So Say the Ancient Chibcha

by Mireya Perez Bustillo


Before what was to be was
when all was omnipresent potential
like a fragrance lingering
There was Madre Abuela de Bacatá
She, Abuela to gods who birthed
Chiminigagua, formless, essence of light who yearned to give his light
Needing form he created the large black
flying ones, oily of feather, curving of beak
to slice through nebulousness
to pour forth sun-light
the flying shiny black ones
birds, he called them
were gifted a long-sight precision to guide
beaks full of incandescent breath
very vapor of sun life to sparkle air
to rain multicolor sunrays
breath that birthed us
So say the ancestors.
Others say the ancient shamans were
those first abuelos and abuelas
of the high cold Andes whose skin frosted
who shook shook seeking warmth
A shook so deep it sprouted them
a softness surfacing on their skin
a froth downy on arms, legs, torso
slowly smoothing into sleekness
strong, resilient, shiny, a flutter new
that lifted them in the light air
Plumes of power the elders say
Plumes givers to ancient teachings
Some say.
No, no others say.
It was Madre Bachué, the one who came from
the waters with the child by the hand
She the Knower when she entered the forest
where a sweetness swaying trees held her
wondering if it was the human’s song
She moved to catch the sounds
glints gliding too fast green, red, yellow, turquoise
a splendor not human a polychromed light
only feathered ones sacred to Father Sué
multicolor loros and guacamayos could emit
She knew then their plumes would crown priests, chiefs
their ceremonial mantas,
yellow reflection of Sué most powerful
So they say.


Mireya Perez Bustillo: Mireya’s poems invoke a powerful array of spirits. Her poetry appears in Caribbean Review, IRP Voices, Anthology of Colombian Women Poets, among others.