A Mexica Woman Addresses Her New Son-in-Law

Here you stand,
Our eagle, our jaguar—
A jewel for this family,
Quetzal-feather,
Beloved son.

May you never take this union lightly.
Already it has become
Your world,
Your nature—
Your life is wholly different now.

No longer will your heart
Be burdened by vice,
For you have abandoned
The lewdness of youth—
Drunkenness, pranks and foolish smiles.
You are now a stalwart married man.

Take up your traveling staff,
Your carrying frame.
Sling across your back ristras of chile,
Salt cakes, bags of rich soil,
Strings of fish—
Display your wares in every town.

Your body and soul will suffer—
You will find no real rest there,
Sleeping in the distant corners
Of strangers’ homes,
Huddled by their walls,
Standing at their gates.

You will exhaust yourself
Crossing peaks, ravines, deserts.
The heat will sap your strength,
The wind will wear you down,
But you will patiently break your fast
On dry rations, stale tortillas, roasted corn.

Then, perhaps, you will be blessed
With the sweetness,
The fragrance,
The warmth,
The tenderness of our Lord—
The Giver of Life, Heart of the Mountain.

Does food and drink
Simply drop from the sky?
To acquire what you want,
You will have to work hard.
That is how you will find
The mercy of our Lord.

That is all you need to hear—
Now we leave you to it.

—from chapter 23 of the Florentine Codex
Translated from the Nahuatl by David Bowles
(Originally appeared in the 2013 Pasta, Poetry & Vino Chapbook)

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