Poetry and desert: Migrare Mutare ~ Migrate Mutate by Rossy Evelin Lima — Jorge Saenz

This could be a tale about a journey… or not. This could also be a review of Rossy Evelin Lima’s poems, and something completely different simultaneously. This could be a story of oneself, or likewise, one created by the author’s poems. This could be this or that. Or neither of the latter, trying to become. The truth is never known completely, never completely unknown. I say this while I walk in the desert of Arizona, and in my hand, a book which I read: Migrare Mutare by Rossy Evelin Lima. Or perhaps it is the book that reads me. “I would like to know the places where readers have read my books”, Rossy Evelin Lima confessed to me one afternoon, without knowing what I had in mind. She said it casually, but completely precise in a truth: when it comes to a book, the place where it is being read, is as important as the place created by its content. Consequently, not only does the author create a world for the reader, but the reader creates a world for the book. Heat, rain, water, desert, are not only sensations that I read, but are also part of my environment, and by being similar to the voices that I follow when reading the poems, they become difficult to tell apart.

I read Rossy Evelin Lima’s poetry book in this geographical point; that place in the U.S where Mexico’s vegetation spills over, where the border dissolves, where the scenery is filled with cacti and English is spoken. It is here where nature takes over the inhospitable. And in this, I could ask: isn’t it true that we seek nature to understand what we have lost? I read her book realizing that “water is my birthright” only to understand that “water is the reason for our constant movement”. In Arizona, half of the year’s total amount of rainfall will be received during the monsoons season in July. This occurs as a prodigy of life and water, the reverberation and phenomenon of creation. People walk out to the streets to get wet, to be part of that intimate miracle. “Our hands are streams that will calm the drought. Water is life.”, says Rossy Evelin Lima in a poem.

Since I begin the poetry collection, I cannot stop getting soaked, submerging myself in a stream, believing that rain pours over me; but I am wrong, it is the result of reading. I keep myself in the shade, on the rough and desolate red land. Nonetheless, I find myself waterlogged; “Born of water” is the title of the poem that I read while I become liquid. To be “Born of flesh is easy”, because it’s gratuitous, unexpected. We are thrown into the world as Sartre would say. But being “Born of water” is a decision: to cross the river and leave everything behind. And in this metaphor I find myself immersed, that which belongs not only to wonderers, immigrants, transhumants, as well as humanity as a whole.

Migrare Mutare contains the same Latin roots: mei which means to change, move. And when the author speaks of displacement, from one culture to another, from one language to another, I think of that other movement: the current translation, the poems that jump from page to page as moving through a border, from Spanish to English.  Nonetheless, they share the poetry, and in that communion, I find the union within the contrast. Octavio Paz would often say, “in translation there is always transmutation”. And this is how a poet changes through the translation and by doing so, modifies her sign and voice. The meaning might slightly vary in essence. Nonetheless, the voice is different, like an accent that crosses a river, that turns around and escapes seeking liberty, “I let my accent have the freedom / that I have lost.”, writes the author. Likewise, the language of a bilingual book allows for migration which is also transmutation.

There is something that is lost: language, liberty, a howl, a cry. What is lost is never completely recovered, it returns incomplete, it can never be submerged in the same river twice. Something has changed, something gets lost on the way. Nonetheless it continues its route, built by poetry. The reading of Migrare Mutare could well be a symbolization of this, a transit. The poem “Headed South” is not gratuitous, plagued by cruel and lethal vial signs where anyone can get lost seeking “the direction toward Mexico”; that promised land from which we don’t return and soon becomes a memory, a mirage among those lonely places. It is here, in Arizona, that I find Mexico without physically being there, perhaps in the nature that seizes those places in the north while being in the south; a place that undoubtedly reclaims its land without the need of directions. “Which direction is Mexico”, I asked Rossy, to which she responded in her poem… “within”.

It rains.

Let the rain fall! Let it flood with “yellow light” the holes touched by its surface! Let it create with its vital fluid the prodigy and the path! Because the aquatic flow proceeds towards the river, and in it, flows towards the origin. Water is that point of contact towards the ancient, towards nature, not only as a primal element, but as a root. Things may be lost along the way, but never water, because just like us, water changes, transmutes and migrates. Water is an elliptic journey where survival is measured in its abundance or lack of. People search for water like chasing salvation, like someone who remembers their first cradle and their last bathe of life, when death takes away every single drop. And in that nonstop riverbed, there is an important metaphor in the poetry of Migrare Mutare: “Although it is life, water, like me, rots when it stagnates”.

It dries.

