Poems by Rube K’ulej

Translated from the Tsotsil by Kiran Bhat




Little girl
earths upon earths, planets upon planets have bequeathed
your wisdom,
your spirit
and have given you the fruit of all life.

O lady earth, there’s one like you.
Like a ray of penetrating light,
you protect us from this frosty night.

You’re tough, eternal, stronger than life,
like the roots of the trees
ensuring that those who come later will never die.

It’s for this reason that we don’t know
what we look for in life.

Little girl,
tinier than the clots in mud,
the essence of the universe is inside of you.



osil balamile xa sk’el li ap’ijilale,
li ach’ulele
ti ja’ sat kuxlejalil.

Mu’yuk yan k’ucha’al jo’ot te xojobal k’ok’
ta yutil ik’ubal osile.

Toj tsotsot
k’ucha’al yibel te’etik ti mu sna’ xchamike.

Manchuk, jo’onkutike mu jna’kutik k’usi ta jsa’kotik ta kuxlejale.

Ch’in tseb
li osil vinajele ja’ slok’olil akuxlejale.




The moment I write, I often have to use my head,
but sometimes my heart
because that is where the sounds of my soul reside.

To walk, any time, through the mountains, up and down our villages
is also an act of writing,
because your experience travels with you,
reaches another’s thoughts through the act of seeing you,
but sometimes we merely walk ,
and each step is an act of speech from the land.

We write entire universes
because the earth revolves, and we follow it in its gyrations.

We walk backwards,
to find the essence
of our one true heritage:
the voice of our Mayan ancestors.




Chi ts’ibaj ta jnopbenaltik bak’intik ta ko’ontontik
yu’un slok’tael sk’op jch’uleltik.

Xanavele ja’ sts’ibael ek
bak’intik ja’ no’ox xi xanavotik manhcuk xanavele slo’ilta balumil.

Jts’ibatik osil vinajel
ti xjoyobaj ta jujun xanobal
jech k’ucha’al k’usi sjoyobta kuxlejalil.

Ta patil xa xambaj
ta sa’beel smelolal k’usitik te poko k’ope
te sk’op jme’ jtotik maya.


Rube K’ulej was born in Chilil, Huixtan, Chiapas. He has participated in various seminars, conferences and workshops on agroecology and environmental sustainability. His writings have been published in various magazines and anthologies.





Kiran Bhat is an Indian-American author, traveler, and polyglot. He currently lives in Mumbai, but he has been to 141 countries, lived in 25 other places on the planet, and dabbles in twelve languages. He is known as the author of we of the forsaken world…,  but has published books in five different languages, and has had his writing published in journals such as The Caravan, The Bengaluru Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, The Brooklyn Rail, 3:AM Magazine, SOFTBLOW, and many other places. You can follow him on Twitter at WeltgeistKiran.



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