Skip to content
Join us on October 26 at 7PM EDT for the 2021 WWB Virtual Gala. Learn more and get your tickets today!
from the November 2005 issue


Note: This poem was originally written in Mazateco.


Four hundred zontles in the distance.
Four hundred leagues toward infinity,
light, darkness, shapes.
The voice of the wise man reaches far,
the singer, the cleanser of pains.
Among the divine images.
Among the earthly images.
The gentle voice is heard,
His divine song,
his pious prayers.
He crosses life's path,
he arrives at ndabua isien1.
There he converses,
There he discusses,
there he disputes,
the gods who govern the destiny of the world.
The breeze coos to him,
the sleeping ray watches over him,
his pleading voice reverberates
in the center of the universe.


Lord of the hills, he says.
Lord of the caves, he says.
Spirits of the stream, he says.
Father of the tempest, he says.

Goddess of fertility, she says.
Mother of orphans, she says.
Wretched woman, she says.
Spirit of fire, she says.

Macaw feathers, he says,
aguardiente, he says,
perfumed flowers, he says,
dust of tobacco, he says.

Eastern rains, he says.
World Center, he says.
Fertile land, he says.
Over bridges, he says.

Gates of heaven, he says.
Superior forces, he says.
West and east, he says.
Place of images, he says.


This is how the day is tended.
This is how the image is tended,
seven leagues of distance,
seven measures to infinity.
Even here my voice is heard.
Even here my spirit contained.
House of principal beings.
It is I who creates his presence,
the wise man, the guide, the diviner.
Because I have permission.
Because I have license
to enter the sacred place
where the wise books lie.
Blessed you shall be
for living in the clean house.
Thank you for the light that illuminates.
Thank you for the night that arrives.
Even here my presence arrives.
In this house that gives shade.
In this house that refreshes.


I am the wise singer.
I am the wise mover.
I am the one who brings captive spirits
out of the darkness.
Where is his spirit?
What was it that happened?
I will try to seize it.
I will try to liberate it.
I will try to raise it up.
Even though it may be under the water.
Even though it may be under the stone.
Among the images in the sky.
Among the images on the earth.
I will set it free.
What was it that happened?
Where is the error?
I come to put it in order.
I come to do justice.
Because it is of my flesh.
Because it is of my blood.
Because I am a just defender.
Because I explore all ways.
My steps come this far.
The soul is laid out.
The time is laid out.


From the core of the earth
where our grandfather thunder lives.
I invoke his name, I summon his fiesta.
He comes from long ago,
from far away.
He is weary, he is worn out.
His food is not the tortilla
His drink is not the water.
He is our pure grandfather.
He is our holy grandfather.
May our wise master come.
May our wise elder come.
May our wise enchanter come;
deliver our supplications.
It will delight his heart.
When the sun comes up,
when the fog is gone,
when day is dawning,
then, as if hailed from the heights,
our songs will be born.


They live among us.
They exist among us.
the sorcerers, the man-eaters,
the two-faced ones, those with two beaks.
The ones with long talons,
the ones with seven horns.
They will choke us with the smoke of copal.
they will drag us down,
they will take us.
They eat among us.
They walk among us.
the nahuals2, the wizards,
the envious, the perverse.
Here are those of the illuminated tongues.
Here are those of the bright burning tongues.
Only the power of our prayers
will remove them from our path,
will send them from our lives.
They walk among us,
They drag themselves among us,
the transvestites, incestuous ones,
the lunatics, the schemers.
Those who write lies are here.
Here are the fathers of the lie.
The power of the great chikones 3
will banish them from our lands,
will drive them from our homes.


The hour has come.
The moment arrived.
This is how the day is born
This is how the light is born.
The chical4 is ready.
The machete is ready.
It is the hour to think
of the place of work
of the source of strength.
It is time to leave.
It is time to start.
There is refreshing rain.
There is father sun.
The water comes down.
The heat comes down.
O Patron Saint Isidro,
give me permission,
give me leave.
I am the worker.
On my hands there are marks,
In my nails there is dirt.
Let me touch the earth
that the great God gave us.
My food will come from there.
My seed will come from there.
My flowers, my trees, my roots, will come from there.
This is how we grow.
This is how we breed.
O Saint Isidro,
Grant me the grace,
grant me the favor.
I am a worker.
I have sweat on my face.
I have mud on my clothes.
I hold seeds in my hand.
I hold life in my hand.


