Two poems

By Liliana Ancalao, Translated from Mapuzungun by Seth Michelson

the women of cushamen

to the memory of meli, my grandma peti, my mother eugenia, and my aunts cecilia and segunda

i will honor this memory
that guides me
that has come to me
from the depths of dream

i must ready my heart
and knead it on a four-legged table
bring a saddle blanket
fold it and cover the bench—
have a seat, have a seat—
and set my heart to work

i blow into the ashes 
my breath my spilt newen—
ancient fire foremother
wake together
come see
the women
who’ve come to visit—

they look like chiñoras
with curly hair
with painted lips—
chiñoras—i say to them
to hear their laughter
in time returned

the day begins
always at the same hour

a husband dons coveralls boots
and climbs into a company truck
and she puts on the sneakers and kerchief
of an hourly maid
and walks to the central house
of the boss 

and every monday means starching the children’s school uniforms
and memorized poems and times tables

time is a blade that comes down on you
and cuts away the excess
the words
the tears
the long looks at your babies

so that you’ll set off
punctually and efficiently
to work

now they see themselves in the face of my grandma Peti
and time is a horse at rest in a pasture

and i who never could manage time
studied to give forty-minute classes
and ten left over
or needed five more
now i write
which can be seen in my hands
that have neither splinters nor callouses
i never learned to butcher chicken
nor cared for an orphaned lamb through winter 

during school vacations
we were permitted a trip
some distance to the row of poplars
an infinity to the bridge of the cakei river
to see that blue that always turned me inward
to where the rage

to pass the land of lapwings and bustards
to reach the thistles and neneo
the dried footprint
the barking of dogs

to see them all and see myself

now we’re the indigenous 
mapuche of argentina they tell us
also countrymen
araucanos they tell us
but i know we’re apple-picking mapuche

we set out together to see the orchard
here the trees murmur
in mapuzungun
but you have to ask permission of the hillside’s owner
to walk in its shade
Here where Juan Meli bathed each wiñoy tripantu

these seeds of the Manshana Mapu
arrived walking
after the Füta Raid by winka dogs
after escaping to the mountains
after the roundup
when we were carried off like animals
the women of Chichinales barely awake
when thrown
onto the hindquarters of horses
that’s how rough they were

and fragrant
words come and go 

dizzied by alfalfa and apples

we return within
water of the eye water we women drink
in the passed mate—
this tea tastes thin
should i change the leaf or simply shift the bombilla?—

time is a laborer
eating steak in silence
in the kitchen.

Tufachi üllchakezomo Kushamen mew

Iñche ñi chuchu Ana pingefuy, ñi ñuke Eugenia, ñi kaka Cecilia ka Segunda, memoria mew

ekuan tufachi memoria
fey kimelenew ñi küpan
iñche ñi pewma mew
ñi pu anka mew

mulen ñi pepikal iñche ñi piuke
kiñe mesa melinamun mew
küpaln kiñe matra
müchamfiñ ka takun chi wangku
-anünge anünge-
ka iñche ñi piuke niey fill az

pimufiñ pu trufken
ti neyen ñi trüran newen
-choñoiwe kushe chonoiwe fucha
küpamün lelimün
tufachi üllchakezomo
fey küpayengün llallitumealu

pu chiñora reke
tüngkülkal mew
wirin wün
-pu chiñora- pifingün
ñi ayen allkütualu
tufachi antü mew

tüye mew
antü llituy kiñentrür

füta tükuluwi mameluko pu botin
wenuluwi empresa ñi kamion mew
ka kiñe tükuluwi pu zapatilla ka pañuelo
ñi serfiam hora mew
xekay patrona ñi ñizolruka püle
fillantü lunes müley ñi müleael
lifguardapolvo kimüllkantun kimketabla

kiñe yung antüngey
katrüeimew pu puchun
pu nemül
alüñma lelifi mi pukoñi

ñi tripayam kuzaw püle
ñi trenayam
ñi yallümüam

fewla leliwingun chuchu Peti ñi ange
kiñe kawelo antüngey
ka ürkütuy kawellwe mew

chumül no rume pepi ngenefiñ antü
kimpen ñi eluam clase meli mari minutos mew
puchuñman mari kam
kechuwei minutos

fewla wirin

tranaley iñche ñi kuw mew
ningülkülelayngu yafüngelayngu
kimlan ñi iloal kiñe kulliñ
penielafiñ kuñifal pichiofisha pukem mew kafey

eskuela ñi vakacion mew
pepi inarüpüiñ

kiñe trokiñ rüpu alamowinwin püle
kiñe afpun ngenulu Kakel leufu ñi kuikui püle
amun ñi peam tufachi kalfü
wiñowüalu ponwi
chew weshamollfün llakowi

rupan kaiken ka tregl ñi trokiñ rüpü
akun troltro ka neneo mew
angkurüpü mew
wangkün trewa mew

