Rodolfo Avelar

Creation Myth

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Ghost | Girl | Cypher

i think i’m mourning
in my dream, my dad is dead
my dad his hija

trans girl & her wrath
in the dream land, needles
puncture toward ghost

something out of time
how can i be okay tonight?
bones weave & i awl

a vine of uvas
& i don’t know why i feel
love-but i do love

the valley woman
solders into wrist a pair
trans girl & her dad

flo werg hostca sket
woozy woozy breasts appear
something out of time

shapeshifting casket
glamor a home to sleep in
my skin clean of him

de-gloss all the wrath
like i owe him anything
this fantasy land

i wanna be / am
a single point in spacetime
flower ghost casket

& divine femme juices
or at least the dream of them
shapeshifting mutant

puncture a question
build a papier-mâché hut
de-gloss lips to eat

so i’m left with zinnias
i can be a woman i
an ancient valley


Rodolfo Avelar is a poet and visual artist from Fresno, CA. Their poetry projects queer people of color into science fiction, the future, outer space, and queer liberation. They hold a Bachelor of Arts from Fresno State, where they studied English Literature and Creative Writing. Currently, they are an MFA candidate in Poetry at UC Riverside. As a Milkweek summer intern in 2019, they designed and edited book length poetry manuscripts. Their poetry can be found online at the Acentos Review and COUNTERCLOCK, and forthcoming in Até Mais: Until More, an Anthology of Latinx Futurisms, and Pleiades. They hope to publish, edit, & teach poetry, perfect their desk set-up, and play some video games along the way.

Dylan McNulty-Holmes

Masc for Femme

It’s a lot, this wanting 
to keep sweetnesses, exist outside 
of conservative status quo bedrock—
to be loved, respected and desired—
Devil Moon, I have no idea
about feel-good, or making-the-most, or bra-sizes—

But these sparks rise out of the ground—
climaxes, anti-climaxes, the glory of
delicate silver chains, loud brassy fake jewels,
deviant afterlives, mysterious treasures,
slugs with bold black etchings against pavements—
a glossary of resistances.        there’s something
lost, singing—

The Devil Moon
presses her fingers deep into my dimples, 
making me forget sweaters, curse love terms
embedded into me like chunks of terracotta— 
works me over, leaves me dressed
in flowers, sprayed across my chest.


Ordinary Talk

Writing as investigation: how disabled bodies mark us out, 
but invite us into dreams of different futures.

Dreaming that feels like foraging, 
like an occupation.

This year has been tiresome, overlaid with struggle,
pain singing right through it.

If yelling is an inquiry into the resentments of others,
afterwards: how long must we rest?

Is it death to accept exasperation, 
to run on a streak of take take take?

Working on poems, which neighbour the
all is well. alles ist gut.

Writing as learning how to open, to love so fiercely, to understand the 
all is well. alles ist gut:

              (1) to pay in carelessness; to capsize;
              (2) to push prams, use fancy moisturisers; to be spritzed with pleasure;
              (3) actions modifying clamouring egos; to sleep in a bed assured of one’s     work;
              (4) to be competent in the challenges of this time; to struggle;
              (5) open up, open to me; tell yourself you can, then recognise me; let us spin together in the cool water;

fear fogs my thoughts
but I shan’t forget the drop of anguish,
the blood, the mask thrown down,
the angers I try to somehow unfeel
in the back of my throat.


Dylan McNulty-Holmes (he/they) is a writer based in Berlin. His writing has been hung in a corner store as part an art exhibition, live-scored by a disco band, made into a T-shirt, and performed in book shops, sex toy shops, galleries, and burger bars. It work has also been featured in publications including Visual Verse, Femsplain, and DADDY Magazine. These poems are from a chapbook-length collection, for which he is currently seeking a publisher.

