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La (Mal)inche

by Angela Acosta


The Phoenician alphabet rides waves

on the backs of the dispossessed,

the engraved and etched,

the plumas and pen markings

from birds and muscle memories

of braids weaving oral histories

as wide as the Chicxulub crater—

the Florentine Codex awaits us.


Bernadino de Sahagún’s great grandson

fifty times over still squirrels away

a monolingual rendition of Las Américas

where his codex has been renamed

yet coded into caravel(a)s, sailing

ships gliding on cosmic photon winds.


They called her La Malinche,

so I call myself the treacherous

translator, Tenepal, creator

of malware that tastes of las

llamas, flames the Inquisition

could never put out;

las llamas del altiplano,

las llamadas de mi pueblo.


The highland llamas,

the calls of my town,

boarding documents

I forged with a name

that only returns on

el Día de los Muertos.


Her blood runs through my veins, too.


I cannot soportar, tolerate

the diction of one lengua.

My language requires a flotilla

for safe crossing.


I will ride on past the Antilles,

the farthest shores of the Galápagos,

into the stellar firmament where

stray particles become ones and zeros

and the hacker Malinche once was

turns a dark canvas into a symphony

of Aztec boys and girls singing

corridos in bad mother tongues.


I vowed to be your Malinche,

malware in the system,

mother of many. They called

my offspring Mestizo, and so

I say their names in Spanglish,

tell them bedtime stories when

caravels foretold la Conquista,

an Age of Discovery.


La (Mal)inche foretells

other hypocrisies, little lies,

sips of wine from barrels wrought with

la mano de obra, la mano del colonizador,

la mano de la mujer, Spanish hands.


Who ever said Malinche was only woman,

only mortal, a ghost in the machine of syntax

we speak? Let her distill herself into morphemes

that leak softly from spaceborne vessels.


Let her roam por el ligero corriente del tiempo,

across the swift currents of time

into multilingual horizons.

Angela Acosta is a bilingual Latina poet currently teaching at Davidson College as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies. Her Rhysling-nominated poetry has appeared in Shoreline of Infinity, Apparition Lit, Radon Journal, and Space & Time. She is author of the Elgin-nominated collection Summoning Space Travelers (Hiraeth Publishing, 2022) and A Belief in Cosmic Dailiness: Poems of a Fabled Universe (Red Ogre Review, 2023).

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