ñi pefiam fey engun ka iñche
fewla mapuchengeiñ
indígena argentino pieiñ mew
araucanos kafey
welu kimün mapuchengeiñ manzanerongeiñ

tripaiñ kiñentrür ñi lelifiam tukun
tüfa püle pu aliwen ñi truürün
zunguy mapuzungun
mülen ñi llellipual ngenko
iñ llaufutuleam
tüfa püle Juan Meli müñetuwi wiñoy tripantü mew

tufachi pufün Manshana Mapu ñi tuwun
trekatuy ka akuy faw
rupan trewawinka ñi fütamalon
rupan montun mawiza mew

rupan kechan mew
pu kulliñ reke yeeiñ

Chichinales mew petu trepeleyngun
feichi ankaspürakawellufingun

pichi karü ka küme nümün
amuy amutuy pu nemül
uyüleiñ alfalfa ka manshana engu
wiñotuiñ alükon

ko wüfko tuwun
ptokoiñ pu zomo
wallorupay mate
-küchangey mate
yerba? chillafiñ mate?-

antü kiñe peon reke
ka ñüküfkületuy
cocina mew

a photo on route 40

it no longer runs
from the Senguer River to the Genoa
no matter how much mate and talk
we pour over

when walking the route
pu lamngen
it once led us to Copawe’s brown ash
another time the white wind didn’t recognize us
this time we returned splitting fog

always straining sight
not to miss footprints

the groundwater of memory
surges from the land
here dinosaurs blackened in their own oil

here the ash of the fires that burned
he of the choike feet
he who killed his father
he who left, teaching us the loneliness in waiting for him

here the snort of Orkeke’s and Casimiro’s horses
on one of their trips
to the Mapuche Applelands

and here those without memory
those who no longer raise their arms to
kalfuwenufuchá kalfuwenukushe

here the weather-beaten men
ready to make lassos of rawhide
and subject again the bull Chupey
to the brutal
bellowing like that of the konas
trapped in thunder

the thunder that our enclosed
and our lonco Inakayal heard
in the basement of this museum of the horrors
of the holocaust

oh how the memory goes to its affections
rises like the dew that chills the ankles
rises to the banks of these rivers
and stops us a moment on this route

we go out into air that bends us
that combs our hair as if scrub brush
and we take a photo of this image
for which we need no reminder.

kiñe azentu futa wariarupu 40 mo

Senguer leufü püle ka Genoa pule
alünmaiñ iñ akun
fentre mate ka fentre ngutram
kuchalleliñ rume

rupaliñ futa wariarupu mo
pu lamngen
kiñe rupa amufuiñ Kopawe ñi pu trufken püle
ka rupa  plang kürüf kangeitueiñ mew
tufachi rupa wiñoiñ  ti chiway nülakünuiñ

rumel kintuleiñ ti pukintuwe
ñamümlafilu pünon

memoria ñi pu napa
kangeltuy mapu mew
tufa mew  pu dinosaurios kurüyiwiñ mo

tufa mew  kütral ñi pu trufken
fey, choikenamun, üiyümefi
fey lantufi ñi chau
fey amutuy, kimeleiñ mew:
ti  kizulen, petu ünümafiñ

tufa mew  pu neyün Orkeke engu Kasimiro yu kawel
kiñe amukan mo
Manshana Mapu püle

tufa mew puche  memorianokechi
pu che witrapramlayngun pu lipang
kalfuwenufuchá kalfuwenukushe

tufa mew chi pu wentru yafükünuwn
zewman lashu ñi pu trülke mo
nüniefin ka rupa chupey toro mo
füchañma mo
koatun chum pu kona
muleyngun tralkan mo

pu tralkan allkutuyngun iñ che
iñ lonko Inakayal
pu sótano mo yañ museo
ñi holokausto

ay chum amuy ti memoria ayün mew
wenupray trürngey ti mülum firkümfiüy pu palipali
pranüy inal yu leufü

katrütunieiñ mew alumna tufa fucha wariarupu mo

tripaiñ neyen mapu mo müchameiñ mew
runkaeiñ mew trürngey pu neneo
zeumiñ kiñe azentu tufa azentun
recuerdo molaiñ


Pu lamngen: my brothers and sisters

Copawe: Copawe, or Copahue, is a stratovolcano in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile

Choike: ostrich

Orkeke and Casimiro: Orkeke (c.1810-1884) was a Tehuelche cacique in territorial Argentina who led his people up and down Route 40 before being captured by the Argentine army for resisting the state’s authority and transferred to Buenos Aires, where he died. Of note he also willingly guided the British explorer George Chaworth Musters on his journey through Patagonia in the 1850s. Casimiro Biguá (1819-1874) was a Tehuelche cacique in territorial Argentina who on 3 November 1869 raised the Argentine flag. Of note, for his effort to recognize Argentine sovereignty over Tehuelche and Mapuche land, he had been named a Lieutenant Colonel of the Argentine Army by Argentine President Bartolomé Mitre on 5 July 1865.

Manzana Mapu: This refers to the swath of Patagonia containing vast apple orchards, which featured prominently in the Mapuche diet of the region and were termed manzanache or manzaneros by the Mapuche.

Kalfuwenufuchá kalfuwenukushe: this is Liliana’s Mapuche divine invocation, and it literally translates as Elders of the Blue Above

Konas: warriors

A celebrated Mapuche poet and oral historian, Liliana Ancalao was born in 1961 in Puel Mapu, or what is more commonly known around the world today as Argentina. There she helped to found the Mapuche community group Ñamkulawen to advance Mapuche culture. Her books of poetry include Mujeres a la intemperie-pu zomo wekuntu mew and Tejido con lana cruda, and she has published the book of essays with poetry Resuello-neyen. She has been widely anthologized internationally, and her work has been translated into English and French. 

Seth Michelson has published sixteen books of original poetry and poetry in translation, and the bilingual-Spanish poetry anthology Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum-Security Detention, with all proceeds going to a legal defense fund for undocumented, incarcerated youth. Honors for his work include an NEA Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Mellon Foundation fellowship, and his work has been translated into Hindi, Italian, Malayalam, Slovenian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages. He teaches the poetry of the hemispheric Americas at Washington and Lee University, where he founded and directs the Center for Poetic Research.

Image Credit: Simon Berger