Intrigue & Scope
There’s an old story of the amate tree bark (i.e. amoxtli or codices/scrolls with pictographs whose texts resemble an accordion). These were first elaborated as “most likely in the present day totonaca region of Veracruz, in the Peten region of Chiapas, in the mixteca zapoteca zone of Oaxaca, and in the maya, nicaraos, and pipil of Centroamérica, and the huichol, tecuexe, caxe, and caxcana areas of present day Jalisco” (Gutierrez 113).
The tale tells of a particular plant substance that was admixed with these parchments, that when a certain resin from flowers gave an ink like residue; when accurately proportioned allowed a transparency when writing on this same paper to bear legible yet almost invisible. This means that it could only be read under specific means when the images/text became visible to the naked eye, and only by certain trained readers (i.e. nahuatl tlalnamictli adj. v. pensado, recordado, Simeon 602).
This discovery renders a parallel in the written script: where does the essence of the poet derive from: is it visible or invisible?
In the present-day municipality of Nezahualcoyotl in el Estado de Mexico, in the periphery of Lake Texcoco adjacent to the metropolitan centre of Mexico City, there’s a six-feet-plus statue of a man. At the base of this monument a plaque reads:
Amo el Canto
Amo el canto del cenzontle
pájaro de cuatrocientas voces.
Amo el color de jade
y el enervante perfume de las flores
pero amo más a mi hermano: el hombre.I Love Song
I love the song of the cenzontle
bird of the four hundred voices.
I love the color of jade
And the enervating perfume of the flowers
but I love most my brother: man.
In his hands you see a codex-type parchment. Under this poem there’s a pictograph (symbols to represent words and/or phrases) and a drawing of a coyote with flowers pouring from its mouth and a man fasting, with glyphs to represent a number sequence in the form of dots and bars.
Here begins an inquiry which seeks to compare and contrast the work of this poet with contemporary poet Humberto Ak’abal, to lend a new perspective on what is now termed as flower and song, which is a metaphor for poetry and dance. The essential aim is to bring another interjection into this commonly cited colloquialism of Ancient Mexico.
I reference the extant works referencing Nezahualcoyotl and contemporary Guatemalan poet Humberto Ak’abal to evince a particular reference point rather than to highlight these poets through any ulterior motives and/or biases. It’s more to attest to the continuity of oral tradition, given the subtle nature of an uninterrupted word of mouth transference, not literature/text per, se.
Here, songs/chants, storytelling, oral histories, ceremonial/mundane poetry, and so on are intricately woven into threads that at times are inextricably debated on what is rendered to be poetic. The refrain remains: is it only what rests on a piece of paper that has value? In this instance, a minute detail in the Mayan calendar Tonalpohualli, (i.e. Cauhpohualli from nahuatl; es la cuenta del tiempo o de los tiempos, palabra cuyas raíces son cahuitl, el tiempo, y pohualli, la cuenta, Guiterrez 2) as a backdrop will serve asthe basic framework to decipher the inception of these poetic devices.
In xochitl In cuicatl
In this context, the annals that have come down to posterity evoke this notion to be both an extant and grounded technique and/or more broadly speaking a worldview, which widens into other parameters.
This emphasis deepens on the foundations of how this tradition derived itself from centuries of careful calculations of the skies and seasons evident in the Ancient calendars and the sequences that unalterably seeped themselves into the bone marrow of all its inhabitants given these geographical areas.
That per excellence reigns supreme in the traits of the poet, which is the one that most eloquently puts in to words this widely held esteem. Or, more simply, this artistic amplitude was just one of the Arts whose fundamentals derived themselves from the ambient or immediate flora and fauna.
