Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday's Poem: Otto Rene Castillo

'But it’s beautiful to love the world
with eyes
that have not yet
been born.

And splendid
to know yourself victorious
when all around you
it’s all still so cold,
so dark.'

Rene Castillo
from Before the Scales Tomorrow

Apolitical Intellectuals

One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the humblest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their country was slowly

dying out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.

No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their futile struggles

against 'nothingness'
or about their ontological

to make money.                                             
No, they won’t be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or about the self-disgust they felt
when someone deep inside them
begins to die
the coward’s death.

They’ll be asked nothing
about their absurd
born in the shadow
of the total lie.

On that day
the humble people will come,

those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,

but who daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,

those who mended their clothes
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they’ll ask:

“What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tendernes
and life
burned out of them?”

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.

Your own misery
will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.


The most beautiful thing
for those who have fought a whole life
is to come to the end and say;
we believed in people and life,
and life and the people
never let us down.

Only in this way do men become men,
women become women,
fighting day and night
for people and for life.

And when these lives come to an end
the people open their deepest rivers
and they enter those waters forever.
And so they become, distant fires, living,
creating the heart of example

The most beautiful thing
for those who have fought a whole life
is to come to the end and say;
we believed in people and life,
and life and the people
never let us down.

Otto Rene Castillo (1934-1967) was known as the revolutionary poet of America.
He was a Guatemalan revolutionary, guerilla fighter, and a poet. Castillo was first forced into exile when just 17 years of age and was tortured and imprisoned many times in Guatemala. He studied at the University of Guatemala, and the University of Leipzig in Germany.  

Following the 1954 CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Guatemala, Castillo was forced into exile over his political activities and went to El Salvador, where he met other writers who helped him publish his early poetry.
He won the Central American Poetry Prize in 1955. He returned to Guatemala in 1958 and started law school, but was expelled again.  After some years in Germany he returned to Guatemala in 1964 and worked as  a student organiser and in theatre until the US backed dictatorship  arrested, imprisoned and exiled him again. He slipped back into Guatemala the same year and joined guerrillas operating in the mountains. In 1967 Castillo  was captured by the Guatemalan army, and along with his comrades and some local campesinos, was brutally tortured and burned alive. He was just 33 years of age.
Articles about Castillo and his poetry are here and here.

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