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