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POETRY ESSAYS

In the Hands of the Weaver

Deborah Guzzi on Cesar Vallejo
El Salvador, Lima, Peru

The poetry of Cesar Vallejo and the search for Pachamama, Mother Earth, brought Deborah to Peru. Vallejo's book of verse Black Messengers [Los Heraldos Negros, 1918] expressed well her own feelings after seeing the slums of Lima.

There are in life such hard blows . . . I don't know!
Blows seemingly from God's wrath; as if before them
the undertow of all our sufferings
is embedded in our souls . . . I don't know!

– Excerpt from Black Messengers

The air is heavy like a dirty woolen blanket
each colorful strand pulled through the warp.
Horns blare, traffic skids and screeches
unborn accidents aborted
by fancy-pants cops.
City slickers in posh clothes
zip toward the outskirts avoiding
dirndl-shaped pollera skirts
and monteras hats
as if ashamed
of their own roots or the neglect.
The road to Lima's slum city
weaves along rough Pacific shorelines,
wefts past fishing villages
and cement factories with tangerine groves
each lane bringing the colors of modern life.

The oranges, reds, and pinks of fine fabric repeat
in on the metal surfaces of trucks, buses, motor cabs.
Each person's destiny pulled and pushed
by the action of man, earth, and tide, forward,
ever forward through the dunes of Lima's desert.
Invaders hug the hillside, thousands upon thousands
of rural poor driven from the teat of the Mother
by earthquakes and the terror of the Shining Path.
Mao lives on in the upheaval. Yet so does ayni,
the helping hand of neighbor,
the brown-skinned hand, more used
to the bobbin than the gun.

Here in El Salvador, they have come in oneness
a finished soul on a backstrap loom
dyed and drying in the heat
of Lima's desert
they bloom.

First published at the age of sixteen, Deborah Guzzi has continued to write for the past fifty years. Her work has appeared in the literary journals of Western Connecticut University; she has also published two illustrated volumes of poetry: The Healing Heart and Heaven and Hell in a Nutshell. She lives in Monroe, Connecticut.