Poem in The Against Nature Journal

To Take Back Our Breath

Rosa Chávez

Translated from Spanish and K’iche’ by Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez

ver poema original

I call upon the energy of our ancestors, our grandmothers,

all the women whose hands and bodies sowed this life in the present,

I take a deep breath of sacred air to fill my clay-jar heart,

a drum, my navel, and the earth beat as one,

a drum thunders like tijax’s lightning

splitting the knots in my body and memory,

the full moon is here, I heal my sorrows, I release them in a bath of salt water,

I strike my body with a bundle of seven herbs to awaken my blood flow,  

my cells speak the language of plants, I regain my strength in the heat of the tuj,

I drink herbal and floral teas to ease my restless mind,

I massage my joints, light candles made of lard, of many colors,

I burn incense and pom to blow on the fog trapped in my chest,

I call upon the keepers of the rivers, the keepers of the hills,

the keepers of the paths, in the city, in the fields,

wherever I set foot,

I speak to the sacred wind and tell it slowly

what I need to heal, and I bow before my truth,

the earth, generous, takes everything I have to offer,    

she transforms everything I sow, my worries and joys, and begins again, 

I hear a drum and dance, because dancing, too, is healing,

I dance with every woman alive, dead, and from long ago,

we move our flesh and awaken the earth with our feet,

we sing and take back our voice, we take back our truth,

we take back our language, we take back our body,

we take back our time, we take back our blood,

we take back our breath, we take back our freedom,

we take a deep breath, and the dignity of the water in our bodies keeps us


and our spirit returns, we beat our wings to life’s rhythm

I return to the earth

I go back into the world

Kintzalij b’i pa ri ulew

kinel chi lo jun mul chi uwach ulew

Tijax is the name of a personal guardian spirit represented by a obsidian stone or knife; it is also a day of deep healing in the Maya calendar. This and all other untranslated words are in K’iche’, a Maya language with a documented 1.6 million speakers in Guatemala.

Tuj is an adobe or stone structure used for medicinal, ritual steam baths.

Pom is an incense made from tree resin.

Pp. 111 in TANJ #3, Fall 2021