Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sugar [Cane], Part I

sugar life.  
(poem, 2006.
photo, arroyo, PR
dirt road in sugar field 2001)

para los espiritus que viven entre la caña

In the beginning life was sugar.
Life was ocean and fish.

Life was the machete.
It was the sugarcane seasons.
It was growing,
cutting
and burning sugar fields.
And then again,
and then again,
and again.

Life went and came and went and came
just like the cane did.

The sugar cane told life and death.
It told blood and sweat.
It told worries.
It told love.
Sometimes it told inside the sorrow of death
and under the rains of May.
The petals of life unfolding
and the earth moving beneath them.

Green, blue, brown and salt all around them.
Stars and sun and rain too.
Air.
Fresh air the scent of sweet ripe mangoes.
The scent of her passion inside a heavy
sweaty
sugar-cane cutting body
or inside the melodies of his molasses 
sweet,
rum-breath. 

Sounds of people living in bright moods.
Sounds.
Noise.
Noise to bear witness to one's life.
Raspy voices worn with despair
worn by living here and there:
with the dead and in the living
traveling in place,
swaying in the breeze,
in unison with the cane stalks,
reaching for the sun,
reaching for the sky,
outstretched hands in the wind.

People living in unimagined possibilities.
And they used their eyes to watch the world and each other.
And they used their language in emotional ways
telling it "like it is"
for better
or love
or worse
or compassion.
But telling "it."
compassion.
community,
me & you & us, and the others,
us.

And they knew their world and what it was used for.
They knew the soul of their earth
and the directions of the breeze
and the essence of the moon
and the beauty of ritual for those of us left behind.
They knew about colors and light
and about the meaning of shadows on the wall.
The dark cover of endless nights keeping them company.
They knew about the stillness of the spirits.
And about the call of pigeons.
They knew about suffering
They knew all about hate and disdain, of those who stood like towers over them 
but they,
unflinching,
courageous,
they told stories,
they held each other
they stood tall like the cane
and
they laughed,
they,
they built joy,
they built home-land,
land-home
they built.

Hands so precious.
Hands.
Hands that shaped the world.
Hands.
Muscles that birthed life and sustained it.
Hands that shared worlds living inside other hands.
They shared grief
and wisdom and the flavors of their emotions.
They cooked with raw warm emotions,
that melted one into the other
into the other.

“Fish broth and ocean?", she asked

--"Si, gracias!", I said. Staring gently into her dignified eyes.
Me: seeing the world in those watery orbits for the first time
Seeing.
For the first time.
Seeing,
what sugar did for this world,
how sugar brought us together,
how sugar makes us into who we are.
Sugar.
Cane. 

 

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