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Two Mayan Poems

translated by W.S. Merwin

WHY SOULS ARE LOST NOW

They are going to end,”
Our Lord said.
We were going to be ended.
It seems Our Lord wants his children to be ended.
Well, the lightning spoke.
“If you smash my house I’ll smash yours,”
the lightning said to Our Lord.
“If you don’t want me to smash your house
give me at least half your children,”
the lord of the earth, the lightning, said.
“Well, you can have them,”
Our Lord said.
Loss of souls was born then
because Our Lord let him have them.
“You can take half,”
Our Lord said.
Before that Our Lord let nobody have them.
He didn’t want anybody else to have them.
That’s why souls were never lost.
Even though we fell we didn’t stay.
But now if we fall,
if we’re frightened,
we stay.
See how it is now,
the lord of the earth, the lightning,
takes half of us.
Tzotzil (Zinacantán)

BELLY-ACHE

They were in bed together, the woman had a husband, the woman’s husband came, spoke with his sister-in-law, talked with her, went to bed with her, didn’t know whether there was another, her husband came, his house was closed, he went in to find them, he opened the door, her husband, they are one on top of the other, one on top of his sister-in-law, he wants to kill them, the husband, they changed into birds, they flew away, they went out of the house, they went away until they were on the mountain. One said, “Bleey-ache.” The other answered, “My sister-in-law, belly-ache.” They fly to the mountain. Both of them are crying there now on the mountain.

Tzotzil (Zinacantán)

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