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February 4, 2011 / johnoliversimon

Caminante 8: Madre Tierra



blurbed by Gary Snyder (2002)  “A major poem…”



Logo of the Madre Tierra, San Cristóbal de Las Casas


Sorry, kid, you weren’t supposed to be alive.
Blinded by blows, your mother lost count.
Your father fell feet overhead in a burning lake
of alcohol. You learned no human language.
Outside of Madre Tierra you stumble to my knees
with a primeval groan for all the eternity
of your six years. I will not share even one
crumb of my chocolate croissant with you.

San Cristóbal de Las Casas,


Comentario: Madre Tierra is a popular Gringo Trail bakery breakfast spot in San Cristóbal. She’s pictured on a silkscreen postcard from Taller Leñateros, glued on the cover of my 112th blue notebook, as a lovely young Indian woman with a child wrapped in her rebozo, and bearing a platter on her head and another in her left hand piled high with the goodies of the earth: cinnamon rolls, scones, and pain au chocolat. It’s disheartening to move through this world rejecting the hungry children at every step.


Overview: My greatest model in writing Caminante, apart from my formal debt to Jorge Fernández Granados for the 8-line stanza he used in Resurrección, was the work of Sharon Doubiago, who had travelled much of  this Gringo Trail with her daughter Shawn on her way to writing South America Mi Hija (1992), one of the four great North American long poems  of the fbin de siecle. Many as are her virtues as an incantatory, Whitmanesque poet who can tell a rousing tale and whip up a rhapsody, I resented Sharon for generally portraying herself as the most sensitive soul around, the only one on the Andean bus, for isntance worrying about the plight of the sidewalk beggar kid the bus crew was laughingly giving a non-consensual one-way free ride 100 km from his home. Whereas I said no to a hundred beggars a day. There was a particularly damaged Indian lad outside the Madre Tierra, where hip gringas and beautiful mexicans smoked cigarettes after post-coital breakfast. In fact I did not share even one crumb of my croissant with the kid, though he kept growling. I still recall its texture, a wave of flaky crust breaking on the rocks of my teeth as I wormed my way to the core addiction: chocolate.


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