transcending silence...

 

 

 

transcending silence...
Spring 2010 Issue

When Global Economies Develop

Amy V. Ramirez Rodriguez

Abstract

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was written in 1948 to establish a contract for peace between nation-states and people. World War II and the multitude of wars that liberated colonies, such as contemporary India and the Philippines, obviated the need for peace. However, the UDHR pressures countries into a contract that is not necessarily beneficial for them.

To countries that fought for their sovereignty ferociously, the UDHR is seemingly a statement by the imperial powers, such as the United States and Western Europe that says: "We will recognize your sovereignty, and cease war against you, if you promise to not wage war against us."  It is odd that only one or two years after several colonies were liberated, like the Philippines in 1946 and India in 1947, there was an initiative for the UDHR.

My poem, then, takes a different perspective on Human Rights. I explore the feeling of rage and indignity aroused by the process of modernization (i.e. imperialism, colonialism, industrial development, out-sourcing, free trade, global commerce) because the Human Rights movement can only flourish within modernization. To be sincere and productive, any conversation about human rights must consider the lifestyles and sentiments of people forced to submit to these processes.

Sections

Poet's Statement
Poem


References and Translations

 

Poem

When Global Economies Develop

 

He awakes in his cell, the sweat inching toward his temples. There,
it will get lost in the curls that spring from the sides,
as horns spring forth from a bull.

The sheets beneath him are drenched in salt, dirt and musk.
The places where his hands laid are stiff from the blood they absorbed.
He thinks to himself, while forcing an ironical smirk, that these sheets are nothing
like the sheets "Rosa tendía en la yarda ayer." [1]
It seems they were both swept in a whirlwind.
She, into an eddy of lament and he, into the revolution.

Ella recitaba el proverbio de su madre
mientras tendía las sabanas.
"El amor nunca es mejor que el amante.
El sencillo ama sencillamente,
el rabioso ama rabia-mente.
El amor nunca es mejor que el amante".
El revolucionario nunca es mejor que la revolución.[2]

None of those things mattered now.
He awakes in his cell,
aware of his sweat and his blood and the sheets,
and he thirsts for water.

The water,
by the stream where he grew up,
was sweet.
He bathed in it, frolicked.
Daily, his mother and he leían las poesías a la orilla del río.
Siempre comenzaba …[3]

Los compañeros[4] down the hallway are starting a ruckus.
They've banged against the walls all night.
It's a wonder he didn't awake sooner.

They're chanting to Aguanile[5], as Paul chanted to god. But only,
that god opens cell doors. Black gods were lost at sea years ago.
The Santeros[6] still search for them late,
at night entres las aguas bendita, entre el océano,
Atlántico.[7]

"Mi mama decía,
que las aguas eran bendita"[8] so he thought to himself,
letting the pain from his back
settle into his bones
and the soreness of cheeks and chest develop into a numb stiffness.
"Las aguas crían a la natura. Sus limites se respetan. No se Cruzan, se siguen."[9]

The army from the north,
crossed the water one year ago.
They came, a gun in one hand, a politician in the other,
a stiff blueprint for the factory fixed between their legs.
Veni Vidi Vicis.

He worked there,
for sixth months,
then a second factory was built.
He worked for nine months before the river became polluted.

The chemicals from the factory were as,
small pox to the sacred water.

With the destruction of the water came the obscurity of his memory.

Every night he searched his soul for the image of his mother.
He never could remember the poem they recited every night.

He yearned to hear those words again, he
needed them as a bálsamo para el alma[10].
Now more than ever he needed those words.
He knew they would come for him soon enough.

“Los africanos me distraen, quiero
saber cuando vengan hacia mi. le
cantan a Chango, Chango Chango, pero el
no vendrá. Obatala se fue
y Jesucristo sigue montado en la cruz. Que
se callen, quiero enfrentar mi muerte como un hombre[11].
Like a man he’ll face the murderous, cowardly, pack[12].

