Skip to content
Congratulations to 2021 Ottaway Award winner Naveen Kishore! Learn more.
from the June 2021 issue

Cereté, Córdoba

Memories of family, childhood, and love, and his Colombian hometown haunt the exiled speaker of this poem by Raúl Gómez Jattin.


For Zuni Roca

Maze of farewell witnesses to tears   Sun
So much sun sometimes I’ve forgotten its nights
Sun on rooftops and pedestrians rushed
But also shade below the sky sombrero
Shade in the park’s fig trees   And sometimes
sweet shade in what a friend says

Maze chased by my same old childhood
With purple doves in the bell tower
and in the hands of children when the virgin Fátima
showed off her incredible pureness in a cotton dove
the size of a house   It seemed to smile
And the thoughtful miracle of doves set free
from our hands   Do you remember Zuni Sara Thelba
Rosalba Manuela María Auxiliadora Narcisa Daniel Joaquín Susa Martha?
Remember?   You all flew toward her   And cooed to her

Alba do you remember when you dressed up like an angel
and your wings fell off?

A river that cools the sun’s glare and memory
splits the town in two   And it’s meek like the good Ceretanos
Since there’s another kind too

I loved Love twice there
And one time Love said yes
And another time it said no
No fucking way
I had a house there with a straw roof
and holes on top
where wind would slip in to bring me
news of the Universe

I had a family there who loved art and nature
now with my folks gone we’re running loose in the world

I dreamt of writing and singing there    I dreamt of taking Cereté
Córdoba with me to other places   Spelling it all out on a blank page
So people from somewhere else could discover the nights starry
with fandango sperm in the Candelaria
and your kind-hearted souls my friends
you know how to promise the moon
with a bottle of downed white rum
I love you all even more in exile
I remember you with a sob soon to burst
from my moonstruck throat   Here’s the proof


“Cereté de Córdoba” © Ediciones Fondo de Cultura Económica SA, Bogotá. By arrangement with the publisher. Translation © 2021 by Katherine M. Hedeen and Olivia Lott. All rights reserved.

Read more from the June 2021 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.