Jose Hernandez Diaz

El Tío in a Mars Volta Shirt

A tío in a Mars Volta shirt played tetherball at the park with his niece. He was proud of being an uncle. His niece was dark-skinned Mexican, like him and their abuelita, too. The tío in a Mars Volta shirt played tetherball with his niece and then they went to In-n-Out for burgers. When they finished eating, they went to an old record store. The tío in a Mars Volta shirt showed his niece a guitar. She liked it. They bought one.

Within a couple of weeks, his niece was enrolled in guitar lessons. Her favorite band was Pink Floyd, like her tío. It was kind of boring to her, honestly, but she liked that they shared that. The tío in a Mars Volta shirt showed his niece how to play a ranchera on the guitar. They laughed and played until sunset.


The Fairgrounds in the Rain

A man in a Chicano Batman shirt and sunglasses went to the fair in Southeast Los Angeles. It was late summer. He rode the bumper cars. He rode the Ferris wheel. The man in a Chicano Batman shirt bought a hot dog on a stick and a glass of lemonade. He tried to make a large ball into a small hoop but was instead swindled for $5. He laughed it off.

Then it began to rain. Most folks went home. The man in a Chicano Batman shirt decided to wait it out. He sat beneath some palm trees and pulled out a sketchbook. He drew the fairgrounds in the rain. It brought him peace and pleasure to draw. It didn’t stop raining, though, so he eventually went home. The next morning, he painted the drawing from the fair onto a canvas. He used rather dark tones for the clouds and the rainfall juxtaposed with bright colors for the rides and concession stands. He titled the piece, “The Fairgrounds in the Rain.”


An Ode to the California Burrito

A man in a Chicano Batman shirt surfed in the ocean. It was late summer. He grew up driving the hour and twenty minutes distance from Southeast Los Angeles to the coast. Instead of wearing a traditional wet suit, today, he wore a Chicano Batman shirt, because it was a hot summer day, and the water wasn’t too cold. He caught some decent waves and then laid out on the sand to read a book of poetry by the Uruguayan writer, Marosa di Giorgio.

After he finished reading, he went to a taqueria across the street. He had a California burrito. The California burrito consists of carne asada, fries, pico de gallo, cheese, and guacamole. He had an horchata alongside the burrito. It’s the man in a Chicano Batman shirt’s go-to meal when he’s looking for comfort food. When he finished the burrito, he drove home. The sun began to set. When he got home, he showered and then wrote a song about his day. He called it: “An Ode to the California Burrito.”


Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Bennington Review, Conduit, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review, Huizache, Iowa Review, The Journal, Los Angeles Review, The Missouri Review, Northwest Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Southeast Review, The Southern Review, Witness Magazine, The Yale Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011. He lives in Southeast Los Angeles and teaches creative writing online.

Yucai Chan

The Accident

welcome to my home

the night i left

Yucai Chan is a Fujianese-American illustrator-writer who lives in New York City. She fell in love with doodling from a young age, and hasn’t been able to quit since. Today, she revels in the act of autobiography through comics, poetry and painting.





Zach Powers

What We Gave the Galaxy

It was Halloween when the aliens came, so we mistook them for kids in great costumes. There were the big-eyed grays of Roswell. Ones with tentacles instead of arms. Some were basically just translucent blobs, a mess of organs in see-through sacks. The insectoid and the spider-like. Hairy aliens that could inspire werewolf stories and feline aliens that had the comical tic of pawing their own faces.

It really was the best Halloween ever.

Joni first noticed something amiss when a group of aliens dropped into her bookshop on November 2nd. They browsed politely, but a particularly sticky alien left slime-prints on all the books it touched. Another, with a tiny blue baby face centered on a massive head, hovered a book open in front of itself using only the powers of its mind.

These were clearly not costumes. These were clearly not kids.

The aliens picked up English pretty quickly. They spoke human languages in a way that sounded more like math, as if every sentence was an equation in need of balancing. For example, the first words they spoke to Joni:

“We wish to read your books,” they said, “and your books wish to be read by us.”

Anyway, this situation went on for a few weeks. All these aliens in town, wandering the streets, still expecting to receive candy whenever they knocked on doors.

