The nature of a river is to run
and its verb: to flow.
They have poured down from the sky,
the rain and the hills,
their currents swollen with toads and blood, willows and thirst.
Some were spawned in love beds
by mortal women,
giving birth to clans and champions and dry everyday men
who carry them in their names.
They are portrayed as a green body,
legs entwined and arms spread wide,
a changeable mirror that reflects an eye
of fresh water that eddies swiftly away.
For the people’s adorations
a small altar was their due – not a temple;
oxen and horses thrown in for sacrifice,
maidens garbed in the raiment of a goddess
with a yellow face.
Before, sparkling rivers ran
through this green valley;
ash grey, chestnut and opaline; rambling,
purple and dull brown,
easily shattered, they squalled and clamoured
down from the steaming mountain
onto the lazy plain
touching on early Tenochtitlán.
Today they groan, thick with black water
and swollen with shit, shrunk into conduits,
ridiculous rivers without banks – their docked tails
reined into lanes raging with cars, hurtling
down through the deflowered city,
reaching their mouth in lethal lakes
and the scarred sea that no longer loves them.
Aridjis, Homero. “Rivers.” Eyes to See Otherwise: Selected Poems = Ojos, de otro mirar. Trans. George McWhirter. Eds. Betty Ferber and George McWhirter. New York: New Directions Book, 2002. p. 203.