Friday, January 4, 2008

Eleventh Day of Christmas: Latin American reflection and appeal

They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection

Julia Esquivel


It isn't the noise in the streets
that keeps us from resting, my friend,
nor is it the shouts of the young people

coming out drunk from the "St. Pauli,"
nor is it the tumult of those who pass by excitedly
on their way to the mountains.

It is something within us that doesn't let us sleep,

that doesn't let us rest,
that won't stop pounding deep inside,
it is the silent, warm weeping
of Indian women without their husbands,
it is the sad gaze of the children
fixed somewhere beyond memory,
precious in our eyes
which during sleep,
though closed, keep watch,
systole,
diastole,
awake.

Now six have left us,

and nine in Rabinal, 1
and two, plus two, plus two,

and ten, a hundred, a thousand,
a whole army
witness to our pain,
our fear,
our courage,
our hope!

What keeps us from sleeping

is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!

Because every evening
though weary of killings,
an endless inventory since 1954, 2
yet we go on loving life

and do not accept their death!

They have threatened us with Resurrection
Because we have felt their inert bodies,
and their souls penetrated ours

doubly fortified,
because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
who carry the strength
to reach the finish line
which lies beyond death.

They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they will not be able to take away from us

their bodies,
their souls,
their strength,
their spirit,
nor even their death
and least of all their life.
Because they live
today, tomorrow, and always
in the streets baptized with their blood,
in the air that absorbed their cry,
in the jungle that hid their shadows,
in the river that gathered up their laughter,
in the ocean that holds their secrets,
in the craters of the volcanoes,
Pyramids of the New Day,
which swallowed up their ashes.

They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they are more alive than ever before,
because they transform our agonies

and fertilize our struggle,
because they pick us up when we fall,
because they loom like giants

before the crazed gorillas' fear.

They have threatened us with Resurrection,

because they do not know life (poor things!).

That is the whirlwind

which does not let us sleep,
the reason why sleeping, we keep watch,
and awake, we dream.

No, it's not the street noises,

nor the shouts from the drunks in the "St. Pauli,"
nor the noise from the fans at the ball park.

It is the internal cyclone of kaleidoscopic struggle

which will heal that wound of the quetzal
fallen in Ixcán,
it is the earthquake soon to come
that will shake the world
and put everything in its place.

No, brother,

it is not the noise in the streets
which does not let us sleep.

Join us in this vigil

and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is

to live threatened with Resurrection!

To dream awake,

to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying,
and to know ourselves already
resurrected!

***—Geneva, March 8, 1980

from Julia Esquivel, Threatened with Resurrection; Prayers and Poems from an Exiled Guatemalan (Ann Woehrle, trans. ; Brethren Press, 1994)

Julia Esquivel is a Guatemalan poet and theologian living in exile in Mexico. She has worked with several human rights organizations, and her poetry has been widely recognized in Latin and North America. She is also the author of The Certainty of Spring.


Notes
1. Rabinal: town in the province of Baja Verahaz where massacre took place.
2. Inventory since 1954: year in which the government of President Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown by a CIA-backed mercenary army coup, which initiated the unrelenting and ever-mounting repression by the military regimes in continuous power since then.

Notes and text courtesy of the journal Spiritus

P.S. Two more days till Epiphany! Please give. See below for good news and dunning letter to your household animals.

3 comments:

MikeF said...

Oh, wonderful! What a poem. I'd never heard of Julia Esquivel before - I shall have to investigate...

Thank you, Jane!

Mike

Jane R said...

I am so glad you liked the poem, Mike. It was popular a while back in Catholic circles (the kind of Catholics involved in international solidarity and dialogue, mostly, especially during the civil wars and dictatorships of the 1980s in Central America) and in some theological circles and I am glad it has surfaced again in the pages of Spiritus, which is a fairly new journal, an academic one but mostly readable ;-). Julia Esquivel is not an academic though -- she is a poet and human rights activist, and she is alive as far as I know; she was born in 1930.

A blessed Epiphany to you!

MikeF said...

And to you, Jane!

Mike