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MYTHS Alexandra Gulden

Mas la América nuestra, que tenía poetas desde los viejos tiempos de Netzahualcoyotl, que ha guardado las huellas de los pies del gran Baco, que el alfabeto pánico en un tiempo aprendió; que consultó los astros, que conoció la Atlántida, cuyo nombre nos llega resonando en Platón, que desde los remotos momentos de su vida vive de luz, de fuego, de perfume, de amor, la América del gran Moctezuma, del Inca, la América fragante de Cristóbal Colón, la América católica, la América española, la América en que dijo el noble Guatemoc: «Yo no estoy en un lecho de rosas»; esa América que tiembla de huracanes y que vive de Amor, hombres de ojos sajones y alma bárbara, vive. Y sueña. Y ama, y vibra; y es la hija del Sol. Tened cuidado. ¡Vive la América española! —“A Roosevelt,” Ruben Dario

But our America, who had poets from the old days of Netzahualcoyotl, who has walked in the footprints of great Bacchus, who learned Pan’s alphabet at once; who consulted the stars, who encountered Atlantis, whose name comes to us resounding in Plato who since the distant moments of your life lives of light, of fire, of perfume, of love, the America from great Montezuma, from the Inca, the America smelling of Christopher Columbus, Catholic American, Spanish American, The America where noble Cuahtemoc said: “I’m not a bed of roses” that America trembles in hurricanes & lives in Love, in men of Saxon eyes & barbarous soul, lives. & dreams. & loves, & vibrates; & is the Sun’s daughter. Be careful. Long live Latin America! —“To Roosevelt,” Ruben Dario

For my tías

La Mocuana’s Big Breakup “The young Indian fell lost in love with the Spaniard and as proof of her love, let him know where her father kept his riches.” — Nicaraguan Legends, Josefa Maria Montenegro We were gonna grab the gold together so you said, but you left me behind— that I’ll never forget. Did you ever see behind my skin, my breasts, come to find me more than your Indian girl? Did you betray me, or did you go to your god and I to my cave, to my earth, to rue my isolation, ask, who was most flawed? I’ve slept too long remember the truth. The villagers say I pace the highway, seducing men and swapping gold for youths, legends and tall tales foaming in my wake. But no one even knows your name now, babe, how we died, or if I got away sane.

(Nicaragua’s flower)

Watch Out for El Cadejo If I was born the black cadejo, would I know my color? Or would I be the in-between: a pup of mutt and myth, sheen of Spanish silver, neither bad nor good? And my role? With my mixed litter I could only cleave myself in half to foresee a whole. Hunters will set their arrows free and where we fall, nothing can grow but rosewood. But I was born with two cadejos by my side, two languages—and taught to shun the dark one. They feared foreign spells would misguide my tongue, or set off some criminal spark. I became a regular Ceguita, fored to hide myself behind a mask, an accent mark.

Don’t Watch out for La Carreta Nagua That’s how it gets you—the oye como va of slave bone horse bone native rattle rumbling over phantom streets that don’t know the pavement. It’s the sound that turns you malo, that pulls you bravely to the door, to death. Imagine a Little House on the Prairie wagon—Death the driver, taking last breaths with the sugarcane scythe he carries. Spanish caravans roamed and took for themselves gold, all the Indians smallpox-quelled. La Carreta Nagua comes out at 1:00 AM. La Carreta Nagua is self-propelled. La Carreta Nagua can’t turn corners— it teaches us life, and all its borders.

Extraterrestrial It’s in the corners of Home Depot lots where you can find the aliens, milling about the 70s salsa music spilling from their spaceships, parked carefully in the back. What had been for centuries idle tourists became in decades idle immigrants, riding on the wave of intergalactic wars and meteor cartels, alien invasion, illegal, here to steal my tractor, your tractor, our jobs— When the aliens came they were met with questions: How big are alien boobs? How would you say my name in Alien? I didn’t know black people could come from Upsilon Andromedae. The show Aló Presidente was in instant hit to Earth as a means of answering such questions—there you can find the president of Kepler-33 b cutting the ribbon at an opening ceremony, or writing some new policy, or, maybe, even setting a prisoner of war free.

(gas station)

La Chancla It isn’t la chancla that hurts a child but the child’s mother, holding it high like a ticket. It isn’t child protection services that brings out all the dirty secrets but the internet, child aged up into adult. There, la chancla transforms from shoe to symbol, la chancla becomes a celebrity—There she is! Leather bedazzled by rhinestone, by pink plastic jewels passed from Kmart to foot, detour to soft back fear la chancla, I survived la chancla and finally to the screen, shared by millions on facebook, el pao pao el pain una messed up nursery rhyme no chavalos sing, but all are familiar with.

