100 Refutations: Day 38

Song of Nezahualpilli [Excerpt]

(Thus perished Huexotzinco)

I am drunk,
My heart, drunk:
the aurora lifts,
the zacuán bird sings,
over the fence of shields,
over the fence of darts.

Delight in it, you, Tlacahuepan,
you, our neighbor, shaved-head.
Drink the liquor of florid waters.
On the shore of a current of birds,

Quetzal jade and feathers,
stoned, destroyed,
my great lords,
there, in water’s grave,
on the shoal,
the Mexicas of the Magueyes region.

The eagle screams,
the jaguar moans.
Oh you, my prince Macuilmalinalli.
There, in the province of smoke,
in the land of red dirt,
rightly, the Mexicas
make war.

And I am drunk, I cuexteca
My hair, like budding flowers, now shaved
Again, and again, drinking flowering drink.
Giving away precious florid nectar,
Oh, my son,
young, strong
I grow pale.

Wherever holy waters reach,
there, they are enraged
and drunk, the Mexicas,
with the flowering liquor of the gods.
I remember now, the Chichimeca,
for this alone, I mourn.
For this, I weep. I, Nezahualpilli
I remember now,
He is only there,
Where war’s flowers blossom.
I remember him, and I weep.


“Rocío de Todos los Campos,” performed by Natalia Lafourcade.



Nezahualpilli (1464-1515) was an Aztec poet. Second in fame only to, perhaps, Nezahualcoyotl, his birth and death are shrouded in myth. It is said that when he was a child, Nezahualpilli’s nannies witnessed him taking many different animal forms in his cradle. Regarding his death, his own descendant, the historian Ixtlilxóchitl, wrote that “he gathered himself in the innermost room of the palace, where pensive, sad, and tired of the grief of life, he ended his own….” (Fernando de Alva, “Ixtlitlxótchitl,” Obras Historicas, t. II, p. 328).

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit www.linawritesessays.com.

English translation copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.