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Marina, La Malinche

July 14, 2010

by Katherine Durham Oldmixon

I could fold my tongue into a hollow
reed, pretend I’m an amber butterfly

pressed into the neck of milkweed florets
dripping nectar through my waiting channel.

I could push my tongue to palate, swallow
like a wood thrush gathering sand grit, cry

evensongs until the skin-pale moon forgets
our Mexican sky for another continent.

I could roll my tongue like the snake below
the feathered body who struggles to taste dry

desert air; I could thread cactus spines to whet
native spirit or teach mother tongue to pray;

I would hold my tongue, but to survive must
speak. My father sold me destined to lie

with a man who crossed our oceans to let blood
and tongues mingle. Let me keen lullabies.

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Katherine Durham Oldmixon (website) recently edited a special issue of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review dedicated to ekphrastic poetry. Her chapbook Water Signs, a finalist for the New Women’s Voices Award, was released in January 2009 by Finishing Line Press. Katherine lives healthily and happily in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Arturo Lomas Garza.

  1. July 14, 2010 at 2:07 pm


  2. Leslee
    July 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Love this.

  3. July 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    How can’t I not hear your keening lullaby a universe away? An anguished lullaby, by the way, like those the we don’t hum but moan with–lullabies yes, that tell of lies, of full moons sailing with a hundred guises, of eyes like that of snakes perforating our skies. Four hundred years of fractured hearts have not healed, would not heal even as I, like you perhaps, have plunged to co-mingle with those who plundered our spirit. Thank you for giving this pain yet another form with your poem: ‘a wood thrush gathering sand grit, cry/evensongs…’


  4. July 20, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Piercing, melancholy and delicious.

  5. Katherine
    July 20, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Thank you all for your comments. La Malinche is such an ambivalent figure, so important to who we are. I do love her.

  6. July 20, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    lovely. love the line breaks, like jumping off cliffs.

  7. mary
    July 21, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Beautiful, well crafted and deeply emotional. I was unfamiliar with the character and after doing some checking I loved the poem even more. But to enjoy a poem without knowing the backstory is the sign of a good poem in my opinion.


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