Earthen Skin

Hubert Matiúwàa

                              for Mauricio Ortega Valerio, disappeared September 26, 2014, in Iguala, Guerrero


The night eagle soared over the town
looking to increase your suffering
with a prophecy
that your children become kaagu,
xpún, xpún, xpún, xpún:
                        that they cut this adobe with blood
to build a house made of dawn
                        that at the entrance to the town they hang,
scrawled in their language, a prayer calling upon
the crab-armed lightning and the crab-armed thunder
to clothe the heart of these Mountains.



Let us renew the year.
Let us burn flowers
to the four corners of the earth.
Let us offer blood
to the Lord of the hills
that he protect us from the dogs
from the men with guns
from the silence in the streets
from the sunset-colored wells
from the ones who carry off our children
from them, the people in the places
we labor.



A finger that illumines the world
unfurls from a clutch of flowers for the dead,
stirring the ghosts of prophecy
here where we are bound
crossing this space.

Burying these masks
they have numbered our days
in the language of bullets’
leaden insomnia, these masks
born of pistils and stamens,
in the wombs of rocks
they are turning over
the thirst of our hardened skins.



Go hide in the caves.
Wait for the mist to fall,
the hunt to end.
They are out for blood,
to carry off our dreams
in buses with no return. watchful,
stealthy, dressed in rain,
and counting us on their fingers,
counting as we hide in the Mountains,
            we of the hidden hand,
            we of the red earth,
            we who dwell in the House of Lucio.



My voice became a nest
the day they took you.
Everything they do to you, don’t they
know, they do to me?
I howled lightning into your mouth
where with our friends we walked
and now . . . now no longer.
Where shall I hang this pain that burns hope?
Who shall lead our community?
Where shall I crucify these birds that buried my tongue?
In what world shall I have to follow your footsteps
now that your body is wrapped in fear
now that our rage sprouts from the earth?



The bullet that bore your name
kicked up dust,
shocking the trees as,
along the thorns
of a rising sun,
your scream
and broke, the cicadas burying
a watery umbilical cord
before the entire world,
to grow roots that will nurture our story
for future generations.



Xtámbaa, I am with you in this world,
in this night of thunder,
faceless among the dancing spirits,
armless, ceaseless.
I am with you among the candles,
in the smoke that paves the road,
in the aroma of copal collecting
in the watery eyes
of all these voiceless tomorrows.



The sad fire sat down
on the delicate grinding stone.
It spoke to the lime and the hearth
about our father’s scar,
about why they flayed
the deer who was to be a teacher
and why they disappeared our brothers
who would have surrounded the dinner table with colors.



you come from the Mountains,
you come from the rain,
you embrace me,
and in silence
the fire of our land
burns in your memory.



                        get up!
Look at the scars on our skin.
Look at our mother’s wandering.
Look at her rage
as she weaves your name,
searching until she finds you.



You are alive in the tree,
a tree that flowers hearts.
Your foot-turned-earth shelters my Mé’pháá voice,
your navel-turned-root the song of my name,
your arm the weight of my abdomen.
You live for your children who won’t return,
who sat in full view of the town on that bloody night.
Tree of Iguala—
the shadows of our ancestors and their sad accents
in your flowering branches bring me to tears.

translated from the Mè’phàà and Spanish by Paul M. Worley

Editor’s Note: The translator worked primarily from the Spanish and consulted with the poet, as described in the translator’s note.