Zócalo Poets will return February 2013 / Zócalo Poets…Volveremos en febrero de 2013

¿Eres poeta o poetisa?

¡Mándanos tus poemas en cualquier idioma!

Are you a poet or poetess?

Send us your poems in any language!



Snowball 1

Snowball 2Snowball 3


与謝野 鉄幹 / Yosano Hiroshi (1873-1935)


yama fukami /deep in the mountains /en lo profundo de la cordillera

haru to mo shiranu / beyond the knowledge of spring /

más allá del conocimiento de la primavera

matsu no to ni / on a pine bough door /sobre una puerta de ramas de pino

taedae kakaru / there are faintly suspended / hay, delicadamente suspendidos,

yuki no tamamizu / beads of liquid snow / gotas de nieve líquida.

.     .     .

Oliver Herford (1863-1935)

“I heard a bird sing”


I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

A magical thing

And sweet to remember.


“We are nearer to Spring

Than we were in September,”

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

.     .     .

“Oí un pájaro, cantante pájaro” (Oliver Herford, 1863-1935)


Oí un pájaro, cantante pájaro,

En l’ oscuridad de diciembre

– algo mágico, esa voz, y

Dulce en mi recuerdo.


“Estamos más cerca de la primavera

Que estuvimos en septiembre.”

Oí un pájaro, cantante pájaro,

En la luz tenue, diciembre.

.     .     .

藤原定長 / Jakuren (1139-1202)


kaze wa kiyoshi / the breeze is fresh / fresca, la brisa,

tsuki wa sayakeshi / the moon is bright; / brillante, la luna;

iza tomoni / come, we shall dance till dawn, / ven, bailaremos hasta el alba,

odori akasan / and say farewell to age…  /  y a la vejez diremos Adiós.

oi no nagori ni…


Translations of ‘tanka’ poems by Yosano Hiroshi and Jakuren from Japanese © Michael Haldane

Translations into Spanish / Traducciones al español:  Alexander Best

.     .     .     .     .

“Just enough snow to make you look carefully at familiar streets”: the Haiku of Richard Wright

ZP_El Círculo de Amigos…bajo la nieve

ZP_El Círculo de Amigos…bajo la nieve


Just enough snow

To make you look carefully

At familiar streets.


On winter mornings

The candle shows faint markings

Of the teeth of rats.


In the falling snow

A laughing boy holds out his palms

Until they are white.


The snowball I threw

Was caught in a net of flakes

And wafted away.


Snow Poems 2


A freezing morning:

I left a bit of my skin

On the broomstick handle.


The Christmas season:

A whore is painting her lips

Larger than they are.


Snow Poems 3


Standing patiently

The horse grants the snowflakes

A home on his back.


In the falling snow

the thick wool of the sheep

gives off a faint vapour.


Entering my town

In a fall of heavy snow

I feel a stranger.


In this rented room

One more winter stands outside

My dirty windowpane.


Snow Poems 5

Snow Poems 6

Snow Poems 4


The call of a bird

sends a solid cake of snow

sliding off the roof.


I slept so long and sound,

but I did not know why until

I saw the snow outside.


The smell of sunny snow

is swelling the icy air –

the world grows bigger.


The cold is so sharp

that the shadow of the house

bites into the snow.


What do they tell you

each night, O winter moon,

before they roll you out?


Burning out its time

And timing its own burning,

One lovely candle.

.     .     .

Richard Nathaniel Wright (born Roxie, Mississippi,1908, died Paris, 1960) was a rigorous Black-American short-story writer, novelist, essayist, and lecturer. He joined the Communist Party USA in 1933 and was Harlem editor for the newspaper “Daily Worker”.  Intensely racial themes were pervasive in his work and famous books such as Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945) were sometimes criticized for their portrayal of violence – yet, as the 1960s’ voices of Black Power would phrase it – a generation later – he was just “telling it like it is.”


Wright discovered Haiku around 1958 and began to write obsessively in this Japanese form using what was becoming the standard “shape” in English:  5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, in three separate lines, and with the final line adding an element of surprise – delicate or otherwise.  One of Haiku’s objectives is, to paraphrase Matsuo Bashō, a 17th-century Japanese poet:  In a haiku poem, if you reveal 70 to 80 percent of the subject – that’s good – but if you show only 50 to 60 percent, then the reader or listener will never tire of that particular poem.

What do you think – does Wright succeed?


