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By Brenda Cárdenas

(in memory of José Antonio Burciaga, 1947-1996)                          

                     We are chameleons. We become chameleon.
                             —José Antonio Burciaga 

We are space between—


the black-orange blur


of a million Monarchs


on their two-generation migration


south to fir-crowned Michoacán


where tree trunks will sprout feathers,


a forest of paper-thin wings.


 


Our Mexica cocooned


in the membranes de la Madre Tierra


say we are reborn zacuanpapalotls,


mariposas negras y anaranjadas


in whose sweep the dead whisper.


 


We are between—


the flicker of a chameleon’s tail


that turns his desert-blue backbone


to jade or pink sand,


the snake-skinned fraternal twins


of solstice and equinox.


 


The ashen dawn, silvering dusk,


la oración as it leaves the lips,


the tug from sleep,


the glide into dreams


that husk out mestizo memory.


 


We are—


one life passing through the prism


of all others, gathering color and song,


cempazuchil and drum


to leave a rhythm scattered on the wind,


dust tinting the tips of fingers


as we slip into our new light.


Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

Brenda Cardenas, “Zacuanpapalotls” from Boomerang. Copyright © 2009 by Brenda Cardenas. Reprinted by permission of Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe .

Source: Boomerang (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2009)

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Poet Bio

Brenda Cárdenas
A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Brenda Cárdenas writes in a blend of English and Spanish, which she has said reflects her interest in “the interconnectedness and juxtapositions of difference and similarity between seemingly disparate peoples, events, places, and experiences.” She is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. See More By This Poet

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