A professor of English in Sacramento, Heather Hutcheson is the founding editor of the Cosumnes River Journal. During the semester, she promotes a language exchange between day laborers and community college students in a parking lot, and she spends summers teaching English in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Durante noches del invierno, la luna
es un pedazo de pan para aquellos
que tienen hambre. Algunas
noches, la luna es una exclamacion,
una letra redonda corriendo de los labios
de Dios. Otras, ella es una corona arriba
de la cabeza de una quinceañera; las estrellas
son las joyas brillantes en un vestido raro
y oscuro. A veces, ella es un recuerdo
de las lastimas del mundo. En el cielo de la madrugada,
ella es una llave, una entrada angosta
a los milagros del dia.
Winter nights, the moon
is a piece of bread for those
who are hungry. Some evenings
the moon is an exclamation,
a round letter running from the lips
of God. Others, she is a crown atop
the head of a quinceañera; the stars
are bright jewels in a rare and dark
dress. Sometimes she is a reminder
of the world’s hurts. In the midnight sky,
she is a key, a narrow entrance
to the miracles of the day.
“I have ten years old,”
says Catalina, the shyest girl.
“I am a dog,” insists Carlos, the only
boy in class. “She is blue,”
Paola diagnoses—or describes;
I cannot be sure of the translation.
“We, and our friends, are from here,
from Tlacochahuaya.” They sing
the town’s name, their belonging
to it. I want to show them the world, so
I give them a dictionary’s worth of words,
and Katrina’s five English sentences
distill her young life: I like candy.
I have one pretty dress.
I live in a sunny house.
I have three bad brothers.
I have two nameless dogs.
Though they are shy during her lessons, her students tell
stories drunk in the lore of the young. Their oral reports
should consist of these details: how they nearly die
each evening, like falling stars, speeding
through the wide night into their parents’ homes,
the taste of drink or forbidden lovers still in their mouths.
They think she listens only to find their errors.
Their student, she takes notes to capture their spontaneous
lectures, thirsts for this kind of wisdom. They cannot tell her
about research, about how they learned what they know.
They can only begin to teach her how to live.
A boy throw, throw, throws a ball
into twilight and to the blonde dog. Her name
is Pata, and she is his sun. A foolish girl
stands in the gloaming, watching and waiting
for them to notice her; she twists
her hair, is near tapping a foot. She could be there
until they, and the light, are all exhausted.
Her patience is admirable, her attention,
though, will go unrequited. I want to help her,
offer examples of others I’ve seen in this light,
many as pretty, some more assertive, all invisible
to this boy under the seduction of Pata.
Bailando un Poco
Los muertos todavía nos aman
y regresan algunos domingos
como un viento suave a través de
una tarde calurosa y solitaria.
Es domingo, y mi padre está
conmigo debajo del laurel, escuchando
a la música, bailando un poco.
Las hojas, bailando un poco.
Dancing a Little
The dead still love us,
and they return some Sundays
like a soft wind across
a warm and lonely afternoon.
It is Sunday, and my father is
with me under the laurel, listening
to the music, dancing a little.
The leaves, dancing a little.
Wednesday morning offers a mild warning
in the puzzling form of two dozen dead
beetles and indigestion from the sweetest
orange juice you’ve tasted. You smile for the mixed
fortune. There is sun at last, a clear sky.
Perhaps the day will turn out to be too warm,
too irresistible for you to resist a breezy siesta
on a patio filled with cool shadows and song.