Alenka Bermudez: Poem on the Popular Resistance of Guatemala


Alenka Bermudez was born in Santiago, Chile, but settled in her husband’s homeland, Guatemala, and worked in Nicaragua representing the Guatemala Cultural Workers Association.  One of her sons was killed in combat in Guatemala during the long popular resistance to the country’s military regime. She writes eloquently of the people’s endurance in the face of crushing poverty and oppression.

Read Bermudez's poem in Women on War, edited by Daniela Gioseffi (click here for more information and purchase)

Guatemala, Your Blood


...why doesn’t your poetry talk to us about dreams leaves, the huge volcanos of your native land?  Come look at the blood in the streets?

~Pablo Neruda

Where is the word that will fill in for hunger
and what name can you give to this daily wanting
how to describe the empty table and the abysmal eyes
little bellies swollen   forheads deformed
by weights   the endless burden of centuries
horizons of smoke   burned-up mattresses
no frying pan
scarcity in the stew that’s left over because of scarcity
what substantive to use
how to name a finger cut off to get the insurance
what adjective for the holocaust
in what tense do you conjugate the verb to kill
what predicate what future what pluperfect

and when they plunder the roots and change the course of rivers
and they inundate the riverbeds with poison and everything
dies everything dies
when the sap in the trees is threatened crouching hidden
and seeing that death doesn’t have gender or case
that it installs itself multiplies and scatters itself
indiscriminate unlimited specialized and computed
which quartet or triplet will it fit into
in which precious alexandrine
ineffable hendecasyllabic mysterious elegy of nothingness

I reserve the right to use the Spanish word
to tell you: death to death
and victory to life
and combat and battle and machetes to life
and courage and tenderness to life
I reserve the right of the precisely exact
Spanish word
to name death and to name the life
as long as the blood holds itself suspended
in our trees.

Translated by Sara Miles