Jaime Luis Huenún
Last night the trees loved each other like Indians: podocarp and ulmo, Patagonian oak
and hualle, tineo and litchi, knot to knot, loved each other
so lovingly, Chilean acorn trees
browned each other’s bark, so many coigües
kissed each other’s roots and beards and new sprouts,
until love awoke
in the birds that had been lulled to sleep
by the feathers of their
own trilling loves.
Correspondingly, the huinca shoots
lovingly buried each other, and the chola
waters opened their luminous watershed, naming
each other sip by sip, all alone and telling each other: good waters, lovely
waters, oh but we have been violated, Rahue waters,
weeping swallow, flowery, midwifing and still happy,
streams hopping like hares
over the mountains and hills.
And eared doves were soon united
by the same love,
the Inallaos’ green
springs, the Huaiquipáns’ fierce
honeys, the Llanquilefs’ swift
eyes, the breasts of the Relequeos’
thrush, the brown hairs of the Huilitraros’
soapbark tree, the Paillamanques’
new raulí beeches.
Huilliche love, last night they loved more
in the middle of the chola grove, under the
perpetual pomegranate Indian sky,
they loved each other, piled up
like water fillies and like lit anchimallén fireballs, in the fragrant
dawn they loved each other,
sweetening the seed just
like clay pots filled with muday.
Translated by Cynthia Steele
Huilliche: the southern portion of the Mapuche Indigenous people of Chile
Rahue: a river in the Los Lagos region of Chile; in its middle course, it flows through the city of Osorno
huinca: name given by the Huilliches to any outsider to their people, especially an enemy
Inallao, Huaiquipán, Llanquilef and Huilitraro: Mapuche last names and lineages
Paillamanque: Lonko Anselmo Paillamanque (d. 2012) was a Huilliche leader who played a key role in creating a network of indigenous parks and in recuperating Mapuche territory, culture and identity
chola: a somewhat derogatory term for mixed-blood castes in the Spanish Empire
anchimallén: mythical Huilliche creatures that take the form of small children and that can transform themselves into flying fireballs, emitting bright light
muday: a fermented drink made of macerated wheat
Jaime Huenún Villa, born in Valdivia, Chile in 1967, is an award-winning Mapuche-Huilliche poet whose books include Ceremonias (1999), Puerto Trakl (2008), Reducciones (2012), Fanon City Meu (2018), and La calle Maldestam y otros territorios apócrifos (2016). He has received the Pablo Neruda Prize (2003), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005), and the Prize from the Chilean National Council on Arts and Culture for best book of poetry published in 2013. He has also edited anthologies of Mapuche poetry, including Epu mari ülkatufe ta fachantü: 20 poetas mapuche contemporáneos (Lom, 2003). Two of his books are available in English translation: Port Trakl (Diálogos, 2008) and Fanon City Meu (Action Books, 2018). Huenún teaches Indigenous poetry at the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago and works for the Ministry of Cultures, Arts and Patrimony, directing the department of Native Peoples of the Metropolitan Region.
Cynthia Steele is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her translations include Inés Arredondo, Underground Rivers (Nebraska, 1996) and José Emilio Pacheco, City of Memory (City Lights, 2001, with David Lauer). Her translations of other poems by Huenún have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Washington Square Review, Plumwood Mountain, and Plume Poetry. Her translations of other Latin American authors have appeared in The Chicago Review, TriQuarterly, The Seattle Review, Gulf Coast, Lunch Ticket, Journal of Literary Translation, Natural Bridge, Ezra, Southern Review, Exchanges, and Latin American Literary Review.