We had such a hard time explaining holidays.

They, in turn, could never make us grasp how they saw all days as one. Or how they marked time from a perspective outside it. Our minds were too limited, too grounded in the now.

The aliens loved scones. We had to get to the coffee shops as soon as they opened if we ever wanted a scone for ourselves.

Scones aside, the aliens never adjusted to human meals. They were snackers. They adored appetizers. Tandy, who waited tables at Outback, explained how groups of aliens would order one sirloin and cut it into bites to share. They attended art show openings but ignored the art in favor of catered canapés.

There were probably ten thousand aliens in all, and even in this tourist town, where we’re used to comers and goers, their presence was hard not to notice. The aliens traveled in mismatched packs from site to site, but rarely the sites other tourists visited. Not the fountain in the park. Not the railroad museum where you can climb inside old cars. Not the statue of the Revolutionary War soldier, lofting a battle flag in one hand, staunching his mortal wound with the other. Not the restaurant run by the TV chef with a history of racism.

The aliens were generous with their time. They answered as many of our questions as we asked. Even insensitive or annoying ones. Of course, we mostly asked about alien sex. Spores were a shockingly popular option.

We learned that galactic civilization was thriving and advanced, a million sentient species coexisting among the stars. Few planets besides Earth knew anything but peace.

We tried to share our grandest accomplishments. We made sure they read the books by our greatest thinkers: Crichton and Clancy and Franzen. We coerced them to the art museum for an exhibition of impressionist landscapes. We showed them documentaries featuring Saturn Vs and baseball and nuclear explosions.

This is where dealing with the aliens became a bummer.

Nothing we’d produced, nothing we’d done, nothing we deemed original, none of it impressed them in the least. In a sprawling galaxy filled with very smart aliens, literally everything we’d ever thought of had been thought of before.

Even scones, which the aliens so relished, they only relished because they recalled a similar food from another world.

Thanksgiving that year turned disastrous. We’d invited the aliens to share our meals. We set up folding tables and rolled extra desk chairs up to place settings. The shorter aliens sat with the kids. It was homey and warm, at least until we presented the food.

The aliens balked at our spreads. Those with cilia set them aquiver. Those with color-changing skin chameleoned to a threatening hue. Some secreted foul-smelling pheromones. Others made shrill calls of warning. We learned ten thousand new ways to express displeasure. 

After all, no beings who prefer their sustenance bite-sized could possibly be prepared for such human gluttony. Our sheer excess. They were polite about it but excused themselves from our tables before a single platter was passed.

We ate our meals with vacant seats for company.

The next day was awkward. The aliens couldn’t bring themselves to speak to us. Their eyes, those of them who had eyes, wouldn’t meet ours. And for us, how could we possibly relate? How could we ever know—really, truly know—someone who’d never tasted cranberry sauce from a can?

As we browsed the bookshop’s Black Friday sale, Joni worried the aliens would leave, and we’d be alone forever in the universe. Now, when we imagined Earth floating through space, we imagined it smaller than before. A bluish BB, and then a dot, and then a speck, and then an invisible point in proximity to the pinprick of our sun.

The aliens bought all the city’s scones to go. They carried tote bags full of tchotchkes and novelty t-shirts to their awaiting spaceships. They posed for holographic selfies, though always in the strangest of places. It was never clear what background they were trying to capture. The dumpster in the lane? The snarl of power lines? The hungover human couple taking brunch?

The aliens lingered, like at a party when you’re ready to go but too shy to initiate a goodbye.

We didn’t know what to say to them, either.

Or we knew, but how do you ask someone to stay without sounding desperate?

We were about to be dumped by the whole galaxy.

It was Duncan who saved us from this fate, surprising everybody, uppity prick that Duncan was. Cantankerous, rich, opposed to everything in the city that wasn’t exactly as it had been when he was a kid, approximately a hundred years ago.

But Duncan was good for one thing: Christmas decorations.

