Translation: Poems by María Paz Guerrero


Translated from the Spanish by STEPHANIE MALAK

Poems appear in both Spanish and English below.


Translator’s Note

María’s poems from Los analfabetas are gut punches. But tender ones. Questions of identity, colonialist practices and education, and the body in its many forms interpolate delicacies of syntax and form. She writes the trammels of Colombia by digging at the splinters of humanity’s illiteracy.

Both poems “India weaves necklaces” and “She heads out to the forest to unearth roots” clip along with a degree of ease perhaps counter to their themes. They conclude in moments of spiritual praxis: the poetic voice subsumes the complexity of the body (and its wounds) and with it some resolution. Finding that same crispness of language between short verse and proximate observation of the human condition made for rich exercise. 

—Stephanie Malak

India teje collares

abuela rasga guacharaca

indio se queda en el pueblo 

acostado en la hamaca.

                  Peatón surca lodazales,

lagunillas, esquiva sombrillas rotas 

varillas de acero que pinchan carteras y chaquetas. 

Ojos ruedan, amainan chubascos, caen aguaceros,

suenan lloviznas


Estábamos afanados, realmente, 

acelerados. Torcidos, jodidos, arrejuntados, 

de veras, mal dormidos, paniqueados, 

hambreados, encorvados, hundidos



al atardecer 

soltábamos flemas 

en luna llena

nos desgranábamos



India weaves necklaces

the guacharaca grandmother scrapes 

indio stays put in town

stretched out in the hammock

Pedestrian plowing through muddy waste

lagoons, dodging broken umbrellas

spokes of steel that poke through billfolds and jackets

Eyes roll, cloudbursts subside, downpours fall

drizzles sound


We were snatched up, revved up 

for real. Twisted, fucked, shacked up, 

straight up, underslept, panicked

starving, bent, sunk


we spat

as it grew dark

unleashed phlegm

under a full moon

we were coming unspun


Sale al bosque a desenterrar raíces

Llena el tiempo de huecos
y mete el escaso cuerpo 
en uno de ellos

Cubre su esqueleto del viento 
para que la corriente
no roce su superficie de erizo

Se rompería en añicos el aire
al contacto con las puntas

No busca hacerse cortaduras en la cara
ni beber licores fuertes
mucho menos ser vidente

Ya tiene ojos rasgados, piel amarilla 
y se pone a ser india 
en la mitad del día


She heads out to the forest to unearth roots

Time fills with holes
and puts the scarce body
into one of them

It covers its skeleton of wind
so the current
doesn’t rub against its prickly outside

The air would split into smithereens
if it were touched by the spines

It doesn’t seek to become cuts on the cheek
or drink strong liquor
nor be a seer 

She’s already got scratched eyes, yellow skin
as she begins
to be india
at midday


María Paz Guerrero (Bogotá, Colombia) is the author of the poetry collections Los analfabetas and Dios también es una perra, the prologue and selections of La generación sin nombre: una antología, and the essay “El dolor de estar vivo en Los poemas póstumos de César Vallejo.” Her poems have appeared in the anthologies Pájaros de sombra: diecisiete poetas colombianos, 1989-1964 and Moradas interiores: cuatro poetas colombianos. Dios también es una perra is available in English as God is a Bitch Too from Ugly Duckling Presse. She holds a BA from the Universidad de los Andes, a MA in comparative literature from the The New Sorbonne University, and currently is completing her PhD in literary theory at the University of Zaragoza. She is a full-time professor in the department of creative writing at the Universidad Central in Bogotá.

Stephanie Malak is an editor working between academic scholarship, independent publishing, and literary advocacy. She holds a PhD in Latin American literature and lives in the Catskills. She is a contributing editor for The Common.

Translation: Poems by María Paz Guerrero

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