For three,
months he planned the revolution.
For three,
months he saw the factory consume the land
Consume,
the food
Consume,
the people
His children came,
to him
Hungry
His children came,
to him
Chary
All he had to give them was money
The green paper bared the faces of foreign men whom the children,
didn't recognize
They,
ate it anyway,
eagerly

He searched his thoughts,
searched
his thoughts,
searched his
thoughts
Were his children,
safe?
Had they eaten,
finally?

For three months he,
planned,
toiling con
los compañeros.
Bombardear[13] the boats
in the harbor
With tea bags,
full of dynamite
They would ignite,
a new kind of freedom
The freedom que viene del agua[14]

The plan,
went all too well, he was too,
satisfied

He left the dock, searching for the factory owners
He found them,
- - - he killed them
Made them
look
as
well
as
the
Caciques
De
Las
Casas [15]
described.
He_spared_no_detail

B_u_r_n_e_d
them,
S_c_a_l_p_e_d
them,
C_a_s_t_r_a_t_e_d them
Wrapped their m_a_n_h_o_o_d in blueprints for factories.

He knew he went too
far
But he'd gone too
far
to care

His children were with Rosa, lost in her lament, safe in the montes[16]
His people were free, his village would eat again,
His people would see again,
see
themselves anew

A
year is brief in this eternal village
But
in A
year all was lost, never to be found again
Night
after night
The Santeros cried, Salty tears
Ni sus ojos producían agua[17]

He wrapped their manhood in blueprints;
they could never be read again for the blood that covered them. No
one would invade the land again.
He stood
proud
and proclaimed to the Almighty "el revolucionario vio la
revolución"[18]

y en ese instante, lo captaron
lo llevaron a una barca
lo metieron
en al celda
y ahí amaneció
sus compañeros
en las celdas al lado[19]

They're quiet now, he
wonders
why
Everything
is
quiet
now
"They've come for me"
His body
aches
He searched his
mind

It
comes
to him
The beauty
!
The
Beauty[20]
!
Of that poem of yore
Yo
soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes
de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma.

Yo
vengo de todas partes
Y hacia todas partes voy:
Arte soy
entre las artes,
En los montes, monte soy.

Yo sé
de Egipto y Nigricia,
Y
de Persia y Xenophonte;
Y prefiero
la caricia
Del aire fresco del monte.

Yo sé
de las historias viejas
Del hombre
y de sus rencillas;
Y prefiero las abejas volando en las campanillas.

Yo sé del canto del viento en las ramas vocingleras:
Nadie me diga que miento, que
lo prefiero de veras.

Yo sé
de un gamo aterrado
Que vuelve al redil,
y expira,-
Y de un corazón
cansado
Que muere oscuro
y sin ira.

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References and Translations

[1]Rosa tendía en la yarda ayer:
Rosa hung in the yard yesterday.
(This is a reference to 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez). [Return]

[2]Ella recitaba … revolución:
She recited her mother's proverb as she hung the sheets to dry. "Love is never better than the lover. The simple love simply loves the rabid love rabidly. Love is never better than the lover." But, the revolutionary is better than the revolution.
(This is an allusion to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye). [Return]

[3]leían las poesías a la orilla del río. siempre comenzaba … :
They read the poems by the riverbank. The poem always began… [Return]

[4]Los compañeros:
The comrades. [Return]

[5]Aguanile:
The name of a classic Salsa by Hector Lavoe. "Aguanile mai mai" is praise for the god Ogun within Santeria. Chango and Obatala are also the names of gods within this religion. This religion is described in further detail below. [Return]

NB: Ogun is the god of war and metal. Chango is the god of thunder and lightning. Obatala is the supreme being.

