Who Are We? What Is Our Name?

Note: This poem was originally written in Zapoteco.


To speak, to say yes to the night;
To say yes to the darkness.
With whom to speak, what to say
if there is no one in this house
and so alone, I hear the cricket's wail?
If I say yes, if I say no,
to whom do I say yes, to whom do I say no?
From whence came this no and this yes
and with whom am I speaking in the middle of this darkness?
Who put these words on paper?
Why is it written on the paper
instead of writing on the earth?
This is huge,
and wide, and long.
Why don't we write under the surface of the sky
all that our minds say,
which is born in our hearts?
Why don't we write on green leaves,
on clouds, on water, in the palm of the hand?
Why write on paper?
Where was the paper born that was born white
and imprisons our literature:
the words that our grandfathers
sculpted in stone,
that they sang in the night
when they performed the dance,
the words they used to decorate their houses,
the insides of their sanctuaries,
their royal palaces?
The one who brought our second language
came to kill us with our own words,
he came to squash the people of the village
as if we were worms
falling from the trees,
cast on the ground.
Who are we, what is our name?


Originally published in En torno a las islas del mar océano, México, Publicaciones del H. Ayuntamiento Popular de Juchitán, 1983.