The 4 Seasons are themes in Haiku;  here we have presented a palmful of Wright’s Winter haiku. Wright was frequently bedridden during the last year of his life and his daughter Julia has said that her father’s haiku were “self-developed antidotes against illness, and that breaking down words into syllables matched the shortness of his breath.”  She also added:  her father was striving “to spin these poems of light out of the gathering darkness.”

We are grateful to poet Ty Hadman for these quotations from Wright’s daughter, Julia.

.     .     .

The above haiku were selected from the volume  Richard Wright:  Haiku, This Other World, published posthumously, in 1998, after a collection of several thousand Haiku composed by Wright was ‘ found ‘ in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University.

.     .     .     .     .

Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri! Harambee! / Happy Kwanzaa – Let’s all pull together!


Vickie M. Oliver-Lawson

“Remembering the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa”


First fruits is what the name Kwanzaa means

It’s celebrated everywhere by kings and queens

Based on seven principles that still exist

If you check out this rhyme, you’ll get the gist


Umoja, a Swahili name for unity

Is the goal we strive for across this country

Kujichagulia means self-determination

We define ourselves, a strong creation.

Ujima or collective work and responsibility

Is how we build and maintain our own community

For if my people have a problem, then so do I

So let’s work through it together with our heads held high.


Ujamaa meaning cooperative economics is nothing new

We support and run our own stores and other businesses, too

Nia is purpose, us developing our potential

As we build our community strong to the Nth exponential

Kuumba is the creative force which lies within our call

As we leave our community much better for all

As a people, let’s move forward by extending our hand

For Imani is the faith to believe that we can.


These seven principles help to make our nation strong

If you live to these ideals, you can’t go wrong

But you must first determine your own mentality

And believe in yourself as you want you to be

And no matter how far, work hard to reach your goal

As we stand, as a people, heads up, fearless and bold.


Ms. Vickie M. Oliver-Lawson is a retired public school administrator, wife, and mother from Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.  She is the author of several books, including “Vocal Moments”, “In the Quilting Tradition” and “Timeless Influences” (2009).  She contributes to the Examiner news website.

.     .     .

Journalist Will Jones writes:

Kwanzaa was created as an Afrocentric holiday in 1966 by the black-militant history professor Maulana Karenga, and was intended to be a secular cultural celebration rooted in notions of African pride and community empowerment, rather than in any long-standing religious tradition like Christmas or Hanukkah. And in its very nature, Kwanzaa seems as appealing to many as it is appalling to others. It certainly presumes a level of self-awareness and racial identity that some can find off-putting. But at the same time, many who celebrate Kwanzaa or in tandem with Christmas say the holiday is less about being counter to any other mainstream holiday, and more of a vehicle to celebrate African-American culture and a shared heritage.

Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits” in Swahili, revolves around seven core principles, each celebrated on one day of the week-long observance, with simple, often homemade gifts and feasts. Each day a red, black or green candle is lit in a Kinara in honour of each of the seven principles: Umoja, unity; Kujichagulia, self-determination; Ujima, collective work and responsibility; Ujamaa, cooperative economics; Nia, purpose; Kuumba, creativity; and Imani, faith. ”

Kwanzaa, beginning always on December 26th, lasts seven days, being completed on January 1st.

.     .     .     .     .

Karibu, Mgeni? / Welcome, Guest?: a Swahili poem about Hospitality

ZP_The Flag of Zanzibar

ZP_The Flag of Zanzibar

Author Unknown:

A Swahili poem about Hospitality, based on the proverb

Mgeni siku mbili, ya tatu mpe jembe /

If a guest has stayed two days, on the third hand him a hoe


Mgeni siku ya kwanza  . The first day give the guest

mpe mchele na panza   .  rice with flying fish

mtilie kifuani   .  embrace him,

mkaribishe mgeni  .  introduce him to your family.

Mgeni siku ya pili  .  The second day 

mpe ziwa na samli   .   give him milk and butter. 

mahaba yakizidia   .   If love can increase  

mzidie mgeni.  .   give more to the guest.  

Mgeni siku ya tatu    . The third day  

jumbani hamuna kitu    .  there is nothing left    

Mna zibaba zitatu           .  but three bags of rice

pika ule na mgeni           .  boil it and eat.   

Mgeni siku ya nne          .  The fourth day 

mpe jembe akalime           . give him a hoe to farm.

