Poems for staying at home (Day 8)


Today’s poem is by the Guatemalan K’iche’ Maya poet Humberto Ak’Abal, who died unexpectedly last year, at the age of 66. I met Humberto only once, but his intelligence, courtesy and gentleness made a lasting impression. Two of his poems appear in The Other Tiger.


The nights in Chonimutux
are thick and black.

You can pick up a little
between your hands
to seal off
small holes in the walls.

They are like inverted ravines.

If you keep looking at their depths
you will feel yourself falling headfirst

as if the earth were above you
and you were standing on the sky.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)


Las noches en Chonimutux
son espesamente negras.

Puede llevarse
un poco entre las manos
y tapar con ella
hoyitos en las paredes.

Son como barrancos boca abajo.

Si te quedás viendo su hondura
sentís irte de cabeza

como si la tierra estuviera arriba
y uno parado en el cielo.

Humberto Ak’Abal was born in 1952 in Momostenango, Guatemala, of the K’iche’ Maya people. He started out as a shepherd and weaver before leaving to find work in Guatemala City as a street vendor. He wrote in Maya-k’iche and Spanish, and his work has translated into many languages, including French, English, German, Arabic and Italian. Ak’Abal published twenty books of poetry, as well as three books of short stories, and two books of essays. Ak’Abal died suddenly in January 2019.

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