In this instance, the intricate nature of what’s written down (e.g., books, documents, text, etc.) and the continuous strand of modes of expression (e.g., tales, stories, oral speech, myth/folklore, prayers, chants, etc.) are here the implied objective to delineate. The surroundings; animals (e.g., birds, felines, etc.), plants (e.g., flowers, trees, brushes, etc.), or skies (e.g., telluric currents, constellations, weather changes, etc.) and all like material objects became the fixed point for very abstract and sophisticated extrapolations. The necessity arises to relive and bring clarity to these devices; thus, for example, take flowers (i.e. xochitl, xochimeh, etc.) to mean poetry “for the complex surfaces of many flower songs (i.e. xochicuicame, etc.) often make them difficult to understand for many people in our culture” (Curl 52). At present, the veiled metaphors found in theworks tha t have survived are both a challenge and a great literary heritage.
To enter a poet’s world we must delve into a socio-cultural backdrop which shades how the writer sees the world. So, in certain respects everything rest on language as the bases of any literary and/or at intervals what concerns the matter of cosmology, per se. Here, three aspects are taken as the basis of the present inquiry:
NAHUA-TL something that makes an agreeable sound, someone who speaks well or speaks one’s own language/ cosa que suena bien como campana, etc., o hombre
NAHUATLACAH plural form Nahuatl –speaking people/ nombre que se dio a las
naciones cultas que hablaban la lengua mexicana
XOCHI-TL pl. –MEH flower/ rosa o flor as a modifier this has the sense ‘something
precious, delicate.’ It is also conventionally paired with CUICA-TL
CUICA-TL song / canto o canción this is conventionally paired with XOCHI-TL
‘flower’ to refer to poetry.
(Karttunen 71,157, 158, 329)
Now, to enter into another language realm is as if one went into a parallel universe and/or as when someone falls into a cavern and sees the underground corridors and crystalline waters from a drastically different vantage point. This vein also forms the axis of all of Humberto Ak’abal’s poetry–namely, maya k’iche is to be heard first then read. That Ak’abal is alive and able to speak his ancient language is a testament and mirror image that contemporarily speaks in the voice of Nezahualcoyotl’s time.
“Con sus palabras demuestra que los mayas y, por extensión, todos los indígenas de América no son culturas extintas o mudas, sino por el contrario, pueblos con una posición clara ante la velocidad y el pragmatismo que impera en nuestro tiempo” (Martínez 79).
It is pertinent that the above is expressed in this way–that there must be a valued equanimity to understand or step outside the bounds of our comforts or prejudices.
There’s a striking and eerily similar biographical sketch between Ak’abal and the ancient Nezahualcoyotl. The previous statement was deliberately rendered in castellano to show similitude, as it’s probable that one does not speak English and the other never will. Nezahualcoyotl used different subgenres of cuicatl, chants or compositions with rhythm and metre; to him there’s attributed various icnocuicatl, poems of a deeper reflection, and xochicuicatl, florid songs of friendship, as well as other subgenres: teocuicatl, divine songs; xopancuicat, songs from spring time; and yaocuicatl, warrior songs (Rutiaga 59).
Now, looking at these from the optics of the present moment is to extricate them from an ancient confluence of precise calendar counts and drastically varied worldviews. But still,what has been recovered in codices/texts remains striking. In other words, to get at the essence of these writers’ lives, in the extensiveness of their literary extensiveness expression, it’s necessary to step out side the bounds of fiction and into an objective interpretation of the most extraordinary moment. It’s useful to state the most debated events in Nezahualcoyotl’s early and turbulent years. Here is an interesting example of the latter:
An thus entertained playing Nezahualcoyotl
but, a bird, fell into the water,
An it is said that from there he was taken out
by owl –men, the magicians;
they came to grab him, to take him
over to the Poyauhtecatl
to the Sire of the Mountain of mist.
There he went to make penance and worthiness.
While there, it is said,
he was submerged in divine waters,
with the heat of the fire,
An thus they ordered, and decreed:
You, you will be,
You, we order you, this is your charge heed,
thus, for you, in your hands,
will be held the City
An next the magicians returned,
to the place where he was brought from,
were he had been taken….
