UNPUBLISHED POEMS | JENNIFER RATHBUN


NATIONAL PALACE

My children were
painted on the palace walls
over ancient stones
that once built temples
My children were
beaten
enslaved
and abandoned
My children were
strong
resilient
and full of life
they were seeds
their colors adorn
the walls of the National Palace
in the heart of the city
that beats to drums
of my sons and daughters
My children survived
I didn’t drown them
in the river
I didn’t flee to the mountaintops
I faced the swords
and determined the path of the future
I bore a mestizo son and daughter
My children painted on the walls
staircases and corridors
speak for me now
I am your mother dressed
in white bearing tattooed legs
or humbly carrying my blue-eyed baby
on my back


TEMPLE OF THE SUN

Even steep stone steps
ascending towards the sun or the blue center of the universe
we bow to the altar as we climb
paying respect
for the gift of good life
always overlooking
the Avenue of Death
populated now with
hundreds of school children
in bright colored uniforms
laughing, holding hands
in a single-file line
parading towards the moon
down the center of death
between jaguar cries, bird songs
and obsidian jeweled masks
we reach the summit and salute
the cardinal directions
amazed at the grandeur of
abandoned history
beneath our feet
we wonder if we should ever descend the sacred stone temple
or sacrifice our hearts to the east


TEMPLE OF THE MOON

Dressed with my burning tongue
as the virgin to the temple
I offer you my divinity


DEAD LANGUAGE

We shared a secret language
to talk about our love,
real fantasies and magical realism.

It had a butterfly accent
and verbs conjugated always
in present tense,
magical eternity of the moment.

We never thought
our language would die.

Its extinct vocabulary
can no longer name
your kisses or how you
ran your fingers through my hair.

There are no native speakers
of what was once us.

I didn’t write a single word down
when you picked up a new tongue.


PAINTED ON STONE

Kneel before her
stone face
lowered eyes
black braids
naked left breast
clay fire flesh
holding his hand

stone stairwells
forever inclined
leaning over history
maguey spikes
and fallen Indian
at her feet

restrained strength
Eve behind Adam
or portrait of
the birth of a nation

unresolved secrets
ashen images
behind the central
patio of light


Jennifer Rathbun, a Professor of Spanish and Associate Editor of Ashland Poetry Press at Ashland University, has published poetry in translation by Alberto Blanco, Fernando Carrera, Juan Armando Rojas Joo, Carlos Satizábal, Minerva Margarita Villarreal and Iván Vergara. She is the coeditor of the anthologies Sangre mía / Blood of Mine (2013) and Canto a una ciudad (2004).
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