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My New Year’s Eve Poem from Chiapas

December 31, 2012

(I wrote this poem while in Chiapas, Mexico on New Year’s Eve in 1998, while acting as an international observer in one of the Zapatista communities that were being terrorized by the Mexican Army. This poem is from my book Sembramos Comemos Sembramos: Learning Solidarity on Mayan Time.)


In the cool December morningPicture 1

I rise to greet the warmth of the sun

Dew drips off plants and roof

While barefooted Indians pass by

On the road below


Oventic, Aguascalientes of youth

Where children walk hand in hand

Or lean up against siblings

Their eyes are as dark

As the earth

Their smiles bring hope

From the mountains


Zedillo calls the youngScreen shot 2012-12-31 at 2.27.40 PM

Zapatistas terrorists

As they prepare the 

New Years festival

pine needles are spread out

like a royal carpet

where musicians create ancient songs

with marimba and flute

their bodies sway in rhythm

like trees that bend in the wind

along a narrow path


the view of people gathered 

is more beautiful than any

painted canopy or ecclesiastical ceilingScreen shot 2012-12-31 at 2.28.33 PM

families sit proudly on benches

built for this open air arena of democracy

while helicopters fly above 

monitoring games & ice cream vendors


as the night approaches

the Mayan moon illuminates 

the court where dancing and Tzotzil speeches 

fill our souls,

and even though we do not 

understand the words

we know their truth the way lovers 

know each other’s touch


It is here that I understand 

The meaning of justice

Its hunger satisfied

And like the mountains,

These proud people have

Withstood the weathering of history 

and the cruelty of men…

walking in paths of freedom


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