Many extrapolations can be rendered and sufficed from the above exposition, but a plain statement given in the eighth line is factually revealing. There’s veracity in that, in the nuance of the poetic mindset there are general experiences that all artists possess. To retract on the extraordinary life of this at times mythic figure is to dilute the simple assertion that equates to say; to have something you must earn it. Into the matter of in xochitl in cuicatl, hearsay evidence of a poet’s prowess does not alleviate the question of the inception of a poet’s manifestation: is it a gift or does it come through suffering?
La Guerra Florida: Language Invocation or War in Language
In this view, to look at Ancient lore is not to deprecate the pasts’ prolific advances in, sa, the sciences (e.g., cosmology, architecture, medicine, botany, astrology, mathematics, etc.). It’s not either to relegate to etymological qualifiers of extinction–say flora and fauna or even Peoples–but more so an arduous task of the most immediacy for what rest behind any advanced society is there conception of time and their intricate means to catalogue and/or pay reverence thereto or in the least measure it accurately?
To this effect, in steps the poet in the guise of a highly stylized and sonorous voice to pay homage to those entities of Nature; both material and immaterial. So from its inception here the concept themselves have become blurred. Understandably if taken adequately the concept of florid wars are by implication more lethal than say those that deal with swords and/or obsidian knives. For instance, scholarly works offer a confluence, that is separate a practical means of why in xochitl in cuicatl remains a vied propriety and end to bring the people together. In this same vein when these debates deal with or become mere constructs with peripheral questions of say; who wrote the poems, why are there no authors, and the like? What’s rendered is an incomplete and/or worse distorted exposition on what means made these writers, write as in the case of Nezahualcoyotl. The aim is to get at the core of why? Accurately, asserted though in regards to the existing songs attributed to Nezahualcoyotl are collected in the texts: The Romances de los señores de la Nueva Espana and the Cantares Mexicanos (Lee 74).
In the field of academia there’s a vast gulf in what in the words of the social theorist Antonio Gramsci was purported to say: “we are all intellectuals one could therefore say, not all in society have the function of intellectuals” (Lemert 123). It’s a given that in antiquity as at the present moment the invocation of language is relative. In other words, when it’s reiterated in Nezahualcoyotl and the Notion of Individual Authorship in Nahuatl Poetry; it’s stated quite bluntly “in an oral tradition, the notion of authorship is largely irrelevant” (Lee 77). Though accurate this insidious statement also revokes the author’s entire thesis, as these critiques speak of conjecture and/or questions of omission. Thus at present’ held is neither to refute nor asseverate scholarly works. But delve deeper into the essence of why poets themselves write, not just deliberate on cosmetic shades (i.e. who, what, when, where, etc.). An interesting strain that evokes war in language or more so war is language is an original Otomí verse here translated from Spanish of the Lametaciones de Nezahualcoyotl señor de Texcoco:
…the hole roundness of the earth is an
sepulchral; there is no thing that sustains, that
with title of pity cannot hide and
entomb. Rivers run the streams, the
fountains and the waters and nothing re–
turns to its merrier origins and birth:
accelerating with anxiousness, to its vast
dominions of Tluloca and when
they most gather to its dilated
margins, more so to till
the melancholic urns to its
Here is more than a language invocation and/or a mere a figure of speech, the writer is plainly speaking without fault of any misinterpretation. Which to this effect, clearly shows the ephemeral nature of all things, which change into other things. This is mirrored in Humberto Ak’abal’s poem when he states from Poems I brought from the Mountain:
Poets are born old/
with the passing of the years/
we make ourselves into children.
beneath their wings
behind their eyes.
