Four Poems by Esteban Sabino

Translated by José García Escobar


Sabino Esteban Francisco (1981). Guatemalan poet of Mayan Q’anjob’al descent. For two years, during the Guatemalan Civil War, his family hid in Chiapas, Mexico. In 1984 they made their way to Guatemala and joined the Los Limones refugee camp that was part of Ixcan’s Comunidades de Población en Resistencia (CPR)— communities that provided, among other things, shelter and education to its members. Sabino grew up and went to school in the CPR’s.

He has published the books of poetry Sq’aqaw yechel aqanej/Gemido de huellas (2007), Yetoq’ junjun b’ijan aq’al/Con de pedazo de carbon (2001), Xik’ej K’al Xe’ej/Alas y Raíces (2013) and Sq’och Xajaw/La escalera de la luna (2017). He has been invited to poetry festivals in Guatemala, Spain, Mexico, and the United States. His poetry has been featured in anthologies in Guatemala and abroad.


Another life

After the bombing
the birds sang again.

Like a sweet, joyous
fountain turned into a life’s chant.

From the trenches
our laughter sprout.

And we walked out
with shards of coal
and pieces of wood
to draw another life
on the backside of this life.


Yich Tenam

Up there,
close to the sky,
is Yich Tenam.

It is so up high
that the lightings tangle
with the branches of the pine trees
and the Q’anjob’al ladies
wearing white huipiles
look like clean clouds
walking down the skyline.

To go to Yich Tenam
—cold land—
is to climb up the sky.



Every morning
I hang my love
in the crook of a tree
beside of your hill.

And I wait
for my heart to
drop in your hands at last
like a ripe fruit.


Dry tree

A woodpecker wounded
the death of a tree.

Instead of making it
a mortuary box
the bird dug a hole
on its chest.

The tree came back to life:
a bird lives
and throbs inside.

Every morning the heart
flies out of its tree-body.



José García Escobar is a journalist, fiction writer, translator, and former Fulbright scholar from Guatemala. He got his MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. His writing has appeared in The Evergreen Review, Guernica, The Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s Asymptote’s Editor-at-Large for the Central American region. He currently works as a journalist in Agencia Ocote.


Back to Issue: Winter 2020