Home > Words of Power > He Gives Me My Nahuatl Name

He Gives Me My Nahuatl Name

November 18, 2009

by Susan Elbe

for Francisco Alarcón
August 7, 1994

I, myself am not bird,
my bones, not hollow
easy flutes for song.

I, myself am not snake,
my skin not silver
husk that sloughs me new.

But I, myself am the green
voice jabbering
down the fields. My palms

push sky, reek of sun
and I cadence
the night with whispering.

I, myself take to ice, brittle
with rime, shimmy
in dry wind — chicome, chicome.

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Note: Chicome is the Nahuatl numeral 7. In Aztec mythology, Chicomecoatl (“Seven Snakes”) was the Aztec goddess of maize. She is sometimes called Goddess of Nourishment, a deity of plenty and the female aspect of corn. Her symbol is an ear of corn. Source: Francisco X. Alarcón. Other sources say that Centeotl, the Corn God, is the provider of the Spirit Soul (Teyollia) for days with the numeral 7 (chicome). There is a lot of crossover between Nahuatl and Aztec mythology.

Susan Elbe (website) is the author of Eden in the Rearview Mirror and a chapbook, Light Made from Nothing. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in many journals, including Blackbird, diode, MARGIE, North American Review, and Salt Hill. Her work has also been widely anthologized, including in A Fierce Brightness: Twenty-Five Years of Women’s Poetry (Calyx Books).

With Kelly Madigan Erlandson, Susan is the editor of qarrtsiluni’s Health issue, currently accepting submissions through November 30.

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  1. November 19, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Wow. Back for my third read. The turn of the last stanza keeps pulling me up short.

    The sheer sound brought me back for the second read. The music is gorgeous.

    There’s something plaintive that starts from the beginning, the things I’m not. I guess you’re expecting it to turn to affirmation, some triumphant egotism, and instead you get that last picture of the iced over — maize, I guess? — shivering. It’s not all fun and games, being Ceres.

  2. November 19, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Hurrah for not easy. Praise for the pushing at the sky.

  3. November 27, 2009 at 8:30 pm


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