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The hummingbird loved the flowers, the foliage, and all their kith and kin

              with a kiss, it gifted them the finest hours of its existence 

              on the afternoon that Kuyuri’s might set the flowers ablaze

              the hummingbird kissed them and scalded its beak

              wailing, it fled to douse its pain in Lake Isireri

              the Jichi of that place woke to the sound of weeping,

embraced the bird and said: “I will change you into a terrapin

                                                                                         that you might swim through your suffering

the flowers love you, but the sun has claimed them in restitution

there are old debts between the moon and the sun that human beings must settle.”


And so the hummingbird-made-terrapin              puts its feet and its tears to the canvas

                                                                      that is the earth

the earth is a crumb that crumbles further at every turn

the earth longs to be Jupiter in conversation with Saturn’s rings

the earth needs time to catch her breath

the earth soaks up her children’s blood, the hummingbird’s lament, the ashes of the flowers

the earth is born dies is born again in a snake-accompanied trance on the grasslands.


After untold births and incarnations the roots of the conflagration on the water

              have determined that it is at times necessary to give the tongues of other planets a try

              and to fall to the earth

              to try out the languages of other beings, to in this way find oneself in the ecstatic delirium of the bow

              whose arrows pierce the sky and the hearts of the birds that have been transformed to stardust.


After traveling far afield

              to return to where we started, to the mainland, without anyone or anything to stop us

after wandering through places far removed from palm trees

              bare feet stuck by cactus needles as we walk

after hopes have been dashed in the flickering of the stars

breaking themselves along the crests of rainbows              swimming in time’s virility

splitting words to the point that sparks fly

              muttering them through tight lips

gargling tangerine liqueur

to sweetly mask the bitterness of their uterine existences

which have been lacerated by their forebears.

After experiencing the endeathment, the falling-in-death, of corporeal transformations effected time and again

on the selfsame human form

              we strive to persuade the wind to carry us off in the oncoming storm,

              so that it will take us up in its arms and eat every last ember of our being

              because we have gorged ourselves on our own selves in these configurations

                                                and in these borderland dilemmas built of bureaucratic permits, rubber stamps, hoop after hoop to be jumped through.


Before being born humanoid, we ask for forgiveness, we ask not to be born, because we know that the boundaries and constrictions of this form of being will not stretch far enough to allow the soul to express that which inhabits it              and that which it has acquired elsewhere.

Before being born with arms and legs, with hands and eyes, with a mouth and a heart,

with screaming and thirst, with a nose and a brain,

I begged the hummingbird not to do it, but it insisted on those kisses, the wings of the doves beat at the hummingbird in a bid to temper the kisses with which it lavishes its love on the garden,

it was all in vain: the migration from one body to another, from one mental boundary to another, from one planet to another, the explosion into a plethora of dust motes, the rainbow spilled out among the wings of the birds and the plants… it was all inevitable, the cycle had to be carried out, we could not inhibit the women’s flow of menstrual blood, the border-crossing birth into the arms of fathers, the fatal thresholds traversed by their mothers.

There’s only one thing that amounts to anything between the before and the after of these verses: the colors and forms that are soulless and sorrowless, that art-making women offer in intermittent exploratory pushes outward into the cosmos which expands to the drumbeats of their uteruses in our monthly flow of blood

                                          to placate the transmutations and allow the wounds to become

                                          beautiful              scars

                                                                                    canvases—scars to delineate another life.

We’ve come to this place of memory, to dance draw poemize the scars

              knowing herself to be memory’s seamstress

the poet sets forth the beauty of her scars

knowing herself seamstress of the recordis, the poet dances and intones verses

puts on display the brutality of the earth’s scars

her teeth fall out, her hair falls out, her lungs swell with every gulp of air

before the reset and wholesale reformatting of a life.

              Each poet pitching in, we make of our scars a canvas that exposes suffering to view

ever since the dance they punch through our bones, our muscles, our articular discs

because we’ve stopped articulating our feelings, our lives as the whole

that we’ll re-become on being born time and again and again and again and again

any time it proves necessary to dance draw poemize sing cry celebrate

we’ll be born once again in order to die

we’ll die once again in order to be born              in paintings, in poetry, in music, in the voices of bodies that mix races and water

and we’ll guzzle down even sweat’s austerity.

Claudia Vaca is a philologist, poet, and educator born 1984 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. She’s the daughter of Rosely Vaca and married to Veranika Lis (meditation and martial arts instructor). Claudia has published five poetry collections, a novel, and many short nonfiction works. A short story collection co-authored with Marcelo Careaga Butter is forthcoming with Ril Editores, Chile. You can hear Claudia read her poetry on her SoundCloud and YouTube channels and find more information on her official author page.