In this issue:

an Interview with Ivón Gordon Vailakis

Translations by J.C. Todd from Colibries

Her translations of Gabriela Mistral




©ivón gordon vailakis 2003

Vailakis photo Ivón Gordon Vailakis

I Am Word

I am word, I am silence, and I am the border between Europe and America. I am a meztiza, I am the mestiza of all mestizas, I am tongue, and I am time. I am border; I am the border between the Colossus of the North, and the Ariel of the South. I am everything and nothing, I am that and I am not. I am the wind and the flute. I am a piece of Ecuadorian clay mixed with German pottery. All bloods flow through me; all bloods are one in me. My womb is the border; my womb is the border between Ecuador, Greece, and the United States. My identity lies on the sole of my feet, it is in my fingernails, I can polish them in different colors, I can cut them, and without a thought, I can change my identity. My identity is crossing the border. The border is to leave one's mother land, to cross, and step into some else's land. My identity is always to feel emptiness in my womb. I find balance in the pose of the tree, I find possibilities, and I find eighty-four possibilities. I want to see the future in the past. I try to find myself in time through the reflection of the sunrays on the star of my mirror. I am the reflection on the other side, I don't know myself. I am not that face, I am her, and I am not. I am pregnant with words, I have been pregnant all my life, my legs are swollen of sudden dreams, I feel the hunger, and I feel cravings for words. The words in each page are written with water that broke from my uterus. That's how poems are born. They are born from a craving, from an eye, from a window, from a memory. That's what my poems are, memories of a never lived past. Memories of a childhood never lived. They are memories of silence, memories of the body from the tip of the toes to the crown of the head. That is what I am, that's what they are. I am the sphinx raising its chest, I am the tiger licking her tail, I am the one cleaning the toilet bowl, and I am the one praying to Buddha in Hebrew, I am a tree pretending to be an eagle.

To Write Is to Breathe

To write is to breathe, to take your clothes off with words, to undress yourself at the rhythm of the words, to write with the words that switch places and meaning, and that evoke that mound of dirt that I brought in my pocket when I left my Ecuadorian country. That mound of dirt that I have always with me because it reminds me of the blackberry ice cream melting on both sides of my mouth, the white-capped volcanoes, the stains of grass on my pants after wrestling with my cousins, the wind of the paramo whispering in my entrails, the humid breeze of the coast wrapping around my hips, the cobble-stone streets, the aroma of chicha and hornado, the mixture of blood, of going to the synagogue and the Santa Teresita's church, the Torah and the rosary, fasting and eating fanesca on Easter.
      To write is to touch the words that grow, that sprout its roots inside of me. Writing is the same as being pregnant, full of magical words inside my womb, words that are fed, words that grow and sleep at my own rhythm of life. To be a poet means a perpetual state of pregnancy and of giving birth. The words come into the world from my uterus, this birth is caused by touching the skin, by touching memory, by listening to the sound of ants crawling. These words cry with the first slap, the cuddle, they turn around, they eat, they touch and grow. They leave the womb because they need to explain time, they need to live moments. They come out because they need to make out of time another time, to make magic of the page, they need to explain the unexplainable, and they need to make of every day a sacred. Writing is to revise the revised word that the muse of desire brought to the page. Desire is the greatest muse, a muse without gender, without a face, without a name. Simply, it is the desire to be that, to paste the desire in a white page, transforming it, giving it life. The word comes out from the uterus, the word comes to the world and turns itself into an enchanted one. That is the act of writing poetry. It is an enchantment. It is touching the poem with the magic wand. It is to let the poem touch you, feel you, smell you, so you at last you can feel the orgasm of the finished poem. Poetry is word and meaning, it is the meaning of the word in its most sacred moment. It is in this place where I find a self without clothes, without poses, without a face. It is a self without fears, which flies on the page like a fairy and transforms the words into whispers, into air, into memory, into silence.
     To write in Spanish in the U.S. is an act of crossing borders. It is to cross to the other side, to the side of the mother tongue, and to struggle with the word of the other. It is an act of rescue in order to deepen, and to float in the language of the womb. Spanish is the language that I borrowed from the neighbor from the South, it is the language that it is word and voice, it is the language that does not have an echo, it is a language that I listen like a far away lullaby. It is the language of my dreams, it is the language that brings me to dawn, and it is the language that I fight solitude, because solitude does arrive when you live far away from your land, from your family, from your friends, from your childhood streets, from the mountains, from the noise of the city. That is the way that silence arrives, it comes slowly, because solitude and isolation from the other cultures, from the other cultures, does arrive and makes me look at myself like a foreigner, like a estranged habitant of a world that it is global, consumerist, and money oriented, a world that is not mine, but it is also mine. Today is mine, yesterday I borrowed, and memory always betrays me. It is the word that rescues me and returns me to that world that it is mine, a world where I believe that humankind is one, where I write poems to touch the other's soul, where I read poetry to rescue the stagnant soul, where I stop writing this line so the pigeon can stretch its leg.