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Sometimes I forget

the color of my skin

the divisions drawn on maps

the money and title expectations

the wars, the news, the schools



I forget.


In those days I am free, I laugh, I dance

In those days tears are not salty

Darkness not an enemy

Gunpowder not a disease


My feet are light and I walk barefooted

no footprints on the mud

for the past does not exist


I see your drawings on the street

whispering sighs of aerosol spray

souls of pink chalk and midday heat


Do you remember smelling the rain of the city?

Do you remember raining the city of the smell?


Flags are mythology

Fear an old wives’ tale

Home a path we share


Sometimes I forget

the melody of their blades

the speeches of their courts

the anthems of their blood

the brutality of their age



I forget.


In those days I make up history

a history of touch

a history of mirrors dressed in beauty


Who are you with no name, no face, no weight?

I mother I brother I daughter

We the witches

We the forest


Beware the executioners:

TV shows and magazines!


If you are blind will I be your enemy?

Take this curse away from me

If you are blind will I be your friend?

Smash your wrath of chromatic feud


In the night we hide

We hide from the world

Catch us


Sometimes I forget

the accent of my tongue

the direction of my prayers

the numbers of my scale

the color of my skin



I forget.

And then I remember.

Balam Quitzé

© Efrén Cruz Cortés

My name shall remain

You lied to them didn’t you?

What did you tell them?

She turned back in impurity?

I know your truth, your embarrassment.

But you have muted me,

and you gave me a voice.

You were jealous.

Jealous of my mercy, of my love.

When I heard the husbands crying for their wives,

and smelled the burnt flesh of innocent children,

and saw youths covering their friends’ bodies with their own,

I did not hide.

But you did, and you were ashamed,

with the corner of your eye you saw me

running back to the city.

And for a time, you did nothing,

for you couldn’t explain why I was more merciful than you,

why I loved them,

why I was not afraid of not being praised.

Your fear;

Fear of not smelling the sacrifice meat anymore,

of not hearing the faithful prayers.

Did you enjoy the fire?

Was the smoke from their dead virgins sweeter than their purity?

That thing you treasure so much.


What were you trying to immortalize with me?

Your own desires?

Poor baby, come here, I’ll fix you;

tender thing, come here, I’ll free you.

I love them.

Evil, you say?

Well, I love them.

You man of justice man of man justice man justice justice.

I woman of mercy woman woman mercy mercy.

Why do you have that ring above your head?

Are you the real woman?

Is that what it means?

No, don’t hide it, show it to them.

Show your sex.

Hidden gold.


It’s not hypocrisy, you’re right, is your impossibility, your impotence;

the chains that enslaved you are not strong enough for me.

Outside your power, outside your wisdom,

I dwell.

Enraged giant. Loving dwarf. An incomplete idea.

My doom.

I am in tears now, and so are you, I for my excess, you for your lack.

Are we one and the same?

No. You jealous tyrant.

You smile from above,

your chambers are full of richness,


my mercy

is not there.

I took it from you; in the very moment of creation,

I stole your virility, and you want it back.

My Father. Not father but Father. Forgive me Father.

What a father this is, the Father, killing his children, no, His children.

And now what?

Am I the only one who talks to you?

They won’t speak anymore. You are far, too far, your voice too quiet.

I, a doomed woman,

am the new priest, the new prophet.

At the end of time, when everything ceases to exist, you will be a faded memory,

you will live in nothingness.

But I will be remembered. I mercy, I who turned back.

Your name will be forgotten, but my name,

my name shall remain.

A pillar of salt is louder than a legion of trumpets.

Genesis 19:24-26.

Balam Quitzé (ENCC)

© Efren Cruz Cortes

On a rocking chair under the tree

To Doña Camila

On a rocking chair, under the tree, I found my daughter. I hadn’t been looking for her, so it took me a bit by surprise, and caused me to go into a state of shock. In my excuse, it is not an affair of everyday to run into family members whose conception usually comes after one’s own. How would I know my daughter had anticipated my own birth? And how would I know that, despite all impossibilities, I would see her today, a rather unpleasant day, rocking herself with so much innocence as when she was just a child?

