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Natalia Toledo Paz: To T.S. Eliot (a poem in English, Spanish and Zapotec)

To T. S. Eliot

From my hands grew red flowers

long and beautiful,

how to forget the fear with which I was stripped of all certainty.

I walked with my hands

and sunk my body where there was mud

my eyes became full with fine sand.

They called me the girl of the water lilies

because my foot was the surface of the water.

But also I was bitten by a snake that was mating in the estuary

and I was blinded, I was a Tireasis who traveled his history without a staff.

What are the roots that catch, the branches that spring from this gravel?

Maybe I am the last branch that will speak Zapotec

my children will have to hiss their language

and be birds without a home in the jungle of oblivion.

In all the seasons I am in the south

rusted boat that my eyes of black paradise plums dream:

I will go smell my land, dance with a tune under a jungle canopy without people.

I will go to eat two things.

I cross the plaza, The North will not stop me,

I will arrive in time to embrace my grandmother before the last star falls.

I will return to be the girl who bears on her right eyelid a yellow petal,

the girl who weeps the milk of flowers

to heal my eyes I shall go.


A T. S. Eliot

De mis manos crecieron flores rojas
largas y hermosas,
cómo olvidar el miedo con que fui despojada de toda certeza.
Caminé con las manos
y metí mi cuerpo donde había lodo
mis ojos se llenaron de arena fina.
Me llamaron la niña de los nenúfares
porque mi raíz era la superficie del agua.
Pero también fui mordida por una culebra apareándose en el estero
y quedé ciega, fui Tiresias que recorrió sin báculo su historia.
¿Cuáles son las raíces que prenden, qué ramas brotan de estos cascajos?
tal vez soy la última rama que hablará zapoteco
mis hijos tendrán que silbar su idioma
y serán aves sin casa en la jungla del olvido.
En todas las estaciones estoy en el sur
barco herrumbrado que sueñan mis ojos de jicaco negro:
a oler mi tierra iré, a bailar un son bajo una enramada sin gente,
a comer dos cosas iré.
Cruzaré la plaza, el Norte no me detendrá,
llegaré a tiempo para abrazar a mi abuela antes que caiga la última estrella.
Volveré a ser la niña que porta en su párpado derecho un pétalo amarillo,
la niña que llora leche de flores
a sanar mis ojos iré.


Ni guicaa T. S. Eliot

Ndaani’ batanaya’ gule jmá guie’ naxiñá’ rini
ziula’ ne sicarú,
qui zanda gusiaanda’ dxiibi guxhanécabe naa guirá ni gule niá’.
Guzaya’ xadxí ne batanaya’
bitiide’ guidilade’ ra dxá’ beñe
ne ndaani’ guielua’ bidxá yuxi nuí.
Gula’quicabe láya’ Mudubina
purti’ gule’ luguiá nisa.
Guriá yaachi naxí gudó yaa’ ti beenda’ cayacaxiiñi’ naa
ne guca’ Tiresias biníte’ guielua’,
qui niquiiñe’ guni’xhí’ ora guzaya’ stube ndaani’ ca dxí ma gusi.
¿Guná nga ni bisanané binniguenda laanu?, ¿xí yuxi guie
bisaananécabe laanu?
Ca xiiñe’ zutiipica’ diidxa’ guní’ jñiaaca’ne zazarendaca’
sica ti mani’ ripapa ndaani’ guí’xhi’, ne guiruti zanna tu laaca’.
Guirá beeu nuá’ neza guete’
balaaga riza lú nisa cá tini, ni rini’ xcaanda’ guielua’ pe’pe’ yaase’.
Zabigueta’ zigucaaxiee xquidxe’,
ziguyaa xtube xa’na’ ti baca’nda’ ziña,
chupa bladu’ guendaró ziaa’ zitagua’.
Zadide’ laaga’ neza luguiaa, ni bi yooxho’ qui zucueeza naa,
zindaaya’ ra nuu jñiaa biida’ ante guiruche guirá beleguí.
Zaca’ xti bieque xa badudxaapa’ huiini’
ni riba’quicabe guie’ bacuá íque laga,
xa ba’du’ ruuna niidxi sti guie’
zabigueta’ xquidxe’ ziaa’ si gusianda’ guie lúa’.

Born in 1968, Natalia Toledo Paz is a Zapotec born in Oaxaca. She now lives in Mexico City. The original poem was composed in Zapotec, and translated by the author into Spanish.

For her poetry, and her work with indigenous literature, Natalia Toledo Paz was awarded the 2004 Nezahualcóyotl Prize For Literature by the National Council For Culture And Art.

The Spanish is translated into English by Paola de Santiago Haas and John Samuel Tieman.

Copyright 2018 Natalia Toledo Paz


Natalia Toledo Paz

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