Irma Pineda

Translated from Spanish by Wendy Call

 
 

THE WALL

A wall seeps stories,
firm, unmoving, she contemplates
the slow passage of days.
Time is ungenerous,
branding her skin and wounding her viscera.
The wall remains,
covered in colors, picture frames, books,
plants cheer her,
but she won’t ever be the same.
She holds within
the echo of muffled cries
and overflowing laughter,
the moaning of lovers,
and the beating of their hearts.
There are stories never forgotten,
stories that time cannot carry away,
they are written on the wall,
in her heart. It’s useless to paint,
a thousand colors won’t erase her memory.
She knows this well:
It’s not that the pain subsides with time,
It’s that one learns to live with the pain.

LA PARED

Una pared escurre historias,
contempla fija, inmóvil,
el paso lento de los días.
El tiempo no es generoso,
marca en la piel y lastima sus entrañas.
La pared permanece,
reviste de colores, cuadros, libros,
las plantas la alegran,
pero ya no puede ser la misma.
Va guardando
el eco de llantos contenidos
y risas que desbordan,
el gemir de los amantes,
y el latido de sus corazones.
Hay historias que no se olvidan,
historias que el tiempo no puede llevarse,
están escritas en la pared,
en su corazón. Es inútil pintar,
mil colores no borran su memoria.
Ella bien lo sabe:
no es que con el tiempo duela menos,
es que uno se acostumbra a vivir con el dolor.

CUE’ YOO

Lú ti cue’ yoo nanda diidxa’,
ti cue’ yoo qui riniibi, ruyadxisi
zidi’di dxí.
Cadi nacha’hui di iza ridi’di,
runiná ladi ne ndaani cue’ yoo.
Laa suguaa dxi si,
ridie’ ladi, rácu gui’chi’ ne lari guie’,
yagahuiini’ rusiéche laa,
nécati, ma cadi nguécasi laa.
Cusigápa
guenda ruuna’ bicuezadxi tuuxa,
guenda ruxidxi bireeyaande,
xtidxi ca ni ranaxhii
ne saa ladxidó’ca’.
Nuu ni rizaaca qui riaanda,
nuu diidxa’ qui riné di dxí laa,
cáani cue’ yoo,
Ladxidó’be. Gasti naca gutieú’ lú,
nitiicasi gutieú’ qui suxiá xquenda redasilú’ be.
Nannadxiichibe ni:
ca iza ca qui rusiandaca’ guendananá
xhísi binni riaa guibaniné laa.
 
 
 
 
 
 

SIREN

The night can’t chill your body anymore,
you are, finally, eternally cold
and a deathly beauty; because even in its paleness
your skin is beautiful.
Your eyes open, as if seeking the moon,
when there are no more days for your nights
as a siren in love.
I feel cruel
because in gazing at you
your departure doesn’t pain me.
In this everlasting moment
I love the nakedness of death
the final tranquility of your whirling body
your loveliness in death,
your exquisite corpse.

SIRENA

La noche no puede más enfriar tu cuerpo,
tienes por fin la frialdad eterna
y tu belleza de cadáver; porque aún en su palidez
tu piel es bella.
Abiertos tus ojos parecen buscar la luna,
cuando no hay más días para tus noches
de sirena enamorada.
Yo me siento cruel
porque al contemplarte
tu partida no me duele.
En este instante eterno
amo la desnudez de tu muerte
la tranquilidad al fin de tu cuerpo remolino
tu hermosura de muerta,
tu exquisito cadáver.

GUNAA BENDA

Gueela’ di’ ma’ qui zanda gugaanda ladilu’,
yanna ma’ naga’nda pe’ nuuni,
gue’tu’ sicarú nga lii; neca ma’ naguchi
guidiladilu’ sicarú laa.
Guié lulu’ zuxale ruluí’ cuyabi beeu,
Yanna pe’ ma’ gasti’ dxi icaa xquelalu’
gunaa benda ni ranaxhii.
Ruzuluá nadxaba’
ti nagasi cayuuya lii ma’ zeú’
ne cadi cayuuba ladxidua’.
Nagasidu’
cayanaxhiiee xieladi guendaguti xtiú’,
yanna ma’ nexhe dxi
xquendariequelu’,
sicarulu’ neca ma’ gutilu’,
sicarú gue’tu’ nga lii.
 
