by Mikeas Sánchez 
Translated by David Shook

Kyü’wünba tyojtskümü
te’ takabyü oma’ dyomo’ajkuy’isñye’
te’ España te’ Marruecos
tere’ tumü’ pabiñomo juka’bütsübü
tijan chan’gabü
su.i’tyambü’is wyrün
Chajku’ Marraquesh
dü’ mboyaj’biajse dü ngümung
dü’ mboya’yajpajse sungü’ram tajsubü’luna’ram
Hachís’oma tsutsibü’nü’oma
dü’ sukpa’ tyüjkmü dü’ sukpa ñyaka’omoMyama’is chajma’yü
jana’ tyena’ tome’ nükut’numba’mü
jana’ tyena’ tome’ moch’andun’mü’
jana’ tyena’ tome’ sudgüy’mü
myama’is kyüt’chiü
te’ takabyü’ oma’ tyojtsijs’ñye’
te’ jawakiu’y chyejkis’ñye’
yomo’ankü’ ne’ jyokü’büis winabü’ jyaya’
Hachís’oma canela’oma
maka’ yajk’ soje’ kyü’rüjk’asa’küjsi
wükü’ te’ jyaya’is jana’ kyomujsa’
eyarambü’ pünis’yoma wyünubü ñaka’is
Hachís’oma hierbabuena’oma
maka’ chi’i myama’
wükü’ chejk’omo dyen’a tumü une’
hachís’oma canela’oma
wükü’ ngyomi’ Ala’is chiü’ tumü nga’e
wükü’ngyomi’ Ala’is myasan’üjya jyaya’is tyümbü’
Guards the bitter impression of her sex
beneath her tongue
in Spain as in Morocco
is still the coppery girl
with wide hips
& precise eyes
She left Marrakesh
like someone running from her own shadow
she avoids street lamps & the full moon
In her house & on her skin
the scent of green tea and hashishHer mother warned her of the dangers
of getting too close to bridges
& balconies
& loves
her mother shared with her
the bitter impression on the tongue
the burning in her belly
of a woman saving herself for her first love

The scent of hashish & cinnamon
will anoint her wedding dress
so that her groom does not betray
the scent that her skin guards from other men
She will offer to her mother
the scent of hashish & mint
so that her belly might foster a son
the scent of hashish and cinnamon
so that Allah will give her a child
so that Allah will bless her man’s seed















The author of three collections of poetry, Mikeas Sánchez (b. 1980) is the major poet of the Zoque language of Southern Mexico, and one of the most important poets in any indigenous American language to emerge in the 2000s. In Mexico she has been awarded the Premio Estatal de Poesía Indígena Pat O’ tan (the Pat O’ tan State Prize for Indigenous Poetry) in 2004 and the Primer Premio de Narrativa Y El Bolom Dice (the Y El Bolom Dice First Prize in Fiction).
The Zoque language is a branch of the Mixe-Zoquean language family with about 70,000 speakers across the Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tabasco, and Veracrúz. Mikeas Sánchez lives and works in Chiapas, where Zoque is divided into three dialects with about 80% mutual intelligibility. Sánchez’s dialect, Copainalá, named for the town where most of its speakers reside, has about 10,000 speakers.

Like the vast majority of Mexico’s indigenous poets, Sánchez has been responsible for her own translation into Spanish, both to expand her readership and to qualify for grants and prizes. In many cases, because indigenous Mexican writers tend to speak Spanish as a second language, their translations, while often competent, lack the poetry of their original language creations, sounding archaic or clunky. Fortunately, in Sánchez’s case, this is not so, and her Spanish sings with a strikingly contemporary lyricism.

The included poem was written while Sánchez was in graduate school in Spain, before she returned to her native Chiapas to run the XECOPA radio station, which broadcasts programing in several indigenous languages.

—David Shook

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