A. Scott Britton

from Fallen Fruit: Oaxaca Poems


togáchaya nichi patáo
raise a child (as opposed to
an animal, such as livestock)

On a hill shaved flat
the highest point in the city
guard rails lined
with heavy steal and glass
observation scopes,
a radio tower screams glowing red
against the charcoal night.
A little boy pitches cheap gum in Spanish.
Some moments later the child recedes
toward the edge of the observation park.
His mother waits in the shadows,
chides him, reproaches him, not in Spanish,
but a rich, raw tongue I’ve never heard.
She shuffles him away and
he’s on to the next potential customer.


small bee


There’s no crunch
to chapulines
in garlic and lime,
only a layered toughness,
like the subtle give you feel
when biting into a sliver
of popcorn hull.


The photograph of my sunburnt face
is cut off above my cheeks,
just below my eyes.
There’s no way to tell
that the glistening brown morsel
on my open, smiling tongue
is an insect. It’s just to prove
that I was there.


quiepaalichi péele
starry night

Whitewashed fluorescence
gleams from open front shops
pharmacies, perfume shops,
taquerias and bars.

As an unsteady midwestern boy
on a distant bus
approaches the sparkling ring road
the giddy little feeling subsides,
and pink taffeta gives way
to the third sex.


guennda dxíiba níisa dóo
cook grain (as in boiling corn)

The air white with fog,
bacon, and pozole,
with corn kernels the size
of horse teeth,
later I would learn
that it was a kind of
cattle-corn stew,
not fit
for human consumption in the U.S.

A. Scott Britton is a poet, translator, and linguist. He has written numerous foreign-language guides, all published by Hippocrene Books, New York. His book-length translation, The Experimental Poetry of José Juan Tablada, will be published by McFarland in the fall of 2015. He is currently translating an anthology of Modernismo poetry, to be published by McFarland in 2017. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

The four poems above are taken from the book Fallen Fruit: Oaxaca Poems (in progress). The poems are hybrids, comprised of both original poetry and fragment translations of Juan de Córdova’s Vocabulario Castellano-Zapoteco (Spanish to Zapotec Dictionary), from the year 1578.
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