Friday, August 18, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Melissa Castillo-Garsow

Melissa Castillo-Garsow

Melissa Castillo-Garsow is a Mexican- American writer, poet and scholar currently completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.   

This poem is excerpted from her collection, Coatlicue Eats The Apple

From Part IV. 


He holds up an ear
caresses it lovingly
this is not just a crop
it's our culture, he says.

60 years of holding kernels
his hands are not yet tired
red, white, black, yellow
here are the ones he loves
the ones that grow
here. These are the mestizos
these are our culture, he says.

Here they say the first peoples
were made of Maiz
after clay after wood made only
ignorance and destruction.
Maiz made 4 men/ 4 women
with wisdom who populated the earth
and I believe them.
If people are 98% water
they must drink water.
We are maiz. So we eat
tortilla, tamale, pozole,

they tell him plant something else
they tell him work for someone else
they tell him use these hybrids

We are the most researched people in the world
and the least understood.

He doesn't need instruction on
what has fed for 8,000 years
He doesn't need US plants
he has created his criollos
strong roots that grow in rock shallow soils
and impossible humidity
His research is 50 years of knees
and hands and hearts in his soil
his land his feet covering
semilla after semilla watching
them grow year after year.

Not the scientist with 150 lands to report on
Not the gringo stopping by for a 1-day visit
Not the government who hands out wrong fertilizer
and corn that can't survive.

Grow quiet now. Hear that?
Es el conocimiento de los antepasados.

Grow quiet. Hear that.
It's the experience of 50 years
knee deep in dirt.

If you want to help, be quiet now.
They will bring the answers.

They will bring you the answers
in the rich texture of the criollo
the dark fibre of their soils
full of stubborn silences
and occasional roadblocks
and you can find it in
the shadows of their women.

The Aztec had a counterpoint
to Centeotl, the god of Maiz.
Chicomecoatl ruled over agriculture.
Before jade skirts and spiny belts
adorned the Maya queen of Maiz.

Now he says he stubborn.
I say he's pure mestizo Maiz
drawn from the Maya who jumped
to their death rather than
be conquered.

Maybe that's the way the world works.
Maybe it's not enough to say
ancestry, history, cultura, tradición
But maybe it's enough to stand upright
and tell the world:

We grow corn here.

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