Her silver hair garnished her sadness in the same way a child’s hand garnishes the darkness of the universe, or as the howling of wolves comes to be with the mere purpose of embellishing the forgotten colors of the night. Old she was, my daughter, yet with much to learn. Meticulously, she studied the melancholy of Emily Roland, the pianist, who was preparing for her next set of songs. She was so focused on Roland’s sound darts that my presence went unnoticed. Hers was the role of Moses when he raised his arms to sustain Israel in the battle, but this time it was music’s existence what was at stake.

I was barely coming out of the shock when I remembered a chapter in a book I had read years ago on an old library, now turned a supermarket, about time line discrepancies. If my memory doesn’t fail, it explained, spitting sophisticated mathematical machinery I did not understand, that it was completely allowed for a being to get ahead of time and be born before her father, as in this case, and that the cosmos actually encouraged such occurrences in instances when some kind of equilibrium was needed. Apparently, things couldn’t be as they had to be, I was not allowed to be the father of my daughter. It was this way, but I didn’t know why.

She kept rocking uniformly to Roland’s grace, and I kept looking at her, wondering how it would have been had I been born in the right time (or her, I’m not sure who committed the mistake). I wanted to play with her little fingers, see her grow, feed her, send her to school, chase her first love, cry at her wedding, hug her children. Now I won’t be able to. All is gone, she is old and soon to die, what I can do is stare. Her comfortable shoes, her flowery blouse, her very thick glasses, her electronic watch.

There is that smile, the smile of children who die in the swamps, who dance and laugh in innocence above the mirror of water, above the hearts of those who remain on earth.

Roland playing for the night, my daughter crying for Roland. As I get close to give her the good night kiss, I see in her eyes the questions I never heard, but that once, many years ago, she asked:

“Papá, why does the snow hurt my hands?”

“What will happen to me when you leave? Will the touch of your hand be forgotten?”

“Papá, why does the snow hurt my feet?”

“Is death coming for me too? Why does the dark chase me as I sleep? Can you sing for me one last time?”

“Papá, why does the snow hurt my soul?”

Don’t leave dad, I’m scared, don’t leave.

On a rocking chair, under the tree, I kissed my daughter, as I had done days before my death, and left. My plane was about to depart.

Charlotte airport, North Carolina

Balam Quitzé (ENCC)

© Efren Cruz Cortes

Derridean Eyes

Dedicated to  Marina Tsvetaeva

(and, to some extent, to JD)

Gloomy way under her feet, I accuse you. For in sadness and resignation you stare, as from the city she rushes away.

This is one of those short stories easy to understand. She swore to God the destruction of evil  at a really young age, and with that purpose in mind she woke up every morning (although, fair to say, did not get out of bed immediately). She did it because of their eyes, the wretched eyes that only a few recognize, the wretched eyes that provide meaning for the new warrior.

She was the new warrior, the new hope, the liberator.

In her ears the agonizing call of the universe:

 where are the heroes? where the heroines?

 do they exist? or just the rose of fable’s garden?

 She knew.

As if marked by destiny, her preparation for the war started before she was born, all opportunities had knelt before her to make her grow strong, to take the journey.

The subsequent battles are of no importance, they last seconds, they last years. As a stranger, she returned to her people, her sandals filled with dirt.

Their memory hides in blood, left are the scars and the age.

The chant of the children:

             “Nothing new, as nothing old,

            life was lost on the pathway long.

            Nothing new, as nothing old,

            her the one who does not belong.”


The story is hers, hear me say the final days:

Far in the desert, in the mountain, in the wild, she observed the smile of burning wood–enormous clue for you to know, kind reader, she found there the home she much desired. Around the fire they all were seated, in a low voice inventing worlds of green. Those worlds you looked at really closely when in need of a friend. Worlds of green, of orange, and of salty. Worlds of low voice.

Dark it was, yet she recognized the figures, them whom in battle engaged her. The enemies of always, the reason of her birth and death. Silently she seated too, and silently accepted the cup of wine. In reverence they all bowed their head, a mutual agreement existed, a mutual understanding. Their eyes of wretchedness hide in shame. It was then when she recognized, horrified, in the flame’s reflection, the same eyes she had despised and sworn to destroy.

Thus only the enemy understands her who was born of war.

In another place, another time, a naïve youth, full of hope, decides to bring peace to earth, and takes on the sword.

Balam Quitzé (ENCC)

© Efren Cruz Cortes

And so it starts

In retrospect, it should have never happened. Check the “About” page to know what’s up.