When the world is filled with evil,
Transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
-The Mind-Training Slogans of Atisha

The Egyptian forensic doctor Fakhri Ohamed Saleh told the Arab television network Al-Yazira that on rare ocasions, a hanging can accidentally cause decapitation, due to bad quality rope or executioners who lack experience.
-Reuters, January 15, 2007

1. Get as much experience as you can.
2. Black goes with everything.
3. Learn the ropes.
4. Hang out with famous people.
5. The bigger they come, the harder they fall.
6. Never speak ill of the dead.
7. Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.
8. You have the last word.
9. Don't tell the children.
10. The lighter the body, the longer the drop.
11. Blood is thicker than water.
12. Boil noose for one (1) hour.
13. Practice makes perfect.
14. Place knot directly behind left ear.
15. Maintain a joyful mind.
16. Lubricant may prevent tissue damage at neck.
17. Don't expect applause.
18. This is a thankless job.
19. Dead men have no friends.
20. Never say die.
21. Somebody has to do the dirty work.
22. No special training required.
23. Turn off all cell phones.
24. The fear of death is worse than death itself.
25. Enjoy the gallows' humor.
28. Your only function is to release a trap door.
29. Out of sight, out of mind.
30. When you go home, wipe yr feet.
31. Avoid talking shop.
32. Never lose yr head.

Copyright 2007 by Ambar Past. Translation copyright 2007 by Munda Tostón. All rights reserved.


Cuando el mal llene los universos,
transforma todo los accidentes en el camino del Bodhi.

El médico forense egipcio Fakhri Ohamed Saleh
dijo a la emisora de televisión árabe Al-Yazira
que en las raras ocasiones en que el ahorcamiento
deriva en una decapitación,
eso se debe a que el lazo es de mala calidad
o que los ejecutores carecen de experiencia.

-Reuters, 15 de enero 2007

Empezar por donde otros acaban.

Lo negro va con todo.

Conozca gente famosa.

No hablar mal de los muertos.

Tienes la última palabra.

Que no se enteren los niños.

Los pequeños caen más hondo.

La sangre es más espesa que el fuego.

Hierva el lazo durante (1) hora.

Mantenga la mente alegre.

Coloque el nudo detrás del oído izquierdo.

La práctica hace la perfección.

Los lubricantes pueden prevenir daños al tejido del


No esperes aplausos.

Los muertos son de pocos amigos.

Nadie se acordará de ti.

Sé agradecido con todos.

Alguien lo tiene que hacer.

Como el oficio de aguador, al primer viaje se


Lo cáido cáido, dijo un borracho.

Abandona todo alimento tóxico.

Apaga tu celular.

Ponerle el corbatín.

Le huele el pescuezo a mecate.

Al que verduga, Diós le ayuda.

No hagas chistes maliciosos.

Ni menciones la soga en casa del ahorcado.

Tu única función es tirarle a la trampa.

De un jalón, hasta el panteón.

Nunca perder la cabeza.

Ambar PastAmbar Past

Poet and alchemist Ambar Past was born in Durham, North Carolina, in 1949, descendent of a wheelwright, Piast, who in 840 became the first king of Poland. Past's mother was a painter and her father a physician and junk collector. Her grandfather was a hillbilly who claimed to have Cherokee ancestry. Past grew up in Brooklyn, Chattanooga, El Paso, San Francisco, and Oregon. At an early age she became fascinated with books; she began making her own when she was four years old, wrote her first volume of poetry at age seven, and has worked in print shops since she was eleven.

At the age of twenty-three Past immigrated to Mexico and became a Mexican citizen. As an itinerant teacher of natural dyes for the National Indian Institute (INI), she spent years living in mud huts among Native American people in remote areas of Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. For more than thirty years she has made her home in the highlands of Chiapas, principally in rural hamlets, where she learned to speak Tzotzil Mayan. Ambar Past is the creator of the graphic arts collective Taller Leñateros (The Woodlanders' Workshop) in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. She also participated in the formation of Sna Jolobil, a weaving cooperative for Mayan artisans, the Mayan writers collective Sna Jtz'ibajom, and is president of Libros Prehispánicos A. C.

Past's first writings were published in Tzotzil in the collective book Slo'il jchiltaktik [Autobiographies of Tzotzil Women, 1978], and Bon (a manual for Mayans on natural dyes), 1980. In Spanish she has published a number of chapbooks of her own poetry, including Yayamé (1982), Mar inclinada (1986), Nocturno para leñateros (1989), The Sea on Its Side, (1992), Caracol de tierra (1994), Dedicatorias (2003), La fe (2003), La Señora de Ur (2004), Cuando era hombre (2004), Caracol de aire (2004), Huracana (2006), and a children's book, El bosque de colores (1992). For thirty years she has worked in the collecting, recording, and translation of Tzotzil ritual poetry, which appear in two bilingual anthologies published by Taller Leñateros: Conjuros y ebriedade (1998) and Incantations By Mayan Women, and a music CD-book, Disco de los Conjuros (in press). Her poems and stories have been published in literary magazines in Spanish, English, Italian, German, French, Japanese, Tzotzil Maya, and Serbo-Croatian.

Past has traveled widely in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia where she has worked as a circus perfomer, housewife, amber carver, papermaker, silkscreen printer, soapmaker, Thai chef, and as a reporter for a Chinese-English newspaper. She is the founder and director of the prize-winning journal for art and literature La Jicara, known as "the most beautiful magazine in Mexico." Past's work has been shown in book arts exhibitions in the US, Mexico, Austria and Italy. Her book The Lady of Ur received an award for "best use of a serious subject" from the Movable Book Society. Ambar is the mother of artist Tila Rodríquez-Past, and she is currently preparing a collection of her stories, Men I Never Slept With.

Translated from SpanishSpanish by Munda TostónMunda Tostón

Munda Tostón translates from Spanish.