Seven a.m. Saturday morning, he was out spewing orders at Marguerite, the local handyperson, as she balanced on a tall aluminum ladder, adorning Duncan’s Victorian townhouse with wreaths and garlands and, most importantly as it turned out, twinkle lights.

A few aliens gathered in the square. Then more and more of them. Soon, all the thousands of aliens packed together as one.

The decorating was complete, the twinkle lights barely bright enough to be seen against the sun. But the aliens stared and waited and waited and stared. Dusk came, and when the equation of darkness to twinkle balanced just right, the whole mass of aliens cheered in all their native tongues at once.

A sound raw and pure and lovely.

Tandy asked the aliens what was up.

“In all the galaxy, this is something we have never seen before,” they said, “and we have seen before all other things in the galaxy.”

The aliens stayed there through the night and the next day, and they might still be there if we hadn’t told them that other houses, too, had been decorated. The aliens wandered our streets, oblivious to the cold, touring our decorations, preferring the tackiest, munching scones, and we like to think they finally understood the concept of a holiday, a single day distinct from all the rest.

At the post-Christmas sales, the aliens claimed every discounted strand of lights. Through their spaceships’ windows we could see the strands crisscrossing everywhere. At night, the ships twinkled from within, and somebody who didn’t know better would assume a different technology. The source of their hyperspace speeds, perhaps. But us, we knew the truth.

The New Year arrived, and soon the aliens left us. But it wasn’t like we’d worried it would be. This was a see-you-later. A temporary parting of friends. They even took a human representative with them.

So, this is the story of how humanity joined galactic civilization.

The aliens invited along the one who introduced them to twinkly lights. No, not Duncan, thank the heavens, but Marguerite. Our envoy. The face of the whole human race.

What was she thinking as she boarded the spaceship? What did her Mona Lisa smile imply?

We’re still waiting for her return. We spend our conversations guessing what she’ll tell us she’s seen. We’ll have imagined the whole cosmos before she ever makes it home.

Until then, we gather outside on clear nights and wonder aloud how of all the species among the Milky Way, only us—small, backward, hate-filled, war-torn, spiteful us—thought to recreate the stars.

At Duncan’s house, the lights are still up. The wreaths and garlands wilt. Marguerite left before Duncan could hire her to take them down. And he’s too old and too frail and too human to do the deed himself.


Zach Powers is the author of the novel First Cosmic Velocity (Putnam, 2019) and the story collection Gravity Changes (BOA Editions, 2017). His writing has been featured by American Short Fiction, Lit Hub, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. He serves as Artistic Director for The Writer’s Center and Poet Lore, America’s oldest poetry magazine. From Savannah, Georgia, he lives in Arlington, Virginia. Get to know him at




Johnny Damm

from “I’m a Cop”


Johnny Damm is the author of Failure Biographies (The Operating System), named by the Publishers Weekly Critics Poll as one of the best graphic novels of 2021, and The Science of Things Familiar (The Operating System, 2017). His comics, prose, and visual poetry have appeared in Guernica, Poetry, The Offing, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He lives in Santa Cruz, CA and teaches at San José State University. The complete “I’m a Cop” can be purchased as a limited edition comic book at




Maurice Rodriguez translates Vito Apüshana

To Live, To Die

We grow, like trees, inside
the footprints of our ancestors.

We live, like spiders, in the web
of the maternal corner.

We always love on the banks of thirst.

We dream there, between Kashii 1 and Ka’i2,
on the land of the spirits.

We die as if we were still alive.


Crecemos, como árboles, en el interior
de la huella de nuestros antepasados.

Vivimos, como arañas, en el tejido
del rincón materno.

Amamos siempre a orillas de la sed.

Soñamos allá, entre Kashii y Ka’i (el Luna y el Sol),
en los predios de los espíritus.

Morimos como si siguiéramos vivos.