In this regard, it can be said that in so rich and effervescent an oral tradition it slowly became embedded in poetry and/or vice versa poetry was seeped into oral tradition or simply mirrors reflect themselves. At present this remains an exhausting undertaking for it’s worthwhile here, to note of the above author’s last name in maya k’ iche is roughly translates to dawn of night. Here it serves to interject on the etymological nature of say the categories that are derived from, say people’s names. For instance, in the text Mexico Desconocido in a section titled: Los kikapus, los que se mueven sin cesar, in these their names evoke “vivid images like Alce Blanco or white deer, Zorro Gris or gray wolf, Nube Remolineante or whirlwind cloud” (Zuniga 1990). Whose people are one of arrant tribes now living in the desert regions of the southern state of Coahuila. Very reminiscent of the Ancestors of Nezahualcoyotl parentage whose stance and/or neighboring peoples called themselves Chichimec’s, which was a sort of derogatory saying to mean errant and/or nomad (i.e. see nahuatl chichimecatl Simeon 96). To refer to the former, they to have a varied and glorious past and their own heroes; Okquanokasey or White Horse is a great hero in the histories of the Kikapu, “whose death is commemorated every year in la danza y el canto de la muerte” there own varied form of in xochitl in cuicatl” (Zuniga 99).
To the above tangents on the regional nomenclature of vast regions of present day Mexico, serves to illustrate what at the southernmost topographical areas of what is not termed Centroamérica; this profuse adroitness of languages is even more daunting. Take at its most rudimentary levels in the various maya languages names weren’t arbitrary either in this light every word has a heavy sense of significance. Again to cite from the introduction of Diccionario de la Lenguag Nahuatl o Mexicana to illustrate Humberto Ak’abal’ root etymologic ancestry. “La familia maya, en Yucatan, contiene lenguas mayas, punctunc, lacandon, peten, chanabal, chol, chorti, cachi, ixil, coxoh, quiche, zutuhil, cachiquel, tzotzil, tzentzal, mame, poconchi, atche, huasteca y haitano (Simeon xxix). To further this reference these melt to regions as far down as panama and the Caribbean, were this notion of in xochitl in cuicatl remains vibrantly alive also. So in just this one example language in itself is to invoke –say war or as Nezahualcoyotl put it an enervating perfume of flowers, here to reiterate a working metaphor.
In Between Oblivion & Time lapse Photographic Memory
Even though these florid words and literary battles are now waged in pieces of paper; which might seem ephemeral on the surface, they remain crucial and multiphased in nature through all the vast and autochthonous regions of this continent now called America. All that remains of these antiquities are stored in the few books that are left, equivocally all originals are in European museums. But to revert centuries of trends Ak’abal contends that texts are also present in the vastness of the blue skies, mountains, plains, deserts, flowing streams, and voices of the birds, wildcats, stones, and plants, ad infinitum. Thus the seemingly invisible thread between Humberto Ak’abal and the few extant works of Nezahualcoyotl maintain. These writers are mirrors of their particular environments. The former states on this matter in his poem Ars Poetica:
My readings rescue me, my immersion and the philosophy of my native tongue,
maya-k’iche. Language torn out of nature, speaking it is like chewing cypress leaves: rustic, sweet, and simple (81).
In the above is expressed a profound expository brilliance through the shades of an interconnectedness of his ambient in the rural community of Momostenango, in Totonicapan, Guatemala. A most pristine image of nature and a rhythmic language that enlivens the latter. Moving forward these words, reminisce a transcendence that escape time and place; it’s a breathing example of an ancient thought that Nezahualcoyotl would have vied with. Here in the words of Carlos Montemayor to preface from the introduction of Ajkem Tzij or Tejedor de Palabras, which means weaver of words as it’s stated on the nature of the concept and emphasis of the present treatise. “On the other hand the concept of oral tradition does not distinguish barriers between art of language written or not and oral communication (Ak’abal 11).
In this continuum there resides a stream that pours into a seemingly dark abyss of oblivion, for the simple reason that it isn’t captured or to say written down.
