Ay, ay, ay, that am kinky-haired and pure black
kinks in my hair, Kafir in my lips;
and my flat nose Mozambiques.
Black of pure tint, I cry and laugh
the vibration of being a black statue;
a chunk of night, in which my white
teeth are lightning;
and to be a black vine
which entwines in the black
and curves the black nest
in which the raven lies.
Black chunk of black in which I sculpt myself,
ay, ay, ay, my statue is all black.
They tell me that my grandfather was the slave
for whom the master paid thirty coins.
Ay, ay, ay, that the slave was my grandfather
is my sadness, is my sadness.
If he had been the master
it would be my shame:
that in men, as in nations,
if being the slave is having no rights
being the master is having no conscience.
Ay, ay, ay wash the sins of the white King
in forgiveness black Queen.
Ay, ay, ay, the race escapes me
and buzzes and flies toward the white race,
to sink in its clear water;
or perhaps the white will be shadowed in the black.
Ay, ay, ay my black race flees
and with the white runs to become bronzed;
to be one for the future,
fraternity of America!
Julia de Burgos, "Ay, Ay, Ay, of the Kinky-Haired Negress," tr. by Jack Agüeros from Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos. Copyright ©1996 by Jack Agüeros. Used by permission of Curbstone Press.