The Rusty Nail in My Aunt’s Backyard Little nail, how long have you been there, gathering rust and grime by the garbage heap of my uncle’s cabana, how long have you waited for a woodpecker to stop, or a channel to change, English to Spanish to laughter, gathering languages like grievances? How long did it take you to learn to stand the smell of old fruit, the sounds of sad salsa at parties and cookouts where you wallow in your misplaced solitude—

When did you know I would discover you with my foot?

Why Anacaona Didn’t Ask for a Second Date “She gave the white men welcome all...more fair-faced and tall, / Than the men of Xaraguay, / And they smiled on Anacaona, / The beauty of Espagnola, / The golden flower of Hayti !” —Alfred Tennyson So I hear you like to write poems— can you write me a love song some day? What does your name mean again? It’s a good thing you can speak Spanish. I love the way you say my name, say it three times. Ana babe, are you still hung up on your ex? You know he’s never coming back to you. He’s dead. I’m not. Are you a planet because your ass is out of this world! I know you’re only in this for the green card, but laugh for me? What else do I see in you? Well I like my girls feisty, but don’t you get tired of being angry all the time? Say what you want, but Columbus is a really nice guy. If it wasn’t for him, we never would’ve met! Gotta admit I’m hot, better than burning at the stake, and would you really want that?

My Mother’s Managua after Untitled Painting in My Living Room by Unknown Artist Was this the way you saw it— Commoners walking like worry dolls skin red roof tiles ablaze, winding past pushcart and oxcart. Their houses don’t have exits, just holes to pass through. Did you ever stop to wonder at the obscenity of that orange church? Children gather in the shade of its mango trees, hands full of wares, stomachs like caverns, in the back mountains like mangos—or are those hills fields valleys Tía saying, watch me carefully, this is how you peel it Unripe volcanoes simmer in the distance, green bowls perched on my mind’s counter. What if one were to crack? Engulfing the only image I have of this place.

La Llorona’s Theory of Reincarnation For Maria José “[La Llorona’s] lamentations appear in the middle of the nocturnal choir of animal voices and the monotonous rhythm of water in ravines and rivers. That melancholy choir...has interrupted the sleep of entire generations of villages scattered throughout the mysterious virgin spaces of the Americas.” —Milagros Palma, Mythical Trails of Nicaragua Once upon a time a • girl/woman • was named she liked water and wealth and pretty • boys/men • but her mother told her: —Hija, nunca se mezcla la —Child, you must never mix sangre de los los esclavos con the blood of slaves with la sangre de los verdugos the blood of executioners But one day when washing she fell lost in love with a Spaniard. His name was Hernando—or was it? His name was Cortez—or was it? He whispered myths to her hair and truths to the ground, he was her rich ranchero | poor marido | conquistador Maria

and she was his • hair black-blue like butterfly wings • I was Maria Some, bellísima prize

Maria, poor but happy

Maria, just a girl of 13

my husband lost interest in— Loved our children more,

my husband lost hope

my husband, just a dream—

gave children to water

flew back to his peninsula

they and that rich peninsular,

better than starvation

to his white pearl.

so I took them in my arms

I just wanted to hold one

I woke with a bump.

And I remembered my mother’s words, and found myself by the river, moonlight silvering the water and

opened • reached • threw And I heard the water scream, my scream, and


In the end I always walk the riverbank, but only find replacements— ¿Have you seen them?

My bones have settled in El Rio Chiquito, in the canyons of the Colorado, in the maudlin mud of the Mississippi. I have gone everywhere but heaven. You can try to catch me with paper, but children make and tell my story, and I am born again. I am the nightly chorus of animal cries, I am water and railroad and Latino diaspora and I am Malinalli/Malintzin/Doña Marina or La Malinche and I am the reincarnation of a slave who tried to be an empress, but could never be more than matamama, or the mother of the mestizo race, the mother of the concept of malinchismo, malinchism. In another life, I got to be a daughter—but did that change anything but the number of children, the amount of shame? No Llorona has been more or less unhappy than another. La Llorona Futura is twisting butterfly clips in her braid. La Llorona Futura is bending over a mirror, giving wings to her eyeliner. La Llorona Futura is collects Latina magazines, rubbing Vaseline on her belly. She listens to “She Turned Into La Llorona,” watches telenovelas, and thinks about her own mother, just a dream.

