Two Poems by Isabel Zapata and Martha Mega, Translated from Spanish

Two poems from emerging Mexican poets Isabel Zapata and Martha Mega, which have been translated from Spanish by Manzanares de la Rosa.

Her Name is an Almond

by Isabel Zapata

In his nightmare, it’s May of 1994 in Kigali.

Grégoire has been hidden for three weeks: some days ago his neighbors entered
his house delirious, armed with machetes, their clothes bloodied. Among shrieks
of laughter, they raped and killed his daughters. He saw everything from a bush, but couldn’t move.
The years have gone by but the dream repeats itself every night. Every man carries
the shovel with which he’ll dig his own grave.

In your nightmare, you walk slowly underneath an umbrella made out of human

Next to you crawls a man who fails to be. On his head, he carries an old rag with holes
through which pieces of scorched flesh are seen. Behind, a mob of masked men, all of the
same height, sing a hymn in a language that only the devil recognizes.

In my nightmares, it’s always four in the afternoon.

There is always a hospital bed.

In it, it’s always my mother who’s lying down. In my nightmare, her name is
Patricia, her name is an almond that breaks between my teeth.

My mother is still my mother, but she will soon cease to be.

There is only one way to laugh and I have forgotten it.


On the slaughterhouse door, there was a huge number. It was number five.

by Martha Mega

you wake up screaming in other tongues

even though your mother breast-fed you Hebrew

your father beat you up in Tzotzil

you kept your secrets in Arabic


here there are others who name themselves

aryans, mexicans, tutsis, israelis


you’re not one of them

lost brother from Babel

you’ll know what to respond

if somebody asks you

what’s the sweetest thing in life

someone __ i don’t know __ from tralfamadore

what would you say?


i think they should come up

with better lies

or they’ll have to go on without us


they should tell us another story

so we can take strength and crawl

as the unfortunate mammals we are

on to a forest away from the flames

a forest made up of all forests


let them tell us a story about traveling to other planets

let’s go to ardent dresden which is like an ardent moon

or off to whistling acteal we go

to look at the stars or whatever crosses the sky in gaza


let there be the night of February 13th, 1945

or the lacandon morning of December 22nd, 1995

or that evening five years ago when mom did not return


if somebody asks you what’s the sweetest thing in life

do you manage to sleep?

i would say

wake up now

in any tongue

we went and burned down the city while you were sleeping.

Photo by Harsha K R via Creative Commons

About the author

Isabel Zapata (Mexico City, 1984) is a poet, essayist, editor, and co-founder of Ediciones Antílope. Her work has been published in Letras Libres, Tierra Adentro, Horizontal, among others. She has recently released the poetry book Las Noches son así on Broken English.

About the author

Martha Mega is a poet, performer, theater director, and musician from Mexico City, and she's considered one of the leading voices in the Metropolitan scene. She runs the company Sí o Sí Teatro and has recently won the top prize in the literary translation section of the Punto de Partida festival. She released the poetry book Vergüenza (Shame), in 2017, on Mantarraya Ediciones. She has performed throughout the country both as a solo spoken-word act and with Literal Sound Machine, a multi-disciplinary collective that incorporates poetry into their audiovisual performances.

About the author

Manzanares de la Rosa is an editor, translator, curator, radio producer, poet and film programmer from Mexico. They run the Poetry Spotlight series on UK-based zine GOD IS IN THE TV, and their work as a music and film critic has appeared on Passion of the Weiss, Noisey, Film Inquiry, The Young Folks, and The Singles Jukebox. You can find them on Twitter @AFHELVEGUM

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