Two Wayuu Poems

translated by Wendy Call
Two indigenous people, dressed in ceremonial makeup and dress, stand facing one another, palms touching
Miktlanziwatl (Lady of Death) © Cara Romero. All Rights Reserved.

Abyayala Full of Questions

América, I don’t invoke your name.
When I bare my heart to the sword,
When I endure the bleeding in my soul.

– Pablo Neruda

I came without permission,
The roadway of words
Slips away in the avalanche of time
And silence.
I arrive with my voice broken
And my ancient black feet
Shackled by memories,
My eyes shed the hatchet
And the ocean’s ashes
In this Abyayala full of questions
Crossing the lilac smoke 
That encircles its uncertain body.


On Silence’s Rope

You are the saliva of a word
Bathed in moonlight.

– Héctor Rojas Herazo

No use getting drunk on what’s lost,
The same syllable
Shakes with sobs,
Shrouded in silence,

My mouth is a wall
Cracked by death,
Trying to calm
The guardian of life’s
heartless thunder,
That ghost whose name we speak
In a low voice;
In the raucous future
Inside my skull where 
The stones of eternity churn.

Translations from the Spanish


Author’s note: Abyayala is the original name given by indigenous people to the lands now called América.

Lindantonella Solano Mendoza (b. 1975) is a Wayuu poet, psychologist, educator, and human rights leader in Guajira, Colombia. Author of the poetry collection Kashi de 7 eneros desde el vientre de Süchiimma (2009), she has founded several organizations to support arts, civic action, mental health, and human rights, and has won numerous awards for her literary and activist work.

Wendy Call is author of the award-winning nonfiction book No Word for Welcome, co-editor of the anthologies Telling True Stories and Best Literary Translations, and translator of three books of poetry by Indigenous Mexican women. She lives in Seattle, on Duwamish land, and in Oaxaca, Mexico, on Mixtec and Zapotec land.