Kataa ou-outa

Mioushii wayaa ma’akaa saain wunuu, sulu’upuna
Nouchikii na wapuulerua janakanat.
Kepiashii, wayaa ma’akaa saain aleket sakaa.
Einuushii sutuma wei.

Emejirashii wayaa sotpa wuñaasü.

Chashii wayaa a’lapuujain nakaa kashii numaa ka’i
suma’inru seyu wayuu.

Outushii wayaa ma’akaa katuule wouu.

1 The moon, a higher spiritual being of masculine gender, belonging to Wayuu mythology. Their rays originate female menstruation.
2 The sun, a higher spiritual being, belonging to Wayuu mythology.


The anthropologist with corn hair
has asked me to show her
a form of pülowi3.

By internal force I took her
towards the nocturnal Palaa4.

I don’t know if she understood
that pülowi was
in our hidden fear of seeing her.

Persona no wayuu

La antropóloga, de cabellos de maíz,
me ha pedido que le muestre
una forma de pülowi.

Por fuerza interna la llevé
hacia el mar (palaa)… nocturno.

No sé si comprendió
que pülowi estaba
en nuestro oculto temor de verla.


Tü antüropooloka, makalü ju’wala maiki,
juchuntüitpa tamüin te’iyatüin jümüin
wanee jukuwa’ipa pulowui.

Jüka tale’erujutu tatchin tamaasü
wanaa jümaa palaakaa… pi’uushe’e.

Nnojolü tatüjaain aa’u jiaawatüi jaa’u
eejetüin pulowui
jünain tü matüjaajukoo aa’u momoluin waya jeema

3 An entity that represents hidden feminine power. It takes shape as a woman with great physical beauty, nocturnal habits, and devours male travelers and recluses. Pülowi sites are mysterious and forbidden places (e.g., caves, lagoons, hills, etc.).
4 The sea, Mma’s (Mother Earth) twin sister.

Old Newcomers

On the way to Palaausain, close to Porshiina,
the rabbits dance a secret dance,
with the Kasiiwano’u5
and the shepherd children cup their hands
to invent whistles: ¡waawai! ¡waawai!

and the countryside is revealed in one hundred paths:
the one of the stone and the dust,
the one of the water and the shade,
the one of the dream and the laughter,
the one of the trap and the terror,
the one of the woman and the party.

On the way to Palaausain, close to Ouutsümana6,
the Wanülüü7 drink chicha
in the abandoned ranchos…
and the silence carries the hidden dialogue of the dead.

So we see that our ancient world
is, still, a smiling apprentice of life.

We are like eternal newcomers—

Antiguos recién llegados

Por el camino a Palausain, cerca de Porshiina,
los conejos bailan una danza secreta,
con las culebras Kasiiwanou
y los niños pastores ahuecan sus manos
para inventar los silbidos…: ¡waawai! ¡waawai!

y el monte se descubre en cien senderos:

el de la piedra y el polvo
el del agua y la sombra,
el del sueño y la risa,
el de la trampa y el temor,
el de la mujer y la fiesta.

Por el camino a Palaausain, cerca de Ouutsümana,
los espantos beben chicha
en los ranchos abandonados…
y el silencio trae el diálogo oculto de los muertos.

Así vemos que nuestro antiguo mundo
es, aún, sonriente aprendiz de la vida.

—Somos como eternos recién llegados—.

Sümaiwajee. walii e’iwaa antaa

Süpünalüü Palaausain, sü’ütpünaa Porshiina,
ayonnajüshii atpana’irua wane yonna ejejeraushi sümaa
wui’irua Kasiiwano’u…
otta tepichi’irua arüleejülii anoute’etshi najapü süpüla
akumajaa tüü ewiijaakalü…: ¡waawai! ¡waawai!

otta unaapüikalü kojuyatuasü ojutalain süjejerüin:

ejeechiki ipakalü sümaa tüü kalirashikalu
ejeechiki wuinkalü sümaa ayoolojokalü
ejeechiki lapükalü sümaa tüü asirajaakalü
ejeechiki emeeyaakalü süma kamüsheekalü
ejeechiki jietkalü sümaa tüü mi’iraakalü.