More so it breathes in the skies, the wind, and the words/whispers of the trees; or in simple analogy it sleeps with the elders that preceded Nezahualcoyotl and those that will proceed Ak’abal. In this it’s eloquently rendered in the text Aqajtzij or Palabramiel “by means of revealing words of the intimacy of things, of the color of fire or earth; or nostalgia for what’s lost, for what’s found in a world that’s constantly enliven by a poet that’s a color below the human clothing” (Ak’abal 17). In, that turning the passages of an Ak’abal text is to breathe into another time and place; or to cut deep into the page, a device, a vision that sees beyond mere letters. In this time lapse photographic memory isn’t merely a technicality, for poets have deciphered this matter through the power of their illuminated sayings or fierce words to cut through the veil that shrouds. In the words of the author of Acolmiztli Nezahualcoyotl: Poemas en tres tiempos Clásicos states to this effect. “The roads in the poetic creation are frequently intricately intertwined as the streams of the same poet’s blood” (De la Selva 12).
To ascertain the essence is in every instance what Humberto Ak’abal obtains in such subtle ways that are unperceivable to the lay reader or scholar even, for who’s its unbeknownst his native maya k’iche is speaking even through its translations. That is to say his iconographic imagery of Nature is what encompassed at different interval and varying degrees an eloquence that renders his poetry living memory. Besides those traits embedded in his text which is as if you’re reading a stela with hieroglyphic inscriptions; in that to say his words are to step into another conception of what’s considered to be literary were his words evoke specters manifested in the sounds, sites, smells, that penetrate every letter you see. Of course these feats of a deepened imagery and a chilling eloquence that freezes the bone marrow as this is carried over by those writers that today are categorized as Native American or to differentiate aboriginal to any particular region. Take the searing words of the collection by Howard Norman from The Wishing Bone Cycle: Poems from the Swampy Cree Indians, which reads:
A small lynx
lost his family.
He went out on his own
and began learning things.
He just set out.
One spring he saw
from the south.
He tasted some.
He learned those tastes.
One summer he nearly
drowned, but he saw his face
a long time
in that lake.
He learned his face then.
One autumn he was as big
as his parents,
and this made him think
That’s how he learned
Once, in the cold winter,
he found an ice bird
who did not move.
That’s how he learned weeping,
all down his face,
onto that bird.
He bent over it a long time.
I know his story,
what he learned,
I know it.
I tell it to you
All these things!
I weep when I tell it
I am small lynx.
Here this poem was posited indiscriminately for its varied elements that accentuate the present objective too elucidate what in Nezahualcoyotl’ time could be surmised most accurately, yaocuicatl or a warrior song too bring into relief an aspect seminole to this work. Namely, when say these poems are invoked, when they’re recited you enter into other realms or to build on this –they breathe extemporaneously. To illustrate an instance what we now call ethnopoetics was merely an acute understanding of Nature and its phases, which to reiterate was infused in the bone marrow of its inhabitants. For in this figurative juxtaposition what has been left behind or lost is not muted by silence or neglect. In the same way as when they’re read or performed you bring them to life. What is being said is not an abstraction. To bring a more tangible or concrete example in the Diccionario Ritual de Voces Nahuas is here referenced Temezcalli to corroborate on the above said:
…The steam baths were utilized for two means: of a healing characteristic in which plants were employed to smug the body and increase blood circulation as well as eliminate toxins and those of a ritualistic character for means of purification. In this last instance was very usually employed by the sacerdotes and those that are to be sacrificed to the gods.
The above pertains to a purification ritual whereby the elements; water, fire, wind, earth, and the power of teocuicatl, yaocuicatl, icnocuicatl, xochicuicatl, and the like are chanted at varying rhythms under a strict code of the Ceremonial. Here, to refer back to the genre’s devised in the works of Nezahualcoyotl, as said above these will live forever as these ceremonies are steadfast and zealously upheld to date. An interjection is required in regards to the Swampy Cree poem on the lynx, which shows certain traits that are generally accentuated in what we conceptually relegate as oral tradition. In that there’s no one author or authors, and mostly it’s all done in a song and rhythm scheme, so when on the page you are missing the cadence, tone, chime, release of the singers which is when the immaterial is brought into the mix, or so to speak you enter other dimensions.
