Opuntia stenopetala / translation or prayer / luciérnaga

Opuntia stenopetala

forget the emptiness
in the scarred land

cracked from birthing
ripe tunas coloradas

remember the fragrance
the eyewidening sheen

oozing fuchsia blood
in the desert sun

seeping spilling between
sticky fingers staining hands

remember the barbs
the minuscule daggers

digging incisive and unseen
inside the coarse brown eyes

remember the seedfilled gaze
the parted lips, hunger held in

two halves two
eyes of water

wound and cure

translation or prayer

I wish there was something I could give you
a hollow place of sand lined with driftwood

and dried seaweed, where the tide recedes
and leaves behind only flecks of foam

bits of conversations, echoes of sweet words
not a place where the waves return tangled hair

turtle bones, screaming seagulls and dead fish
I wish there was something I could give you

your island, before storms and faces crashed
on your shores with new names for death

and stolen lands, whips and dark nights
histories of ancestors piled in the hulls

of ships, of burials at sea
and surviving, arriving sane

those who hid their sanity and songs
under their tongues and muttered

in the white speech
the white lord’s prayer to their god

one who taught violence and drew blood
instead of water from wells and wounds

I wish I could give you something
hold your sorrow, if I had the strength

that carries you y tu gente
from one storm to another

why do they name storms
after women’s names?

why did it have to be María
nuestra señora del refugio

our lady of refuge, of peace
of mercy, of vast compassion

I wish we could meet
we’d be two mirrors

touching with nothing between
a polished void reflecting another

midnight moonlight on a lake
rustling oak leaves the only witness

I would bring you close
pull you back

you’d be the snap of a bowstring
humming arrowhead

blast and shockwave
flickering in your eyes

I wish I could give you peace
wrap you in silk and linen

leave you resting and undead
watching the sea


I shall be then
a bevy

of glimmering words
each one and all

an infinite firing sequence
ravenous flutter of wings and eyes

fatum of light blooming on my skin

María José Giménez is a poet, translator, and editor whose work has received support from the NEA, the Studios at MASS MoCA, the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference, Canada Council for the Arts, and Banff International Literary Translators’ Centre. Among other awards, María José has been named the 2019–2021 Poet Laureate of Easthampton, MA. Learn more at www.mariajosetranslates.com.