29 March 2009

Juan Felipe Herrera

[from Juan Felipe Herrera's Night Train to Tuxtla, University of Arizona, 1994]

Zeta [excerpt]

. . .

By nightfall, we had ended up in Panama City, stopped at a cafe. Zeta mumbled something about trekking twenty-five kilometers further south. We rested and smoked. Then he made a call and got directions to Edgar's place in the hills. Edgar would fill us in -- we were close, he said.

In the morning we found Edgar barely alive in a small village. . . .

Crawling through the smoking corn slush, pushing my boots down on the blackened sod, then Zeta found Edgar ahead of me. Bullets burned in his right thigh. A gaping hole by his shoulders. Edgar was dreamy and spurted words as best as he could, pointing ahead to a river. The villagers had fled to the border river, he said. Old farmers, women, and children shot down by American soldiers -- Edgar kept on repeating this and pointed again; there had been helicopters. Zeta went further. He disappeared and then came up holding the hand of another body along the field.

It was raining -- hard rain smashing the wide, red-flared plant leaves along the small roads. I could hear the mad ticking all around and inside of me. The sky lowered and then unraveled its dark knots that had been tightening since dusk and then, thunder. All the tiny things in the earth below were loosening with a music of their own -- little bones in water letting go of their cargo. Suddenly, all around us, the cornfields whitened in a sharp, strange light, a pure light. Zeta! His arms came up, caught in a storm of flickering sheaths, little blazing shards, his face slowly going to the side and the torso -- stretching, curling at the edges, the thousand brilliant translucent shells falling to his feet -- in a millisecond, not far from me; I lost Zeta to this light.

. . .

Norteamérica, I Am Your Scar [excerpt]

Get out of my walled infinity
of the star circle round my heart.

               Vasko Popa

My friends grab at their shoulders
at odd times. So do I.

There is something eating at the ligaments.

We crouch as if in a snow blizzard.
A stranger's blue wool weighs on us.

And somehow, we still lift
our delicate fingers;
a true gentleness moves.

Our portraits hang on the precipice.

A crazy quill left
for an old woman's barbed hook
undulates inside the small of our back.

It is hard to walk, like this.

It makes us sullen, silent,
with rough lips dying from madness but,
then, our hair that refuses to stop growing
pounds its black tubing into the sea,

making room for a forest or
a desert of terrible ink.

And there we sing, at last;
a fang with lightning;

a half-sun breaking from the second story of a tidal wave;
this unfinished stone fist novel unraveling all its wetness.

A quarry knife
I carry, for you. You take it now.

. . .

This is my village, full of crosses, swollen, dedicated to your industry
groomed in your spirit of bank flowers and helicopter prowls.

I want to say good-bye Big Man.
I want to say farewell Holy Jaw.

But you see, there is very little left to do, now,
except go to the park and relax with you; take your hand
in the shape of my hand

and point with the powdery grace of night,
point to the phosphor crescent on your palm, this scar
you say you got from hunting wild game

somewhere in the South, when you used to dream
above saguaro and when you towered over
the wire coils across the endless borders
and military bridges into my anguish,
into my resentments.

I point there because you will find me
in a shape so familiar, so close to you;

in your language, in your chequered English neckties,
in your translucence and your innumerable notes of ash
and penitence; I point there, you

strong man with a sanguine palm tree leaf
jutting from the robes you wear. The ones we make
withour daily smoke of washerwoman wax.

Listen to me.
Your scar speaks to you.

Your dreams know the scar very well,
there, the scar lives with its bulbous velvet root on fire.
Let's walk together, in this light.

Tonight there will be an animal fair
somewhere in this curled-up nation.
Look there.

This is the age of the half-men
and the half-women.

I say to you, now, I celebrate
when we shall walk with two legs once again
and when our hands shall burst from your hands.

Night Train to Tuxtla (Camino Del Sol)

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