 
 
 
 
 

THE GUEST

    For Sebastián, when he bloomed in my heart

A galloping of horses
is your heart’s flight in my belly,
traveler coming down the path,
I save a shard of moonbeam to give you
and a large shell with the sea living inside.

My hands weave a necklace of las flores de mayo
to thread my heart on and place around your neck
like our people place around the necks
of important guests to our town.

As you’re arriving, I will tuck heads of garlic
in the doorways and windows, to scare away the familiar
who would drink your new blood.
I will look for an earthen pot
whose belly will guard the house of your navel
and I will bury it under a large shade tree
so that you never forget the land
that holds the soul of your being
so that no demon will torment you.

Don’t forget
the power of our blood
as we come from the clouds
the tigers, trees, and boulders are our parents.
You will be blessed on this earth,
traveler who has not yet arrived!

EL HUÉSPED

    A Sebastián, cuando floreció en mi corazón

Un galopar de caballos
es el vuelo de tu corazón en mi vientre,
viajero que vienes en el camino,
guardo un rayito de luna para darte
y un caracol grande en donde habita la mar.

Mis manos tejen un collar de cacaloxúchitl
para ensartar mi corazón y colgarlo de tu cuello
como nuestra gente cuelga al cuello de los importantes
que visitan nuestro pueblo.

Mientras llegas, colocaré cabezas de ajo
en puertas y ventanas, para espantar al nagual
que quiera beber tu sangre nueva.
Buscaré una olla de barro
cuyo vientre guardará la casa de tu ombligo
y la enterraremos bajo un árbol grande y fresco
para que nunca olvides a la tierra
que guarda el alma de tu ser
y no haya demonio que la moleste.

Tampoco olvides
la fuerza de tu sangre
porque de las nubes venimos
los tigres, árboles y peñascos son nuestros padres
bendito serás sobre esta tierra
viajero que aún no llegas!

BIUUZA’

    Ni bisiga’de’ Sebastián
   dxi diele’ ndaani’ ladxidua’

Rului’ cuxooñe’ mani’
ora ripapa ladxido’lo’ ndaane’,
biuuza’ zeedu neza,
cayápa ti biaanihuiini’ beeu gusiga’de’ lii
ne ti bichu’ naro’ba’ ra ga’chi’ nisadó’.

Naya’ cuzá ti bigá’ guie’ chaachi’
ra ganda ladxihua’ ne chu’ yannilu’
sica rugaanda binni yoo yanni binni risaca
rigánna laanu.

Laga gueedandou’ chi gugaanda’ ique aju
rua yoo ne guiiru biaani’, ti guchibi bidxaa
gacaladxi’ gueda gué’ rini cubi.
Zuyube ti pumpu yu
ndaani’ guiapa doo yoo ne xquipilu’
ne guca’chinu laa xa’na ti yaga ro’ naga’nda
ti qui chu’ dxi gusiaandu layú
ni cayapa xquendalu’
ne qui chu’ binnidxaba’ guchiiña laa.

Zaqueca qui gusiaandu’
nadipa’ rini bia’neu’
ti binnizá nga laanu,
beedxe, yaga ne guié nga bixhozenu ne jñaanu
¡nandxó nga lii guidxilayú di’
biuza’ ca’ru’ guedandalu’!
 
 
 
 
 
 

from THE HOUSE OF ORIGIN TO THE NINE HANDSPANS

I

Your belly is occupied
said the girl who lives across the river
– the one who talks with spirits–.
She read it your gaze because
your eyes are just too brilliant.