Süpünalüü Palaausain, sü’ütpünaa Ouutsümana,
asaashii uujolü wanüülüi’irua eekai miichi’irua oulaushi…
otta yüütüikalü alüüjasü tüü maüjaüshikalü süyoolo
Musüjaa werüüin sükuai’tpa wamaiwa sünain ayatüin
kulematüin ekirajai’kai katouwa’ain.
Mushiijaa wayaa maaka sain sümaiwaje’walii e’iwakalü

5 Nonvenomous savannah snakes or hunting snakes appreciated for their cleaning skills.
6 Another toponym like Palausain and Porshiina, where a place is named after a topographical feature. Here, the prefix ouutsü refers to a healing, knowledgeable, and spiritual woman, better known as a shaman.
7 A representation of evil spirits belonging to Wayuu mythology known to carry diseases and other misfortunes.


We are shepherds.
We are the men who live in the world of the trails.
We, too, graze,
return to a pen… and we are suckled.
We are milk of the dream, meat of the party… blood
              of the goodbye.

Here, in our environment,
life shepherds us.


Somos pastores.
Somos los hombres que viven en el mundo de las sendas.
Nosotros, también, apacentamos,
también regresamos a un redil… y nos amamantan.
Y somos leche del sueño, carne de la fiesta… sangre
              del adios.

Aquí, en nuestro entorno,
la vida nos pastorea.


Arüleejülii waya
Waya wayuu kepiakama wopulu’uwai.
Ekajitshii wayakanaya’asa,
ale’ejüshii waya sulu’umüin wane paüya’asa… Je
            achujeennüüshii waya.
Je süchira waya tü lapükaa, süsala tü mi’irakaa… Süsha
            tü apütawaakaa.

Ya’yaa wa’ato’upünaa,
sürüleejüin waya tü kataakaa o’u.


One afternoon, I happened to see two curlews running.
They passed swiftly by my canopy, singing:

              Leu, leu leu, ma. Leu, leu leu, ma.

There was moon over the red resting of the sun…and
I saw them get lost on the road that goes to the jagüey8 of
Late at night a dream occurred within me…filled with
I was Jierü-witush, the azulejo-woman, knitting with all
               the colors of time
Jierü-wawaachi, the dove-woman, was calling her children:

                             “Bring life here!
                             “Bring life here!

Jierü-shotti, the owl-woman, was stalking from the fire
               of her eyes the desired man
Jierü-chünü’ü, the hummingbird-woman, was restoring the flowers
               of the forgotten dreams…

many birds and many women

Jierü-kaarai, the curlew-woman, over there, swollen with
              omens in every beat of her heart
Jierü-wulu’ui, the turpial-woman, was sharing the cool water
              of laughter
Jierü-iisho, the cardinal-woman, was bearing the environment
              on her ash-red wings.
When I woke up, I told my mother about the dream…and she smiled
              without looking at me:
“Ah, she is a wainpirai9!”
And since then, I have been discovering the hidden feathers
of the women who shelter us.


En una tarde ocurrió que vi correr a dos alcaravanes.
Pasaron veloces por mi enramada, cantando:

              Leu, leu leu, ma. Leu, leu leu, ma.

Había luna sobre el rojo descanso del sol… y
los vi perderse por el camino que va hacia el jagüey de
Entrada la noche sucedió un sueño en mí… lleno de
estaba Jierü-witush, la mujer-azulejo, tejiendo con todos
              los colores del tiempo;
Jierü-wawaachi, la mujer-tótola, llamaba a sus hijos:

                            “¡Traigan la vida aquí!
                            “¡Traigan la vida aquí!

