Selected Poems and Literary Works

High School Reading Level

See Elementary School Reading Level

 
 

A Dog's Luck

Otto René Castillo

Guatemala

Reprinted from
Rediscovering America.

I remember one afternoon
by the cherry tree
that was planted
in the patio of the old house,
an old uncle of mine
crying piteously
because of the death of his dog.

A long time afterwards, I
found out
that on that day many people
had died in the city,
murdered by cold
and hunger.

Continue reading in English.

 

 

Little Cambray Tamales

Claribel Alegría

Nicaragua/El Salvador

Listen to the author read the poem in English and Spanish.

Translated by D.J. Flakoll. From Woman of the River (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989).

(makes 5,000,000 little tamales) – for Eduardo and Helena who asked me for a Salvadoran recipe.

Two pounds of mestizo* dough
half a pound of Guachupin* loin
cooked and finely ground
a little box of pious raisins
two spoonfuls of Malinche* milk
one cup of seething water
lightly fried conquistador helmets
three Jesuit onions
a purse of multinational gold
two dragon’s teeth

Continue reading in English and Spanish.

 

 

Like You

Roque Dalton

El Salvador

From Poema Clandestinos/Clandestine Poems (Solidarity Publications, 1986)

I, like you,
love, life, the sweet charm of things, the celestial
landscape of January days.

Also, my blood boils and I smile for the eyes
that have known the burst of  tears.

I think that the world is beautiful, that poetry is like bread, for everyone.

Continue reading in English and Spanish.

 

 

From We Indians Have No Childhood

Rigoberta Menchú

Guatemala

Reprinted from
Rediscovering America.

While my father was in jail, the rich land-owners came, and since no one knew Spanish, they frightened us. And they told the campesinos to either leave, or stay as wage earners, because the land was theirs. Then their gunmen threatened to chase us out, and broke everything because all we had was clay pots. When my father returned [from jail] he decided to work even harder defending his community, and even to give his life for it. He continued making trips to the capital. At that time we still believed that only the large landowners were our enemies. We didn’t realize that, in fact, it was all the rich who persecuted us campesinos.

Continue reading in English.


 

America en el idioma de la memoria

Gioconda Belli

Nicaragua

Reprinted from
Rediscovering America.

V.
Who are we?
Who are these men, these women without language, scorned for their color
for their skins, their feathers, and their adornments?
So we would not read other than their sacred writings
They burned ours in bonfires
Our history, our poetry, the records of our
people
They filled the sockets of our eyes with smoke
They filled our intestines with tears
They burned our writings, carefully painted by the scribes

They burned the history that made us who we were
Oh, how the old wailed in the plazas
seeing the names of their ancestors burn in the flames
Ah long night sad night of the ashes
A night in that we were left without hands, without language,
without memory
converted into slaves, sleepwalkers.

Continue reading in Spanish.


 

Even Beneath This Bitterness

Otto Rene Castillo

Guatemala

The statistics say: for every 80,000 officers of the law
there is one doctor in Guatemala.

Then understand the misery of my country,
and my pain and everyone’s pain.
If when I say: Bread!
they say
shut up!
and when I say: Liberty!
they say
Die!

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Cuzcatlán

Manlio Argueta

El Salvador

Reprinted from
Rediscovering America.

…Emiliano kept the red handkerchief, the one he used to dry his tears, in his back pocket. He swore he’d never go back to work at the mill. And his baby daughter would never work in the mills either…

“We will not be slaves of death,” he says, not to his daughter, but as one would let loose a flock of butterflies. Once men like Emiliano had been poets and sages. Then they became slaves and serfs. In the last century they had become wage earners, but their living conditions were those of slaves.

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To Columbus

Rubén Darío

Nicaragua

Reprinted from
Rediscovering America.

Unfortunate admiral! Your poor America,
your beautiful, hot-blooded, virgin Indian love,
the pearl of your dreams, is now hysterical,
her nerves convulsing and her forehead pale.

A most disastrous spirit rules your land:
where once the tribesmen raised their clubs together,
now there is endless warfare between brothers,
the selfsame races wound and destroy each other.

Continue reading in English and Spanish.


 

Ars Poetica

Claribel Alegría

NICARAGUA / EL SALVADOR

I,
poet by trade,
condemned so many times
to be a crow,
would never change places
with the Venus de Milo:

Continue reading in English.


 

Freehand Sketch

Roberto Sosa

HONDURAS

They use everything they’ve got to putrify a man alive,
sketch in a flash
the ample pallor of the murdered
and lock him up in infinity.

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A Flower

Carlos Jose Guadamuz

NICARAGUA

There is a flower in my cell.
I found it alone in a corner
as if being punished
It burst the hard floor
of cement and stone.
It broke the taboo
of being born in a cell.

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From “Nicaraguan Canto”

Ernesto Cardenal

NICARAGUA

I am a poet,
an army of poets.
And today I want to write a poem,
a whistle poem
a rifle poem.
To stick to the doors,
in prison cells,
on school walls.

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Obligations of the Poet

Gioconda Belli

NICARAGUA

Never consider yourself
a privileged intellectual, a book-filled head repeating
        the same conversation,
a withered doleful thinker.

You were born to thresh stars
and discover in the trees the laughter of the crowd,
you were born brandishing the future,
seeing through eyes, hands, feet, breast, mouth,
foreteller of things to come

Continue reading in English.