Monday, January 27, 2014

Humberto Ak'abal, "From Tongue To Tongue" (trans. Edgar Garcia), from Grito En La Sombra

The fire burned, burned, and at times thundered. “The drawing made by the flames is not the way it is for no reason; the fire is a voice, the fire is a message.”
The pots and blackened cooking-stones, the walls also.  Night did not enter the kitchen because it was darker inside than it was outdoors.
“It’s going to rain; the wind feels cold and dense.”
My mother understood the singing of birds, the voice of the animals, and the language of physical phenomena.
“Don’t go out onto the patio, the storms are coming; it’s not for nothing the dog bites its tail.”
It started to rain. The crack of thunder made it seem that the sky was crumbling. The lightning flashes that came into the kitchen looked like washbasins with silver water. The echo of the storm drowned itself in the ravines and the night disappeared beneath the downpour.
On nights like this our mother told us some story.
“The tree growing behind the house witnessed what I am about to tell you…”
A bit of fear gripped us.
“That pot there”—and she pointed the clay pot that was behind me—“it used to turn into a person; it grew eyes, ears, and stuck out its tongue.”
Little by little I shifted, still listening to her, but moving away from the pot.
“Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t do that anymore.”
“But why didn’t you shatter it to stop it from scaring people?”
“Because that pot was made by the naguals of your grandfathers. If we broke it tonight, tomorrow it would awaken whole again.”
The pot tucked away in a corner was like a dumb, deaf, blind head. The fire died slowly and she scattered its embers.
“Look at this little flame; it’s the fire’s flower. They say that if a person is in their element, in between the embers a bit of gold will appear for them. That’s why you should always scrape the ashes after the wood has burned. If not today, maybe tomorrow.”
In the fireplace only a small string of smoke remained.
The years have passed. My mother is tired.
The house has changed.
When I ask her to tell me some story she sighs and laughs…
“It’s not like it was before. It doesn’t make sense to tell those stories under the electric light. It used to be nice, because the light of the pine-torches was another light. See, even the ghosts have gone away. Now it’s up to you to make up the stories to tell your kids.”

My mother planted in me the restlessness for the word. Here the intent to continue the ways of my elders has grown. 

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