a basket
where smoke from the saints made my head swim.
My tiny feet wanted to hold on tight to their shadow’s hand.
How I wished to never ever kneel down at prayer time
while my eyes cried like a colander.
It would have helped my loneliness
if you hadn’t abandoned me in the belly of an old convent
where women prayed until their names were erased.
I slept beneath a tall guava tree
washed clothes for a year in the water that sprang forth.
I sat upon a dog’s back, carved my courage on his ribs.
How beautiful it would be
if you learned to love til your eyes ached
and your heart dropped petals of pain. 

               *

The world darkened
a jug spilled over, seas and rivers flowed,
a yellow sun came out, erasing men’s eyes,
the earth drank water from flowers and plants,
there was a tremor and from its fissures
the first man sprouted. 

               *

The river overflows
everyone turns into fish.
God appears on a peeling wall
I observe him from behind a black leafed tree. 

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About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Poet:
Natalia Toledo
Translator:
Clare Sullivan
Original language:
Zapotec
Issue:
2015 Number 3 - SOLD OUT - The Tangled Route

About the author

Original poet

Natalia Toledo

NATALIA TOLEDO is from Juchitán in Mexico. She is the first woman to write and publish in the indigenous language of Zapotec....

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Translator

Clare Sullivan

CLARE SULLIVAN directs the Graduate Certificate Translation
at the University of Louisville where she serves as Associate Prof...

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