Poems for staying at home (Day 40)

 

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Quarantine means forty days, so Poems for staying at home is coming to an end, for now. Nearly all of the poems published here since April 20th can be found in The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America. The final poem in the series, ‘Walking Backwards’, by the Guatemalan K’iche’ Maya poet Humberto Ak’Abal, is like a koan, self-explanatory in its simplicity, and yet not.

 

Walking Backwards

From time to time I walk backwards:
it’s my way of remembering.

If I were to walk only going forward,
I could tell you
what forgetting is.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)

 

Camino al revés

De vez en cuando camino al revés:
es mi modo de recordar.

Si caminara sólo hacia delante, t
e podría contar
cómo es el olvido.

 

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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