You look different
said the oldest women
your breasts rise tumescent
your hips wide,
your cheeks aflame.

II

Your belly is bountiful
round house of the sun.
Your people are joyful
the midwife announced
that a son would emerge
from beneath your mountain
if your belly were a wide hammock
a girl would blossom forth.

III

Pain wrenches in your belly
your hips stretch wide
a warm-water bath
to relax the little boy
you must sit crouched
so your son will come soon
an old rag between your teeth
that guards well against the pain.

IV

The woman sings:

Beautiful boy
the one my heart loves most
your father                     the one who loves you
has torn the earth at the foot of a large tree
to guard the vessel that houses your umbilical.

The clay vessel is wide and cool
so your soul might rest
protected by the land of your grandparents
land bathed with their sweat
land blessed with their labor

The tree is lush
its shade ample
its arms long and strong
so the sun won’t ever injure you
nor northern winds overwhelm you.
 
 
 
 

de LA CASA DEL OMBLIGO A LAS NUEVE CUARTAS

I

Tu vientre está habitado
dijo la niña que vive del otro lado del río
–la que habla con los espíritus–.
Lo leyó en tu mirada
porque es demasiado el brillo de tus ojos.

Te miras diferente
dijeron las mujeres más ancianas
turgentes se notan tus senos
anchas tus caderas,
encendidas tus mejillas.

II

Pleno es tu vientre
redonda casa del sol.
Alegres están los de tu casa
la comadrona anunció
que debajo de tu montaña
saldrá un hijo varón
si tu vientre fuera una hamaca
vendría una niña en flor.

III

El dolor se aprieta en tu vientre
se expanden tus caderas
un baño de agua tibia
al muchacho relaja
en cuclillas debes sentarte
para que pronto tu hijo nazca
entre los dientes un trapo viejo
que al dolor bien guarda.

IV

Canta la mujer:

Niño hermoso
al que más ama mi corazón
tu padre                     el que te ama
ha rasgado de un árbol grande
para guardar la olla casa de tu ombligo

La olla es ancha y fresca
para que el alma de tu ser descanse
protegida por la tierra de los abuelos
la que humedecieron con sudor
la que bendijeron con su trabajo

El árbol es frondoso
amplia su sombra
largos y fuertes sus brazos
para que no exista día en que el sol te lastime
ni haya viento del norte que te derribe.
 
 
 
 

DOO YOO NE GA’ BIA’

I

Dxa ndaanilú’ guní dxapahuiinique
dxa ni nabeza deche guiigu
–ni riní’ ne binniguenda–.
Biindabeni lu xquenda ruyadxilu
ti yanna dunabepe’ ruzaani’ lulu’

Ma gadxe si lii
guní’ ca gunaa gola,
dxa tipa xi’dxu’
ma nalaga dxita xha’nu
ruzaani xhagalu’.

II

Guizá’ ngá ndaanilu
rului’ lidxi gubidxa laa
Nayeche’ nuu binni li’dxu’
binnigola ni racané gunaa xhana que gunni’
xha dani situ’ ca
tu nguiu zaree
pa ñaca ndaanilu’ sica ti guixhe la’
ñale ti badudxaapahuiini guie’.

III

Ma nasa’ yuuba xa ndaanilu’
ma caxhale dxita xha’nu’
biu’cha’ nisa dxa
ti guicaacha ba’du’
íque ñeelu gurí
ti naguenda xha’ nu’
ti lari yooxho’ biquichilaya
ti laa yuuba rusigapa.


IV

Cayuunda gunaa:

Baduhiini sicarú stine’
ni jmá nadxii ladxidua’
bixhozelu’ ni nadxii lii
ma gudxiide layu’
xha ñee ti yaga ro’
ra guiapa guisu doo yoo

Guisu ca nalaga naga’nda
ti guisiila’dxi’ xquendalu’
layú sti bixhosegolanu cayapa laa
layú ni guluu gúdxacabe ne nisaluna
ni guluu ndaayacabe ne dxiiña’

Yaga ca naro’ba
nalaga xpandá’
ziula ne nadipa’ na’
ti qui chu’ dxi guniná gubibxa lii
ne bi yooxho que quiñentá lii.