In Humberto Ak’abal’s work these means are understood and taken as such; in every letter he writes he has withstood oblivion. In the words of this author from his introduction to Con Los Ojos Después del Mar:
I’m from the Culture of fright of that something that we know and that’s invisible that lives with us, that presence that chills the skin or by its force and energy makes us and our hearts beat faster. (Ak’abal 13)
In this, the poetic voice is in itself an entity as it also becomes a defense mechanism that shatters. What the above is implicitly referring to is the death of a rooted Culture that lives in the hearts of many. Yet only a few have the valor to talk or speak thus. In this the poetic treatises of Humberto Ak’abal are invaluable since it’s fortitude is rooted in an ancestral memory and fluidness of speech that’s sweet as a mid day’s autumn breeze. But also a solitude that blinds like the silence of midnight.
Looking objectively from a panoramic view at both these authors their distinctions are actually what ties them closer together. That is the structural/societal forces aside, both vividly tell a heroic tale in how they managed to survive. The text Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World closes with an evocative stance that accurately mentions the imminence of the above poets and all artist who in their works they will pervade:
One by one I bring together
I am linking the jades
with them I make a bracelet
of everlasting gold.
Bedeck yourself with them;
they are your wealth
in the region of flowers
they are your wealth
These philosophical discourses are of the most eloquent and show the hearts of a People. The above-cited (whose poem is found in the section A Last Word) refreshes a notion which is implied in a previous term utilized (tlalnamictli — to be thought or remembered) an adjective or verb that was allotted to the tonalpouhque or those that kept the counts of the calendars. Every artist — Humberto Ak’abal or Nezahualcoyotl aren’t the exceptions — has a framework which informs their poetry. Thus in the meseta central of what is now termed Mexico was the bedrock for Nezahualcoyotl’s cosmological outlook. The mountains that surround Momostenango served Humberto Ak’abal for his.
Ethnopoetics: in the Calendars or Shades of the Seasons
This matter of the flora and fauna isn’t quite irrelevant as at first look it might seem. The passage of time helps to dilute certain concepts and to bring the inconsequence of others into the fray. In the ancient codices/scrolls of antiquity, particularly those of the westernmost continent, certain pictographs became renowned after centuries of careful scrutiny. In this vast enclosure was the realm of Nezahualcoyotl’s world and cosmological view, one guided by a strict code of mathematical acuity.
For instance, these pictographs themselves were intricately tied to a calendar count. In this regard, the latter is the reference point wherefrom the Tonalamat which roughly means, in a straight translation, as “Book of Destinies,” is given immanence. This measure of time encompasses an eighteen cycle of twenty days as part of a solar calendar know colloquially as Xiuhpohualli, whose sum in days is three hundred and sixty with an additional five days that were viewed as awkward or just a period of meditation, known as nemontemi. In this, it’s interesting that the ninth twenty-day cycle is called Tlaxochimaco or offering of flowers. Likewise, the last glyph or day in the twenty-day cycle is called xochitl or flower. Still, this sign has very far and widening ramifications:
Xochitl. Flor. Fin ultimo: belleza, creatividad, conocimiento y amor de todo lo
echo, que en conjunto dan un entorno integral de armonía entre los hombres. La
danza, el canto, la poesía, la música, son representaciones del amor con que se
hacen las cosas
At the furthest southernmost shores past the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, other florid languages were bled into stone. On a certain level these blur worldviews for better or worse. In this web, this brief exposition on the count of days to reference the ancient Nezahualcoyotl isn’t that far removed from the topic at hand.
Now, to revert to the shadowy means of the poet Humberto Ak’abal lends a subtler nuance to state on this matter.
“In my town the 260-day calendar is still in use as I was nursed by the cosmogony of my grandfather I learned with him how to read thunder, the storms, to calibrate the wind, to comprehend the language of the birds, the behavior of animals, the roar of the streams” (Martinez 83).
