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But thereof come in the end despondency and madness

3 April 2011

In the beginning are the words, and in Mexico the words dwell among us:  our poets are more than ethereal figures shuffled off to ivory towers; their words, even if locked in slim volumes, are those of the people who shift the culture, and who in a very real way, affect the course of our lives.  It is no accident that even in our most mundane activity, commerce, we carry Nezahuacoatl and Sor Juana with us.

The poetry of Javier Sicilia is not likely to be found in every Mexican home, and a taste for the hermetic tradition going back to Santa Teresa and San Juan de la Cruz is not common currency, but we are in a culture in which, when a poet speaks, those that fancy themselves our leaders (including the political kind) feel obliged to listen.  Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco Sicilia Ortega, was buried yesterday.  Juan Francisco, and seven others, were found strangled and left in an abandoned car near Cuernavaca.

Felipe Calderón called the poet (who was in the Philipines at the time of the murder) to offer condolences and said “he personally was going to press for the (investigation) to be taken all the way.” At which point, the state prosecutor’s office attempted to dismiss the significance of the murder by suggesting the victims were involved in narcotics smuggling, or were military informants (or that Juan Francisco was with “the wrong crowd”) or…

Does it matter?  Institutionalized violence  is “destroying the best of our people, the youth”, the poet said.    The state institutions — the political parties — do nothing, while the “war” continues to rack up a body count of men, women, children…

Rather than treat criminals as criminals, the state launched a “war”, and the results have been that the institutions are “rotten”, with victims — men, women, children — forgotten, and the State unwilling, or unable, to render any accounting.

“This isn’t about candidates, it’s about us, the citizens.  It’s our job to hold them accountable.  If we do not work together as citizens, nothing will happen.”

In reference to his own grief, he noted that  many of the young victims are innocent of any wrong-doing.  The government should be providing the public with the truth, and the identities of the victims.  Otherwise, the stigma presented by the government (and the media) will stick to them, and the true culprits will go unpunished.

Specifically, he condemned Chihuahua governor, Cesár Duarte Jaquez, who suggested simply drafting “ni-nis” (young adults neither in school or working) into the army.  “The urgent task is to provide opportunities for young people, not use them for cannon-fodder” simply adding to the “stupidity” of a situation in which the guilty go free for too long, and the innocent are victims.

Those, of course, were the words of a grieving father… a father more eloquent than most, and one more likely to be quoted in the press… and in his role as a journalist and essayist.   At his son’s funderal, Javier Sicilia, the poet, spoke the following words:

El mundo ya no es digno de la palabra
Nos la ahogaron adentro
Como te (asfixiaron),
Como te desgarraron a ti los pulmones

Y el dolor no se me aparta
sólo queda un mundo
Por el silencio de los justos
Sólo por tu silencio y por mi silencio, Juanelo

The world no longer merits the word
It has been choked out of us,
As you strangled,
As you had it torn your lungs.

And, for the pain I cannot escape
there is nothing.  But for the world:
the silence of the just,
your silence, and my silence, Juanelo.

What more can he say?  As a poet, and as a poet in a nation where poets matter, where the state has traditionally craved the legitimacy given by support from poets like Salvador Novo and Octavio Paz, comes the most damning indictment of the futility and stupidity of this “war” yet:

“This is my last poem, I cannot write any more.  Poetry no longer exists for me.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. otto permalink
    3 April 2011 8:44 am

    The blood drained out of my face when I read the title line on RSS, as you flung this author back 30 years to a school desk and a rabidly enthusiastic English Lit teacher. Thanks for another superlative post…Wordsworth and Mexico, beGad!

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