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El Cafetal

Written by: Rafael Guillen | Biography
 I came with the rising sun and I've brought
nothing but two eyes, all I have,
simply two eyes, for the harvest
of grief that's hidden in this jungle
like the coffee shrubs.
Fewer, but they fling themselves upwards, untouchable, are the trees that invidiously shut out the light from this overwhelming indigence.
With my machete I go through the paths of the cafetal.
Intricate paths where the tamags lies in wait, sunk in the luxuriant vegetation of the tropics, the carnal luxury that gleams in the eyes of the Creole overseer; sinuous paths between junipers and avocados where human thought, cowed since before the white man, has never found any other light than the well of Quich; blind; drowning in itself.
Picking berries, the guanacos hope only for a snort to free them from the cafetal.
Through the humid shade beneath the giant ceibas, Indian women in all colors crawl like ants, one behind the other, with the load balanced on a waking sleep.
They don't exist.
They've never been born and still they are dying daily, rubbed raw, turned to wet earth with the plantation, hunkered for days in the road to watch over the man eternally blasted on booze, as good as dead from one rain to the next, under the shrubs of the cafetal.
The population has disappeared into the coffee bean, and a tide of white lightning seeps in to cover them.
I stretch out a hand, pluck the red berry, submit it to the test of water, scrub it, wait for the fermentation of the sweet pulp to release the bean.
How many centuries, now? How much misery does it cost to become a man? How much mourning? With a few strokes of the rake, the stripped bean dries in the sun.
It crackles, and I feel it under my feet.
Eternal drying shed of the cafetal! Backwash of consciousness, soul sown with corn-mush and corn cobs, blood stained with the black native dye.
Man below.
Above, the volcanos.
Guatemala throws me to my knees while every afternoon, with rain and thunder, Tohil the Powerful lashes this newly-arrived back.
Lamentation is the vegetal murmur, tender of the cafetal.
Glossary: Cafetal: a coffee plantation tamag?s: a venomous serpent guanaco: a pack animal, used insultingly to indicate the native laborers ceiba: a tall tropical hardwood tree



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