100 Refutations: Day 99

Songs of Cacamatzin

Our friends,
listen to him:
that no one should live with the presumption of royalty.
The fury, the fight,
on our one good hour upon the earth.

I, also, alone,
not long ago heard,
while playing ball,
whispered, murmured:
“Is it possible to act humanely?”
“Is it possible, discreetly?”
“I alone, know myself.”
They all said this,
but none speak truth upon the earth.

The mist spreads,
resound the conch-shell trumpets,
above me, above the whole earth.
Flowers rain down, they braid themselves, they twirl,
come to cheer us all.

Truthfully, our father labors
perhaps as in his house,
perhaps, as quetzal feathers in times of verdancy,
tinged with flowers,
here upon the earth, the Giver of Life.
Where the treasured drums resound,
where the laughter of flutes can be heard,
heaven’s holder, dear god,
necklaces of red feathers
trembling on the earth.

Mists surround the songs of the shield,
darts rain down upon the earth
and darken every petal,
thunder in the sky.
With golden shields,
in the distance begins the dance.

I alone say this,
I, Cacamatzin,
alone remembering,
lord Nezahualpilli.
Can you see them now,
he and Nezahualcoyotl,
surrounded by kettledrums?
I, alone, remember them now.

Who, truly, will not end up there?
Be he jade, be he gold,
will he not there travel?
Am I turquoise shield,
once more, like mosaic, shall I be encrusted?
Shall I walk out again upon the earth?
In fine cloth shrouded?
Still, upon the earth, surrounded by kettledrums,
I remember them.



Cacamatzin (1483-1520) was born into the most illustrious family of Tezcoco, a region known for its many wise governors and celebrated poets. He was the grandson of the famous poet-king Nezahualtcóyotl and son of the famous Lord of Tezcoco Nezahualpilli, whom Cacamatzin eventually replaced. As Lord of Tezcoco, Cacamatzin was unable to stop the invasion of gold-hungry Hernán Cortes and his conquistadors. In 1520, Cacamatzin was captured, tortured, and killed under the direction of Alvarado, whom Cortes left in charge before going on to commit further atrocities in the land of the Aztecs and beyond.

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.