When time was yet in the cradle, there was no uglier creature in the world than the bat.
The bat went up to heaven to look for God. He didn’t say, ‘I’m bored with being hideous. Give me colored feathers.’ No. He said, ‘Please give me feathers, I’m dying of cold.’
But God had not a single feather left over.
‘Each bird will give you a feather,’ he decided.
Thus the bat got the white feather of the dove and the green one of the parrot, the iridescent one of the hummingbird, the pink one of the flamingo, the red of the cardinal’s tuft and the blue of the kingfisher’s back, the clavey one of the eagle’s wing, and the sun feather that burns in the breast of the toucan.
The bat, luxuriant with colors and softness, moved between earth and clouds. Wherever he went, the air became pleasant and the birds dumb with admiration. According to the Zapotec peoples, the rainbow was born of the echo of his flight.
Vanity puffed out his chest. He acquired a disdainful look and made insulting remarks.
The birds called a meeting. Together they flew to God. ‘The bat has made fun of us,’ they complained. ‘And what’s more, we feel cold for lack of feathers he took.’
Next day, when the bat shook his feathers in full flight, he suddenly became naked. A rain of feathers fell to earth.
He is still searching for them. Blind and ugly, enemy of the light, he lives hidden in caves. He goes out in pursuit of the lost feathers after night has fallen and flies very fast, never stopping because it shames him to be seen.
“In the Amazonina jungle, the first woman and the first man looked at each other with curiosity. It was odd what they had between their legs.
‘Did they cut yours off?’ asked the man.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I’ve always been like that.’
He examined her close up. He scratched his head. There was an open wound there. He said: ‘Better not eat any cassave or bananas or any fruit that splits when it ripens. I’ll cure you. Get in the hammock and rest.’
She obeyed. Patiently she swallowed herb teas and let him rub pomades and unguents. She had to grit her teeth to keep from laughing when he said to her, ‘Don’t worry.’
She enjoyed the game, although she was beginning to tire of fasting in a hammock. The memory of fruit made her mouth water.
One evening the man came running through the glade. He jumped with excitement and cried, ‘I found it!’
He had just seen the male monkey curing the female monkey in the arm of a tree.
‘That’s how it’s done,’ said the man, approaching the woman.
When the long embrace ended, a dense aroma of flowers and fruit filled the air. From the bodies lying together came unheard of vapors and glowings, and it was all so beautiful that the suns and the gods died of embarrassment.”
“Before the rising sun he throws himself down and touches his forehead to the ground. He grasps the first rays in his hands, brings them to his mouth, and drinks the light. Then he rises, stands, and looks straight at the sun, without blinking.”
Popular Couplets if the Bashful Lover
I want to say and I don’t,
I’m speaking without any word.
I want to love and I don’t
And I’m loving without being heard.
I’ve a pain from I don’t know where,
That comes from I don’t know what.
I’ll be cured I don’t know when
By someone whose name I forgot.
Each time you look at me
And I at you
With my eyes I say
What I don’t say.
As I don’t find you
I look, to remind you.
“The Indians say:
The land has an owner? How’s that? How is it to be sold? How is it to be bought? If it does not belong to us, well, what? We are of it. We are its children. So it is always, always. The land is alive. As it nurtures the worms, so it nurtures us. It has bones and blood. It has milk and gives us suck. It has hair, grass straw, trees. It knows how to give birth to potatoes. It brings to birth houses. It brings to birth people. It looks after us and we look after it. It drinks chicha, accepts our invitation. We are its children. How is it to be sold? How bought?”
“‘My shadow and I have discussed and decided,’ he said. And sighs.”
“One of these mornings, the old storyteller will not wake up. But someone of those who heard his stories will tell them to others. And later this someone will also die, and the stories will stay alive as long as there are big houses and people gathered around the fire.”
“New Amsterdam, the most important slave market in North America, now becomes New York; and Wall Street is named after the wall built to stop blacks from escaping.”
The body, which knows little, doesn’t know it, nor does the soul that breathes; but the soul that dreams, which knows the most does: The black man [slave] who kills himself in America revives in Africa.”
“Memory of Fire: Genesis’