Akirudi muagane            .  When he comes back say

enda kwao mgeni                             .   Goodbye, go home, dear guest. 

Mgeni siku ya tano                           .   The fifth day

mwembamba kama sindano                .    the guest is needle-thin

Hauishi musengenyano                        .    He does not listen to advice,

asengenyao mgeni                               .    the guest is well warned.  

Mgeni siku ya sita                                       .   The sixth day,    

mkila mkajificha                                            .    hide in a corner

mwingine vipembeni                                        .   while you eat,

afichwaye yeye mgeni                                        .   out of sight from the guest.

Mgeni siku ana ya sabaa                                     .     The seventh day

si mgeni a na baa                                                     .   a guest now is a monster  

Hatta moto mapaani                                             .   and has put fire   

akatia yeye mgeni.                                               .     to the roof.  

Mgeni siku ya nane                                                .   The eighth day  

njo ndani tuonane                                                  .    the guest comes in to greet us.

Atapotokea nje                                                      .  When he comes outside

tuagane mgeni                                                        .    we take leave.

Mgeni siku ya kenda                                             .  The ninth day:

enenda mwana kwenenda!                                                .  go now, son, go now

Usirudi nyuma                                                                         .   and don’t come back

usirudi mgeni                                                                                 .   don’t return, oh guest.

Mgeni siku ya kumi                                               .    The tenth day, chase him away,  

kwa mateke na magumi                             .   with kicks and blows. 

Hapana afukuzwaye                                                       .  There is no other such a one    

yeye mgeni.                                                                            . who is chased away this way.

.     .     .

Hospitality poem: courtesy of Albert Scheven and Dr. Peter Ojiambo, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Swahili or Kiswahili is a Bantu language of East Africa spoken by various ethnic groups in several contiguous states.  Fewer than 10 million people speak Swahili as their mother tongue but more than 60 million use it as a ‘ lingua franca ‘ for commerce and transnational communication.  It is an official language in five countries:  Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.  Written Swahili once used the Arabic script but now the Latin alphabet is standard.  There have been many Swahili dialects;  modern Swahili is based on the dialect used in Mji Mkongwe (the name of the old-town quarter in Zanzibar City, Zanzibar, Tanzania).

.     .     .

ZP_Árbol de La Navidad al Charlie Brown_A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

ZP_Árbol de La Navidad al Charlie Brown_A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Norval Morrisseau: “María”, Madre de Jesús

ZP_Mary_by Norval Morrisseau   ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ born Beardmore Ontario 1932, died Toronto 2007_ Canada's greatest painter of the twentieth century_Norval Morrisseau fue el gran pintor canadiense del siglo XX

ZP_Mary_by Norval Morrisseau ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ born Beardmore Ontario 1932, died Toronto 2007_ Canada’s greatest painter of the twentieth century_Norval Morrisseau fue el gran pintor canadiense del siglo XX

Poemas de Navidad: Mary Elizabeth Coleridge y G. K. Chesterton

ZP_ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ  Norval Morrisseau_Virgin Mary with Christ Child and St. John the Baptist, 1973

ZP_ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ Norval Morrisseau_Virgin Mary with Christ Child and St. John the Baptist, 1973

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907)

“Vi un establo”


Vi un estable, tan bajo, desnudo,

Con un niño diminuto al heno.

Le conocieron los bueyes y cuidaron de Él

– al hombre fue un desconocido.

La seguridad del mundo estaba tendido

Allá en el jacal

– el peligro del mundo, también.


.     .     .


“I saw a stable”


I saw a stable, low and very bare,

A little child in a manger.

The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,

To men He was a stranger.

The safety of the world was lying there,

And the world’s danger.


.     .     .


G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

“The House of Christmas”


There fared a mother driven forth

Out of an inn to roam;

In the place where she was homeless

All men are at home.

The crazy stable close at hand,

With shaking timber and shifting sand,

Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand

Than the square stones of Rome.


For men are homesick in their homes,

And strangers under the sun,

And they lay their heads in a foreign land

Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,

And chance and honour and high surprise;

But our homes are under miraculous skies

Where the Yule tale was begun.


A child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home;

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

Bur our hearts we lost – how long ago! –

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky’s dome.


This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,

And strange the plain things are,

The earth is enough and the air is enough

For our wonder and our war;

But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings

Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings

Round an incredible star.


To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome;

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

.     .     .     .     .