Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cuban Poets- Soleida Rios

The Witch's Bird by Soleida Rios

The following poem is included in The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry (University of California Press), edited by Mark Weiss.

To Joel James

The bird was born of a machete's blade
It's nothing like mockingbird
blackbird or mournful dove:
it was born of a machete's blade
not from some old bird's white egg.

Neither skylark nor quetzal
nor the buzzard that anxiously tracks last footsteps,
it lives in The Witch's song. It makes its nest there,
and it sings like the birds of sea and forest.
It goads the mules. Implacable, in foul weather
it flies above a hut's palm thatch
and someone must die.

From March to October it's the bird's fault:
if lightning strikes the midst of a palm tree
if the river floods
if a verse comes infinitely slowly
bearing the aroma of the last of the coffee
in every case–from March to October–
it's the bird's fault.

They say that once a pair of friends
found themselves in the night
near the Witch's song, where they had gathered
for a bout of magic,
and that they brought forth the enormous urn
of amulets and bones that had been till then
the secret they held
in trust for believers.
They say that something came among them
in that place where the bonds of the human
are broken; but no one really knows.
And that machetes were drawn.

The bird was born on the last violent rung
of the heart hidden deep within the breast.
No one can see it
though it has flown over all the heights
of the mountains.

(c) Soleida Rios
Translated by 
Mark Weiss

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