Arboles de La Vida After Managua sculptures after Klimt’s “The Tree of Life” On Avenida de Bolivar a Chavez stretch the yellow Ya’axchés, holler of el presidente’s wife to the first hoama, to art—here stands the city’s afterlife trees, studded with light bulbs, paint brighter than jelly beans, steel branches twisting into upside-down sixes proof que ella es bruja, in the streets people whisper, in El Palacio Nacional, La Chamuca spins the spells she calls poems, which she calls the exercise of jumping from side to side and in her favorite painting, a man embraces his lover in the square, a Hugo Chavez installation watches from the cover of his golden forest. What does the Tree of Life mean to the world? A 2011 American experimental epic drama film written & directed by Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, an international collaboration of biologists and nature enthusiasts on more than 10,000 World Wide Web pages, Taoist immortality peaches, the Yggdrasil, a global mytheme or archetype in mythologies

related to the concept of sacred tree

“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 2:9).

and the modern Arbol de Vida— Nicaragua may be sin Somoza but now Sandino stands tall only beside his silly sapling, a tree without shade, a tree without fruit, invisible steel roots leeching the pueblo’s blood.

El Guayaba to the Axe an act in translation Hey there friend Âżyou are my friend right friend? Me you will not touch, are many trees better to choose. You choose the mango tree, so tall its shade blocks from us the sun, hard is to grow. I will make fruit, fruit I will make. No sit there and stare, I have fear. ÂżYour mother never to you tell Palo que nace doblao jamas su tronco endereza? Axes have mothers? Well your translator will no tell you this but it means no change nothing about nature, and I am nature, so no touch me, friend. I will make fruit very very rich. I will make you rich with my fruit. Dig me up and sell me but no need for violence No come more close. No come more close. No come.

Life in Bananaland Sombras son la gente, sombras stretch the fields laid fallow. Shadow of United Fruit cracks across the small sombra of Árbenz, presidente laid horizontal. Stack the shadows like bananas and ship them quickly to ensure maximum freshness. Zemurray bought up banana shadows, & made himself a Horatio Alger Banana King. r “I’m Chiquita banana & I’ve come to say Bananas have to ripen in a certain way When they are fleck’d with brown and have a golden hue Bananas taste the best and are best for you! You can put them in a salad You can put them in a pie-aye Any way you want to eat them It’s impossible to beat them But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator.”


In Peru they have a name for it—el pishtaco, a white vampire who sucks the fat of Indians. He wears a black hat, carries a long knife, and hides in many forms: brave explorer, wise world leader, kindly anthropologist, and a colorful corporate logo, modelled after the drained.


Banana facts: Bananas are Walmart’s #1 Most Sold Item. Bananas float on water, like glass bricks. Bananas are naturally radioactive. The scientific name of a banana is Musa sapientum, or “fruit of the wise men.” Banana peels can wipe away your headache.


“I have the honor to report that the Bogotá representative of the United Fruit Company told me yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military exceeded 1000.” —Dispatch from U.S. Bogotá Embassy to the US Secretary of State, dated 01/16/29” r chiquita: noun. a female given name: from a Spanish word meaning “tiny.” r Notable pishtacos: Christopher Colombus, William Walker, Sam Zemurray, Teddy Roosevelt,

Donald Trump,


Everything is shattered in the night— they have salted the Earth with our sweat. Campesinos baptize their feet in the ashes & listen to the banana radio, consuming banana media. They dream of taking the banana railroad away from all this—bananas, bananas, and their local banana republic. Only two thousand succeed, arriving at the ocean bed, memorialized by Gabo’s pen. Such is life & death in Bananaland.

When La Cegua Gives You Dating Advice You take it because she is your mother. Today you won’t be throwing mustard seeds to drive her away; you know another mixed blood traitor isn’t what the world needs, more Mocuanas, Malinches, Lloronas. You’re the only one who can see behind her mask. Speak as plantain leaves coronan your teeth & mold your face with yucca, you’ll find emptiness, voice false like hers. It’s the deal she makes daily: wear black and laugh loudly and a woman can walk through walls, feel for the best words to cut you, resounding— She doesn’t share much, just lets you know the only road you’re walking on niña is back home.

Acknowledgments MuchĂ­simas gracias to all of those who have helped and supported me with project: my family, for feeding me myths and stories; my fellow Level Fours Maddie, Kindall, Taylor, Sophie, and above all Beatrice, for reading latenight poems and helping me make my prints; Lizette Toto, for all our conversations about La Llorona and allowing me to use her beautiful art; Lisa Jackson and Reuben Gelley Newman, for pouring over my draft and helping me revise; Mr. Sirman, for making all of this possible and allowing me to steal his art supplies; Mr. Richard, for all the guidance he provided over these past four years; and all those who have listened to me ramble about this project. Most importantly, shukran, Taif Adel, my biggest fan. Though you may be an ocean away, your warmth has always been the brightest spot of my day. I hope we continue to build our own legends.

Inside covers, p. 7, back cover - Enrique Peña Hernandez, Folklore de Nicaragua p. 20 - Lizette Toto, “Zacuanpotls”


A poetry chapbook of based on myths and legends from Latin America by Alexandra Gulden. Contact for a hand-bound cop...


A poetry chapbook of based on myths and legends from Latin America by Alexandra Gulden. Contact for a hand-bound cop...