Jierü-shotii, la mujer-lechuza, acechaba desde el fuego de
               sus ojos al hombre deseado;
Jierü-chünü’ü, la mujer-colibrí, renovaba las flores de los
               sueños olvidados…
y muchas aves y muchas mujeres;
Jierü-kaarai, la mujer-alcaraván, allá, henchida de
presagios en cada latido de su corazón;
Jierü-wulu’ui, la mujer-turpial, repartía el agua fresca
               de la risa;
Jierü-iisho, la mujer-cardenal, sostenía el etorno en sus
               alas rojicenizas.

Al despertar, le conté el sueño a mi madre… y sonrió sin
“¡Aaa, ella es una wainpirai!… una mujer-sinsonte”.
Y a partir de entonces he venido descubriendo las plumas
ocultas de las mujeres que nos abrigan.


Shiasa’a so’u wanee ka’I aliikajatü te’rüin awanaajüin
             piamasü kaarai.
Alanuwaasü awataashaanainrua tepialu’upünaa, majüin
             shii’iran yaa:

                            Leu, leu leu, ma. Leu, leu leu, ma.
Ejetü kasha tü ishokoo neemeraaya ka’ikai… Je
te’rüin amoutalaainrua sulu’upünaa tü wopu
              eemüinjatkaa sülaashi Mariirop.
Shiasa’a joolu’u sa’wai eesü joolu’u wanee ta’lapüin…
              Jieyuule’eya-wuchiirua te’raka:
eejetü Jierü-witush, einna’alataain süka süna shipishuwa’a
              tü akaliaakaa;
Jierü-wawaachi, suunekajüin na süchonyuukana:
               “¡Jantira tü wakuwa’ipakaa yaamüin yaa!”
               “¡Jantira tü wakuwa’ipakaa yaamüin yaa!”
Tü Jierü-monkulunseetkaa, süpüleeruwain, sütchinru’ujee
tü so’ukoluirua, chi wayuu
sü’wayuusheekai amüin;
Jierü-chünü’ü, a’wanajüin süsiirua tü lapü motokoluirua
je watta saalii wuchiirua o’ulakaa müsia jieyuu;
Jierü-kaarai, chayaa, mainmain kasa sütijaakaa oo’u
sülatajatüin maya’awaisüsa’a atünülaain saa’in;
Jierü-wului, eitajüin tü saamatsükaa süinya tü asiraakaa;
Jierü-iisho, ajapulu’ujakaa kasa sa’ato’upünaajatü süka tü
sütünairua ishooitajakalü je pali’itatkalüirua.
Mayaashisa’a tatijiraain taküjain tü ta’lapüinkaa sümüin
                 tü teikaa…
sukulemeraaka sünain nnojolüin shiirakaain tamüin:
“Aaa, shiakaa wanee wainpirai”…
sünainje’eree tia tatüjaa tama oo’ulu tü me’raajukoo
soi tü jieyuuirua kasheinkalü waya akajee.

8 Traditional water ponds/wells used to store and distribute rainwater primarily used during periods of prolonged drought.
9 Singing bird, or mockingbird, greatly admired by the Wayuu.


We live between scarcity and abundance,

between the disturbed dream and serene wakefulness

… we are the smiling angst that prolongs life

… we are the knotted fabric in the environment’s loom,

the complacency of being earth and breath, indivisibly.


Vivimos entre lo poco y abundancia,

entre el sueño anunciador y la serena vigilia

… somos la angustia sonriente aumentadora de vida

… somos un tejido de nudos en el telar del etorno,

la complacencia de ser tierra y respiración, indivisibles.


Kepiashi wayaa sa’aka tü paliitka sumaa tü waimakat,

sa’aka tü lapükat aapirakat tü maintakat matunkuin

… wayaakanairua muliatakana kuleemata jemioulakat
            tü aa’in.

…wayakana wanee a’anuushi tü shisho’okaliüirua sau
            anütpalaka waütpunaka

tü anaa aa’in sumaa main wayakana asanala wain,

Translator’s Note:

The selected poems from Vito Apüshana’s Antiguos recién llegados (2019), offers a glimpse into the arid dreamscape of La Guajira, Colombia, where the Wayuu have preserved the spirit of the land and their way of life for centuries, historically resisting Spanish colonization and now fighting to endure the exploitation of their peninsula for its natural resources.