It is hot in Arizona, rain barely lasts a few minutes, the sun has dried any vestige of precipitation. I come close to Rossy Evelin Lima’s book, filling my dry footsteps with rain like “streetlight”, and in them, “whenever it rains” the “clouds clear up and vanish”. We all have a desert within.

I continue reading under the hills, listening to my heart that makes echo in the pages of the poetry book. I realize its mythical figure has three hearts:

one of fire
                    tleyotl,
one of flower
                        yoloxochitl,
one of water
                        yolatl,

and in all of them that unstoppable, indomitable being, which has crossed and transformed on its own continues to push forward, impossible to bring down because it’s not the same creature. Three, a trinity of communion. The author, the lyrical voice and the reader, or better yet, the union of reading, memory and what I observe with countless meanings. I love nature in that moment, which appears abundantly within the poems. If there is one thing to love about her is that she lacks borders, she resides in liberty. She honors elements because they lack a nation. And in pantheism, a universal religion is merged: Flower, Fire, Water, the trinity of the eternal.

Migration Mutation

Movement Change

Like Heraclitus’ river, always in constant motion, it is never the same river when submerging ourselves twice. It is never the same person submerging twice into the river. The river nor the person are the same. Migration Mutation. Yesterday’s little girl who crossed the river, looks back, without being able to catch a glimpse, only what she holds in her memory.

Heavy rain.

There is a song of posterity in the poems of Rossy Evelin Lima. Like someone who wants to yell in this land of pain and only listen to the rock turned into echo or the echoes turned into rock. Nonetheless, the yelling continues within them, like the women who read their poetry to their daughters, later to their granddaughters in the perpetual lineage of this new world that gradually ceases to be foreign, without nature reclaiming their constitution:

Serpent,
                Quetzal,
                                Jaguar,
                                                Axolotl,
                                                                Turtle,
                                                                                Coyote,
                                                                                                Butterfly.

You can’t read Rossy Evelin Lima’s poetry statically, but rather shifting, in a journey, like the current of the river, the shifting of the echo, or the graceful liberty of the exodus. I choose Arizona to read her, in the middle of the desert and its monsoons, and by doing so, I fall into a hole of reflections. Perhaps it’s indispensable to read her in an ambiguous homeland, in a barren zone, in the desert where the coyotes and butterflies co-exist, where nature can be both mother and song, and loneliness is necessary to find the other. Perhaps it is not me who reads the book, but the book who has chosen me to read myself; in a poetry that turns inside out, with its three hearts exposed as offerings for the reader.

The journey has come to an end, just like the end of the page, perhaps where Rossy Evelin Lima once arrived. Where did you read the book of your life? “I arrive where I cease to arrive”, like Rulfo sentenced, without hindering me from believing this is just the beginning. Isn’t it true that in order to reach the place we want to it’s better to look within? Without this holding back the constant movement forward, like a migration or a mutation, as if liberty depended on it.


Rossy Evelin Lima (1986, VeracruzMexico), is an award-winning Mexican poet and linguist. Her work has been published in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies in Spain, Italy, UK, Canada, United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, and Argentina. She has been awarded the Gabriela Mistral Award by the National Hispanic Honor Society, the Premio Internazionale di Poesia Altino in Italy, the International Latino Book Award, and the Premio Orgullo Fronterizo Mexicano award by the Institute for Mexicans abroad, among many others. She is the president and founder of the Latin American Foundation for the Arts, the founder of the International Latin American Poetry Festival (FeIPoL), as well as the co-founder of Jade Publishing. In 2015 and was invited to speak at TEDxMcallen to speak about her experience as an immigrant writer in the U.S.

Jorge Saenz (McAllen, TX) is a poet and short story writer. He has published in several literary magazines such as Punto de partida, Bitacora de Vuelo, Latino Book Review and Le Miau Noir. Since 2016, he co-directs the literary blog Fragmentario. He is a committee member of the International Latin American Poetry Festival (FEIPOL). Currently, he is working on his first novel and is a creative writing student in the master’s program at the University of Texas UTRGV.

Don Cellini is a poet, translator and photographer. He is the author of Approximations / Aproximaciones (2005) and Inkblots (2008) both collections of bilingual poems published by March Street Press. His book of prose poems, Translate into English, as well as the bilingual collection Candidates for Sainthood and Other Sinners / Aprendices del santo, and his translation El silencio de las horas / The Silence of the Hours, are all published by Mayapple Press. A chapbook, Stone Poems, was published by FootHills Publishing.

Migrare Mutare ~ Migrate Mutate was released by artepoética press in June 2017.

Image: In the DesertMichael Levine-Clark, Creative Commons.