A Poem by Ana Castillo, Translated by Sara Solaimani With Ana Castillo

October 1, 2021  By Ana Castillo

The gods live in the clouds,
on tops of hills and mountains,
but above all,
in depths of caves,
my mother’d say
as she ground corn.

If you peek into a mouth of Ixtaccihuátl,
she calls you, Mamá said.
You’ll soon learn
what she is.
Her voice oozes honey.
You have to enter.
One must obey the gods
without question.

You go out walking in the dark,
people say, following the voice
of the beautiful volcano goddess, but—
and here my mother stops her work to look at me—
no one ever gets out.
The gods await offerings;
they want us not to forget them.

The god of the white people also demands sacrifices
The whites killed many
in the name of their god.
They murdered us for not obeying
and for our riches.
They killed the bronze,
black, and yellow people. Of course,
they kill each other.
The white god is fierce.
Never go to the mountain alone, my mother’d say,
nor down an unknown path. It will lead you not to the god
the invaders brought
but to the evil of a mortal man.

My great grandmother’d tell me the same,
and now I tell my granddaughter.
It is my duty,
the duty of every mother and every father.
Careful, we warn our children,
even the wind may be deceptive.


My Book of the Dead, Ana Castillo

From My Book of the Dead: New Poems by Ana Castillo. Copyright © 2021. University of New Mexico Press.

Ana Castillo
Ana Castillo
Ana Castillo is a celebrated author of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. Among her award-winning books are So Far from God: A Novel; The Mixquiahuala Letters; Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me; The Guardians: A Novel; Peel My Love Like an Onion: A Novel; Sapogonia; and Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma. Born and raised in Chicago, Castillo resides in southern New Mexico.

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