July 31, 2013KR OnlinePoetry

Death Surprised You

Audio recorded at Jack Straw Studios, Seattle.

Translated from Spanish and Zapotec by Wendy Call

Death surprised you in a place far
from home, from your people
you were thrown nameless in a hole
without belongings
without prayers
without flowers
without songs to brighten the way
for your feet
and you stand
at the beginning of a path
while your mother seeks someone newly dead
to entrust with
your favorite clothes
the flowers that never scented your body
the cries that never filled your ears.
She knows you await her . . .

Zapotec and Spanish originals of this poem appear in Irma Pineda’s first collection of poetry, Ndaani’ Gueela’ (In the Belly of the Night), published by Casa de la Cultura de Juchitán, 2005.

Irma Pineda is an author, editor, translator, and educator in Juchitán, in Mexico Isthmus of Tehuantepec. She is author of six books of bilingual (Zapotec-Spanish) poetry and has completed residencies at the Banff Centre, Chicago’s Casa de Arte Calles y Sueños, and Seattle’s Jack Straw Studios.  

Wendy Call is an author, editor, translator, and educator in Seattle. She is co-editor of Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide (Penguin, 2007) and author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy (Nebraska, 2011), winner of the Grub Street National Book Prize for Nonfiction.