Today I come before you.
What is on your face?
What is in your soul?
I am the one who invokes you.
I am the one who implores you.
Mother milk.
Mother breasts.
Mother dew.
Mother earth.
Mother zontle.
You left the first footprint.
You took the first step.
Ancient mother.
Your prayer is the loudest
in this world of corn,
in this world of water,
in this fertile world.
You are the freshness.
You are the dew.
Between your hands.
Between your fingers
the trunk of the tree hardened,
the stone hardened,
the sky opened,
the moon sprang forth.
The stars came out.
Because you conquered.
Because you held back.
From the jno5
From the nk'ien6.
You gave us light.
You gave us fire.
Guiding mother.
Luminous mother.
Reappearing mother.
You left the first footprint.
You took the first step.
Blessed you shall be!
Holy Trinity!


Here is my perfumed incense.
Here is my coveted coco.
Here is my fresh medicine.
Here is my rising plume.
Take them, I give them to you.
It is payment for permitting me,
for giving me leave
to touch your body.
I live upon your body.
I grow upon your body.
I have stained my hands
by wandering over your body.
So God arranged.
So God ordered.
My food will come from you,
my drink will come from you.
A little for you,
a little for me.
You too are hungry.
You too are thirsty.
Here is my tribute.
Here is my thanks.
Take them, take them away.
This will give you strength.
This will give you life.


With my burning light.
With my white candle.
I ask for strength in this way.
I ask for mercy in this way.
How shall I survive?
How shall I prolong my days?
Where is the calm?
Where is the peace?
Where is the truth?
Where is the way?
I ask for mercy in this way.
You are father.
You are mother,
purify me, bless me,
protect me, set me on the way.
I bring my burning light in this way.
I bring my white candles in this way.


With sacrifices, with humility,
I have arrived at ndabua isien.
I shall create order
inside your body.
I shall repair the existing error
by the thing with which I encircle you.
I will relieve you.
I will repair you.
Because it was given to me.
Because it was granted to me.
What happened?
Where is your soul?
Where is your spirit?
Who imprisons you?
Could it be the magic of the gate?
Could it be the magic of the hill?
Perhaps someone has envied you
and punished you in ndabua isien?
I will save you.
I will enlighten you.
Perhaps there is envy?
Perhaps there is evil?
Perhaps there is rancor?
I will create order.
I will intercede.
Where there is error.
Where there is need.


Nothing will stay empty.
Nothing will stay lost.
There is a place in the Universe
where the memory of time
is entered.
My words will be entered there.
In the clean books.
In the pure books.
In the golden books.
In the books of light
In the books of peace.
Because I am writing
with the sacred pencil,
with the sprouting pencil,
with the pencil of white light.
Thus I feel safe.
Thus I feel wise.
My speech is sacred.
My breath is pure.
From there it is born.
My words are fresh.
They will be heard.
They will be written.
In the clean books.
In the pure books.
In the golden books.
In the books of light.
In the books of peace.
My words will go there.
On the white table.
On the mother table.
On the clear table.
On the wise table.
Because they are not empty words.
Because they are not hollow words.
Because I speak humbly.
Because I ask for mercy.
Because I ask for justice.
Because I do not speak to emptiness.
My light is burning
My heart is open.
My heart is pure.
From there it is born.
From there it springs forth.
From there it germinates.
I have my tender pencil.
I have my pencil of good will.
I have my pencil of light.
I have my sprouted pencil.
It is within my hands.
It is within my fists.
They will arrive at the clean house.
They will arrive at the white house.
They will arrive at the celestial house.
They will arrive at the house of flowers.
Because I plead for mercy.
Because I ask for justice.
Nothing concealed exists.
Nothing hidden exists.
The images speak.
The images plead.
Among the many dead letters.
Among the many executions.
Among the many words
that do not reach the sky.
Now I deliver it.
Now I send it.
Until it reaches the infinite light.
Until it reaches the white light.
In the clean house.
In the white house.
In the celestial house.
My words will arrive there.
Because there are no lies.
Because there is no evil.
Because I deliver it humbly.
Because I ask with righteous words.
Because my language is pure.
Because my word is wise.
Because my prayer is sacred.
Because my breath is fresh.
They will be received,
They will be heard.
In the house of purity.
In the house of punishment.
Where the exquisite table
is spread.
The white table.
The mother table.
The clear table.
The table of the dawn.
They will arrive there
like fresh medicine.
Like new leaves.
Like tender sprouts.
Like white dew,
clean and transparent.
Thus my grandfather speaks.
Thus my mother expresses.
My young mother.
My tender mother.
My pure mother.
My dewy mother.
Thus I deliver this word.
Thus I deliver this book.
Thus I deliver this view.


1. Nest of images, sacred place of perfection

2. Alternate beings

3. Keepers of the holy places

4. Used to carry tortillas

5. Beings who lived before light appeared

6. Beings who live in Hell

Originally published in No es eterna la muerte, Direción General de Culturas Populares (1992).

Read more from the November 2005 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.