[6]Santeros:
Practitioners of particular mix of the Yoruba religions and Catholicism. Another name for the religion is La Regla de Ocha Lukumi. The language used in Santeria is called Lukumi an offshoot of the Yoruba language of Nigeria West Africa. African slaves were forced to convert to Catholicism and yet sought ways to practice their beliefs. In time, a clandestine blend of the two religions developed and became very popular in the Caribbean. [Return]

[7]Entres las aguas bendita, entre el océano Atlántico:
Throughout the sacred waters, throughtout the Atlantic Ocean. [Return]

[8]"Mi mama decía que las aguas eran bendita" :
My mother would say the waters are blessed [Return]

[9] "Las aguas crían a la natura. Sus limites se respetan. No se Cruzan, se siguen.":
Water nurtures nature. Its limits should be respected. Waters are not crossed; currents must be followed. [Return]

[10]Bálsamo para el alma:
As a balm for my soul [Return]

[11]"Los africanos me distraen, quiero saber cuando vengan hacia mi.  le cantan a Chango, chango chango, pero el no vendrá. Obatala se fue y Jesucristo sigue montado en la cruz. Que se callen, quiero enfrentar mi muerte como un hombre":
The Africans distract me, I want to know when they are coming fro me. They sing to
Chango… but he won’t come for them. Obatala has left and Jesus is still m ounted on the cross. They should shut up, I want to face my death like a man.[Return]

[12]Like a man he'll face the m'rderous, cowardly pack.
This is a reference to Claude McKay’s poem, "If I must die." [Return]

[13]Bombardear:
To bomb [Return]

[14]Que viene del agua:
That comes from the water [Return]

[15]The Caciques De Las Casas described:
The Caciques were chiefs within the Taino tribe. Bartolome De Las Casas was a Spanish
Dominican priest and who traveled with Christopher Columbus  to Hispanola. De las Casas wrote extensively about the  inhumane cruelty Tainos suffered at the hand of Columbus. In Historia Apologetica de las Indias, he wrote of how they were murdered mercilessly, butchered, and burned alive. [Return]

[16]Montes:
Mountains [Return]

[17]Ni sus ojos producían agua:
Their eyes did not produce water [Return]

[18]"el revolucionario vio la revolución":
The revolutionary saw the revolution [Return]

[19]Y en ese instante, lo captaron :
And in that instant, they captured him [Return]

Lo llevaron a una barca:
They took him to a boat

Lo metieron en al celda:
They put him in a cell
Y ahí amaneció:
And there he awoke
Sus compañeros en las celdas al lado:
His comrades in the adjacent cell

[20]The beauty! The beauty!
This is a reference to Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness [Return]

 

The final poem:

Yo
soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes
de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma.

Yo
vengo de todas partes
Y hacia todas partes voy:
Arte soy
entre las artes,
En los montes, monte soy.

Yo sé
de Egipto y Nigricia,
Y
de Persia y Xenophonte;
Y prefiero
la caricia
Del aire fresco del monte.

Yo sé
de las historias viejas
Del hombre
y de sus rencillas;
Y prefiero las abejas volando en las campanillas.

Yo sé del canto del viento en las ramas vocingleras:
Nadie me diga que miento, que
lo prefiero de veras.
Yo sé
de un gamo aterrado
Que vuelve al redil,
y expira,-
Y de un corazón
cansado
Que muere oscuro
y sin ira.

 

I
am a sincere man
From where the palm grows,
And before
I die I want to
Expel these verses from my soul

I
come from everywhere
And to everywhere I go:
I am Art
among the arts,
in the mountains, I am the mountain

I know
of Egypt and of Black Africa
And
of Persia and Xenophon,
And I prefer
the caresses
Of the fresh mountain air

I know
of the old stories
Of man
and of his quarrels;
I prefer the bees flying in the countryside.

 

I know of the song of the wind in the violent branches:
No one should say I'm lying, that
I prefer it really.
I know
of a frightened deer
Returning to the fold,
and dies, -
And from
a tired heart
That dies dark and
without anger.

This poem is an interpretive combination of two poems by Jose Marti, "Yo soy un hombre sincero" and "Yo se de Egipto y Nigricia." Theses poems are part of the series "Versos Sencillos."

 

Edited by Yolanda Best and Maureen Whitcomb

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