Poema Zinacanteco

Okay, so this isn’t the blog about words that I had mentioned before. That is still somewhere in my brain, to come some day soon. This is instead a few pieces from the poetry section of my journal from when I was in Mexico. I was spending so much time writing my field journal that I did not have time to write much poetry, but every now and then I would jot down some images and ideas. (You’ll notice some images were repeated several times. Sorry about the repetition). I still haven’t managed to make anything of these thoughts, but figured I would throw them out to all of you. Are there any images that interest you in particular, or ideas that you think I should follow further? (Maybe this should go in the workshop section? Chrissy–how would I do that?)

October 28, 2009

Zinacantán: land of the bats (Tzotzil)

rain drumming on the tin roof, cold whispering through the doors, clouds covering the mountains
The sky above the church is grey.

Came home late at night. Typing here in my journal by candlelight. Feel very far away from all I have known—feels like that was another life. How am I going to fit back into my old one? There is another world out there, but sometimes it feels like this valley is the only place on earth.

kox-catu, ik-catu. tiny kittens huddled by the fire. tortillas and sal. dirt floor, children-sized chairs.
bathing with buckets. washcloth. cold water. fire.
Pine trees. women carrying leña on their backs. chickens and dogs. roosters crowing at all hours of the night.
colibrí (hummingbird) chittering in the garden. one white eye strip, a small green puff ball.
women carrying their babies in a sling. Breast-feeding. Children dragging cana up the street, like a travois.  
smile from an old woman. one tooth. grey braids.
picking pears with a pole and can. sweet smell just below the skin.
Black eyes, black hair, beautiful laugh-lines.
so much trash in the backyard. bottles, wrappers, cardboard.
sheep clattering down the walk.
aquacate. good food.

November 11, 2009

In an adobe building
we sit by the fire.
mist slips in the door.

Doña Matal sits on her knees, weaving.
Kittens huddle near the shivering embers.
Outside clouds encircle the mountains.

At 6 los zanates are calling in the trees.

November 15, 2009

The sun is warming the mountains,
the wasps are gathering under the eaves.
I sit in my room writing a letter home,
itch flea bites on my arms and ankles.
Today my laundry finally dried
after two days of rain
and then two days of sun.
The tiles are cold on my feet.

November 19, 2009

86 steps to el real de Guadalupe
city spread out underneath us
workers on the road, jig-saw puzzle stone
li nakalom ta jlumalike
I live in the village.

December 4, 2009
sparrow with a black and white mask and red throat
yellow warblers in the trees
hot sun on the village, cold houses

the architecture of weaving
smooth carved wood
criss-crossing threads
tents of lines
looped thin hilo
leather backstrap
long rope attached to post or wall, holding the other side of the loom up
connected to the earth
black braids
ten hours of work
spools of yarn, creaking of wooden contraption
spinning threads into a ball

December 8, 2009
I can hear the bats high-pitched call outside. a sort of metal ticking noise.

March 7, 2010
On the way back we realized that the valley was dark and when we came into Zinacantan it was clear “no hay luz.” the dark town, the flickering candles, grey sky above the mountains–such powerful images. Fog on the road showing up in the headlights. Earlier there was a powerful lluvia that pounded the roof.

The question is, what do I want to write for?
Why, for whom? About what? To describe the poverty? The beauty?
I do not have a language to describe this place,
Zinacantan, Sots’leb, land of the bats.
I can talk about the mountains that encircle the valley,
the clouds that pour over the sierra,
and drift through open doorways.
The moth wings that I find lying in the street,
locusts flying around the lamp-posts,
kittens crouched beside the slow-burning fire.
But how to speak of the people?
Their strength? Their poverty? The work
that they weave with their hands,
the stories they tell of kings with rings of gold,
the flowers they grow in the greenhouses.
How do I describe the architecture of weaving?
The architecture of leaving, is what my friend
heard when I uttered this phrase.
How do I leave this place of likelto, tanato, o’kob to.
I’ll see you in a little while. I’ll see you later. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Always, I’ll see you.
Never a goodbye.


2 thoughts on “Poema Zinacanteco

    • I don’t know if I would call it a poem, more like a collection of ideas! Whoever has the time to look it over, or who wants to be involved in the first Afterword Workshop would be great! I’m interested in getting feedback on how to write about place and/as people, I usually write about place and nature…Also how do I write about poverty without being exploitive, if that is the right word? Without being seeming to use it for effect. How to write about poverty honestly? And of course the big issue around writing about Mexico, how do I write about the hurt of leaving a place without being melodramatic?

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