 
 
 
 
 
 
On Translating Irma Pineda
Wendy Call, May 2012
 
I came to know the long, deep history of indigenous Zapotec poetry while researching No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy (University of Nebraska Press, 2011) about the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the strip of land connecting the Yucatan Peninsula to the rest of Mexico. I began visiting the Mexican isthmus fifteen years ago and soon learned the region is famous for producing some of Mexico’s most vibrant and beloved painters, poets, and political activists.

Irma Pineda is one of those poets, and she is the daughter of one of those activists. Her father, Victor Pineda, disappeared when she was a young girl, murdered because of his activism for indigenous Zapotec autonomy. Pineda was born and raised in the city Juchitán. After studying and working for several years in central Mexico, in the cities of Toluca and Mexico City, she once again lives and works in her hometown. Juchitán is the only city in Mexico in which an indigenous language dominates – not just on the streets and in homes, but in the mayor’s office and in local businesses. Like most of Juchitán’s residents, Pineda’s first language is Zapotec.

Zapotec literary history reaches back two thousand years. The Zapotecs were probably the first (and perhaps the only) society to invent writing in the Americas. Like many Zapotec poets, Pineda writes in Zapotec and then “recreates” her poems in Spanish. She doesn’t call the Spanish versions of her poems “translations” because, as she explains, “You can’t think of it as a transfer from one language to another, because we would be left with something horrible in Spanish. You must think of them as parallel poems, a poem created in our language and another poem in Spanish. Both versions uphold their respective literary traditions.”

Knowing that Pineda creates parallel, yet separate, poems, freed me as a translator. Nearly a decade ago, I made hesitant attempts at translating poems by several Zapotec writers, but I stopped because I don’t know Zapotec and I couldn’t read the original poem. Pineda’s process of creating “parallel poems” allows me to think of the Spanish version as a new original that stands on its own. That said, I consult with the poet on each translation, discussing both the Spanish and Zapotec versions with her.

Pineda wrote many of the poems that appear here with support from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, the Mexican equivalent of the National Endowment for the Arts.

My English translations of these poems were made possible by support from Casa Patio Jardin in Oaxaca, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs of Seattle, Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers, and the Katharine Winegarden Washburn Memorial Fellowship at the Ragdale Foundation.

Zapotec and Spanish originals of these poems 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; her second collection of poetry, Xilase Nisado’– Nostalgias del Mar (Secretaría de Educación Pública, Mexico City, 2006); and her fifth collection of poetry, Doo yoo ne ga’ bia’ – De la casa del ombligo a las nueve cuartas (Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas, 2008).

Irma Pineda is an author, editor, translator, and educator in Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is author of five books of bilingual poetry, published in both Spanish and Zapotec. Her poems have appeared (in Spanish or in translation) in journals and anthologies in Canada, Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the United States, and the former Yugoslavia. She has been Writer in Residence at the Casa de Arte Calles y Sueños in Chicago and Translator in Residence at Canada’s Banff Centre. She currently works as an educational consultant to the teachers’ college of Oaxaca and a faculty member at three universities in and around Juchitán. She is recent president of the Escritores en Lenguas Indígenas (ELIAC), a national organization of Mexican writers working in indigenous languages.

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. She is a recent Writer in Residence at Cornell College of Iowa, Harborview Medical Center, New College of Florida, and several national parks. Her essay-photo chapbook Tilled Paths Through Wilds of Thought, supported by the K2 Family Foundation, was published in September 2012. She and Irma Pineda are currently completing a trilingual recording of Pineda’s poems, as fellows of the Jack Straw Foundation. Find more about Wendy Call at www.wendycall.com