THE HILLS OF CALI ARE BURNING

At dusk, a few men show up
On the mountainside,
Spraying gasoline, throwing matches, then
Disappearing in the smoke, down the mountain.

The hills burn. The yellow acacias,
Guavas, guayacanes,
Crumble to ash. Some trees
The color of straw

Stand alone, in front of the charred wood.
Nests of opossums and iguanas
Are abandoned. Someone videos
A wounded guatín, a female, drop dead

After seeing her offspring burn, a young
Guacharaca limping through the ashes
.
The small life of the earth also dies,
Algae and fungi that no one sees.

A dark air, full of
Particulates,
Descends on Cali.
But even if you were still there,

That carbon couldn’t get into your room
With its closed windows,
Or your lungs
Frail from pneumonia.

The ash would fall into the river,
On the rooftops and asphalt, maybe reaching
The cemetery where they cremated you.
Do you remember the blue hills

You’d contemplate sometimes in the afternoon?
If you could look at them now,
You’d see only a blackened mountain,
Still smoking.

Maybe later, buds will sprout
From the burned logs and seeds will
Germinate in the ground, but for us,
The mountain won’t turn green again.

***

Ximena Gómez is a Colombian writer, poet, and translator. She is the author of Habitación
con moscas
(Ediciones Torremozas, Madrid 2016), a dual-language poetry collection Último
día / Last Day
(Katakana Editores, Miami 2019), and Cuando llegue la sequía (Ediciones
Torremozas, Madrid 2021). Translations into English of individual poems have been
published in Cagibi, Sheila-Na-Gig, Laurel Review, Nashville Review, and World Literature
Today
. She is also the translator of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming/ Niña
morena sueña
(Penguin Random House 2021), George Franklin’s, Among the Ruins / Entre
las ruinas
, (Katakana Editores, Miami 2018), and contributing translator to 32 Poems/32
Poemas
by Hyam Plutzik, (Suburbano Ediciones 2021). In 2018, she was a finalist for Best
of the Net.

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