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February 25, 2011 / johnoliversimon

CAMINANTE 10 – Palabra de mujer



thus blurbs Gary Snyder:

This is a major poem, gritty and elegant, hard-earned, oriented by stars and late night conversations on then long road. John O., like an old-time Chinese poet, weaves through history, politucs, poverty, geography, poetry, spirit, friendship, love, learning, style and deep mind, while travelling a continent, Terse drifting lyric poems of eight lines each, and each one in a compelling contra dance wuth its own ‘comentario.’ The commentaries are also poems of sly lyric turns—the realism of magic— the illusions of informnation. I was held almost breathless by this sequence from start to end. “Playing ball in the underworld, circling the fire according to the rhythms of the stars.”








The earth rises in her sleep to kiss my footprints.

The river goes on flowing over the buried villages.

Chips of limestone teeth hacked from Huitztepec

set on edge to form the wet sidewalks of San Cristóbal.

When the women put their word into the air the floor

will dance and the bells will burn and fall silent.

There is no justice for the nurse with a shattered pelvis,

no justice for the repeated generations of hunger.


San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas



Comentario: accredited as a periodista at the Mesa de los Derechos de la Mujer to the newspaper El Tiempo of San Cristóbal, I listen to women who have woken before sunrise their entire lives to light the fire, grind corn and cook tortillas, who have given birth and closed the eyes of the dead. At evening, the floor gyrates in a 6.5 earthquake which cracks the bell-towers of the city. Cerro Huitztepec means Mountain Mountain Mountain in Spanish, Mayan and Nahuatl respectively.


Overview: My friend the poet Conchita Avendaño, who inherited the newspaper racket in San Cristóbal de Las Casas from her papi, and finds herself in the middle of one of the remarkable stories of the end of the millennium, the neo-Zapatista rebellion, gets me a press pass to the women’s rights roundtable. Then an earthquake hits with a trilingual pun. The illustration is of Cerro Huitztepec (ca. 8850 ft), a rough limestone pyramid which overlooks both San Cristóbal and San Juan Chamula. Never trust a poet that gets their fioreign-language tags wrong. I could go chapter and verse.


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