While Vito’s position as a cultural ambassador and human rights activist in the region focuses on Wayuu struggles, his poetic work primarily explores cultural practices, the natural world, and a spiritual/ancestral connection to this land. In fact, all the poems selected here refer to natural flora and fauna endemic to La Guajira, sites of spiritual significance, or cultural practices and beliefs. These references also share in the preservation of Wayuu language, which Vito actively retains even in his self-translations to Spanish.

The preservation of Wayuu in his self-translations not only signifies the resistant act of keeping indigenous languages alive, but it also becomes a metaphorical echo heard in the choral voice throughout all of Vito’s work, which hardly uses the singular I. Even in “Bird-women”, the I is enveloped in a dream cradled by the women who weave together the fabric of Wayuu life. The we repeated throughout most of these poems voices both ancestor and descendent collectively. While Vito is undoubtedly the author of this work, he’s the first to admit that these words aren’t only his own but also a blend of dreams, experiences, and stories echoed through time and space by those who guide him.

I’ve been honored to be able to continue this “echoing” through translation to a wider audience unfamiliar with his poetry and Wayuu culture. An integral part of these translations is the continued preservation of Wayuu language which is present throughout each poem and enhanced by the trilingual publication. As an American translator, I recognize the immense responsibility I carry to retain these indigenous references out of respect and admiration for the author, the Wayuu people, and the language itself. As you’ll notice, there are several footnotes attached to most of the featured poems, and I’m optimistic that they help balance the tense power dynamic between preservation and accessibility. For example, in the namesake poem “Old Newcomers” Vito explores the countryside of La Guajira through several different geographical sites, native fauna, and spiritual entities to express the longevity of the Wayuu and their inseparable connection to the land. Due to an abundance of Wayuu references in this poem, particularly of the terrain, I chose to footnote only the most integral location (Ouutsümana) because of its relationship to another Wayuu reference (Wanülüü). The prefix ouutsü refers to the presence of a female shaman, and Wanülüü is the manifestation of an ill-omened spirit known to carry disease. Although Vito preserved the former and not the latter in the Spanish, I chose to preserve both in my translation because English further erases the complexity of the relationship between each word within the poem. Considering our own relationship to the text as a predominantly English-speaking audience, I’ve also retained some of the Spanish in certain contexts as well to carry over another layer of cultural significance.

Overall, the experience of translating Vito’s work has been very enlightening. Although I’ve had access to the author throughout the process and have conducted my own research on particular Wayuu terminology, knowing that there’s an added distance between my own translation and the “original” source-text made for an interesting challenge. However, due to the multivocal nature of the work—exemplifying the disintegration of singularity—I felt welcomed to view my practice through the lens of a kaleidoscope. In other words, the act of translation becomes a means of revealing the myriad refractions of who we are in relation to each other. In my recent correspondence with Vito, he’s expressed his readiness to encounter more than his “two-skinned tongue” is surrounded by, so I hope these translations respectively welcome him and his people with warmth.


Vito Apüshana is a writer, human rights activist, and former professor at the University of La Guajira from the town of Carraipía, La Guajira, Colombia. His most recent collection of poetic work Antiguos recién llegados was published by Sílaba in 2019. His earlier works, Contrabandeo sueños con alijunas cercanos (1992), En las hondonadas maternas de la piel (2010), and others can be found online and in magazines like Número (Bogotá), Casa de las Américas (Havana), Le Poésie (Paris), Americas Quarterly (New York), and La Jornada (Mexico City).

Maurice Rodriguez is a writer and translator from Connecticut with an MA in English from the University of Connecticut, and is a prospective MFA student in Creative Writing at The New School. He also teaches writing at the University of New Haven. His most recent work can be found in HASH and Puerto del Sol. For more updates on his writing and translating, follow him on Twitter @yosoymojo