THE POET’S BOTANY

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    Cecilia Vicuña
    Cecilia Vicuña was born in Santiago de Chile. She is a poet, artist, exhibitionist, and political activist. She has been in exile from Chile since the early 1970s because of her support of the elected president, Salvador Allende, who was murdered by General Pinochet. She performs and exhibits her work throughout Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Vicuña has authored and published sixteen books, most of which have been translated into several languages. Vicuna creates "Precarious works." She describes her work as a way of "hearing an ancient silence waiting to be heard." Since 1966, these works of art have been seen in nature, cities, and museums. The museums that have exhibited her work are: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Santiago, The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), The Whitecahel Art Gallery in London, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and MoMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York. Besides creating ephemeral works of art, she also teaches and lectures for workshops and seminars. These lectures can be heard in both a communal setting and can also be seen in universities such as: Naropa University, Denver University, SUNY Purchase, and University of Buenos Aires. With the help of others, she founded Artists for Democracy, a political activist group. She currently splits her time between her homes in both New York and Chile. She recently published an anthology of 500 years of Latin American Poetry and very soon will be publishing a collection of her oral performances entitled: Templo e'Saliva / Spit Temple.

    (Translated from the Spanish by Rosa Alcalá)

    Lace of stick, Quisca, wax candle Cereus,

    star and torch.

    Acorn of the North.

    Nameless Star, Calycera.

    Patahua, pot-bellied and tri-valved,

    lilly tree, Crinodendron.

    Little coconut with three pores, unisex flower

    strangled, smooth trunked palm tree,

    Jubaea Chilensis.

    And what about these little vine weavers?

    Coile(vine)Cogüil, contrary flower,

    male in clusters, solitary female.

    Aymara Lúcumo fruit, Pouteria splendens,

    ancient relative of the Japanese Caqui.

    All bodies radiate light

    the fiber of one plant

    the thought of one leaf

    travelling

    The legume twists itself

    Carob tree European and Chilean

    Rungue and Quilapilún.

    Huingan’s Disease,

    “rose-colored excrement”.

    Rosa mosqueta, from Europe or India,

    Andean by choice.

    Parrot’s Broom, Tricahue’s Delight,

    could it be the Highland Mamell,

    the Lippia juncea?

    Peumo, Pengu, thick with perfume,

    Cryptocarya alba, the “Peumo won’t boil,”

    for  loose tongues and weak noses.

    Medicinal Boldo, Folo. Who goes anywhere without a little Boldo infusion?

    Espino Cahuén, Acacia caven.

    “Spreads like a lie”.

    Thorn and shit, the whole syringe,

    “through a stomach and out”.

    The Chequén, Temo, or White Arrayán

    “well known for its healing qualities”.

    Garlic and Curagüilla,

    welcomed exiles,

    heads up, heads down.

    Ñipa e’ Betún, Escallonia illinita,

    of the hills,

    fragrant balsam, medicinal.

    Clover?

    Pewén de Lea, Niliu, Ngellihue,

    Daughters and mothers of the Pewenento,

    spiralling female, Domopewen.

    To them, father-mother of the

    Wentrupewen, we pray for the well being

    of the community.

    Cicuta, European poison.

    Molle, pepper Schinus molle,

    not the Chilean,

    the one said to be from Peru.

    Maitén of dancing leaf,  contra

    of the litriá,

    gift from Lucho Vargas.

     Colliguay, “this one is an artilleryman,”

    said Moesbach, “I heard a shot”

    and it was them, firing at each other.

    Seven shirts and one white Voqui,

    could it be the Pellpell?

    Amorous filter, lovers’ delirium?

    Basket-weaving Foqui?

    Little foul-smelling Culén, infusion and tea,

    cleansing and curing wound, he.

    Oak tree Pellin, hard heart.

    Lingue Persea lingue, the leaf is toxic

    for someone in motion,

    innocuous if still.                                                                             

     Hüingan’s Altar

    This is my seed me now

    my rock

    and my sandstone

    I approximate a perfume

    the scent of a place

    My hüingan’s Altar.

    Honeyed, Molina named it Madia sativa,

    and said: she is keeper of  an oil

    superior to the olive’s.

    Natre, “more evil than Natre,”

    Natreng, Solanum gayanum.

    Cowhoof, foreigner.

    Palqui, Cestrum parqui,

    remedy and poison.

    Copihüe of Con-cón.

    Gonzalo Millán

    saved everything

    in matchboxes.

    Chilco dye maker

    dark trunk,

    Fuchsia magellanica,

    medicinal leaf and fruit.

    Quillay Cüllai, ( starry Quillaja)

    a living is made cutting and robbing

    its bark

    Saponaria.

    Crazy grass, Astragal

    Boyén / Vollen?

    Seeds from Tirúa

    a gift from Elvira Hernández.

    Cinammon Tree Foyé, none more sacred.

    My mother plants and harvests it,

    and still before the before,

    in a time long past,

    the servers of the

    Voique (foquibuye)

    drank their salve

    to sing its strength.

    Mayo flower

    the Incas would say,

    Sophora macrocarpa.

    Little feathered Huañil

    Proustia ilicifolia.

    Maqui, Quelón,

    Aristotelia chilensis.

    Lemon Balm Cuyano,

    European Matico.

    Contrarayo,

    ütrar-lahuén?

    Almost all

    lahuén, remedy.

    San Diego of the night,

    San José, evening primrose

    Oenothera affinis, from Chile to Brazil.

    San Juan’s grass.

    Rash and tar.

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