Just as a web is very fragile and invisible, it’s also keen to any vibration and can hold objects of immense weight here the juxtaposition applies. Though in space and time both these authors who are the aim of this treatise live at a distance of five centuries or so from each other they seem to beat within a symmetry and rhythm as their poetry is very resonant and of a very unique style. In other words, both authors offer an intricate web of fluid forms as their language on the surface may render different connotations, their poetry itself attest a mirror image. Here a poem from Tejedor de Palabras or Ajkem tzij, this adequately serves the purpose:
Camposanto de flores
flores de muerto
arcos de ciprés,
ramas de pino
Es día de difuntos.
—Te traje atolito con cuchum
—le hablan a la tumba —
se le ofrece en una jícara
Y el muerto bebe.
—También te traje ayote en dulce,
–se lo sirven en un escudilla
y el muerto come.
—Tomate un trajo,
y el muerto toma.
—Te acordas de este son?
La marimba riega su llanto
y el muerto baila
—Tomate otro trajo.
no soporta mas el peso del día
y cae detrás del cerro de Chojoyam
Los muertos vuelven a su sueño
y los vivos a su desvelo.
Again words remain shaded by their immediate surroundings. In this regard, the poem Camposanto is a skilled play on words that refers to an autochthonous notion of death. But deeper into the essence it’s both an allusion to a field of flores/flowers/xochimeh which refers to a continuity in nature and the ephemeral fight people wage as the sun has already set, metaphorically speaking as these wither away. As such this extends to implicate Nezahualcoyotl’ xochicuicatl or florid songs as the latter reminisce.
Here, to posit the latter is at the bridge of close to half a millennium of silence and the other trying to bring back a voice that through omission is regaining force, just as Mayan architecture, folklore, mathematics, and cosmology are more alive now due to research. One can see in every page of Ak’abal’s work both a type of calendar sequences and a shade of the seasons.
Negative Aesthetics or Spoken Word/Songs in Poetry
But still, with these adamantine words of excruciating beauty and pain as the stones are cut into relief on the other side words are easily taken by the wind if not burned in the pyre. For who can say of the great works that have been lost and/or omitted if not escaped from the latter? Thus there arose other monoliths, which left traces in hieroglyphs shaded into stone now which to contemporary complacency have to be rendered in paper. In this Humberto Ak’abal is merely a reflection, a texture of a land that breathes an ancient pulse for in this literary circles are at times mischievous.
That is to say to speak without mixed words in Jornadas Andinas de Literatura Latinoamericana: “by means of ‘reproduction’ of the natural sounds of things and the animals is reestablished the harmonious relation between man and nature that the literary western culture has lost’ (Martinez 91). Conceivably, the axis of this present analysis is to shine a light on how language adds angles of a perceptible reality and/or in the least opens a window into other realms, as the above is from a Spanish translation which would have had other connotations if it were not changed.
In this respect, take the words of Thomas Johns Bear, a fine Cree Teller, who told: “I tell poems to a small pond first I only tell them in summer. I throw a rock in. The circle goes out from where it hits. Then I say, ‘Water, you stutter! Water, calm down! Then I tell a poem to calm it down…” (Norman 93).
This task is the most arduous and one must be up to task to it. In this instance we have a tendency to view antiquity or varied worldviews through a myopic lens and in that the refraction gives a distorted image; in this many disavow traditional knowledge as worthless or retrograde from the simple perspective of lack of information or just to say you cannot learn it in a book. To hold and surmise the weight of these constructs of in-xochitl in-cuicatl you must step out of the bounds of this language here written. Inevitably, these words are shaded, for they speak for the dominant culture. Just as you cannot see the wind and/or touch your thoughts these ethereal entities are what animate all of Nature and its inhabitants. Likewise, in Ancient Mexico poetry was integrated into other activities, as can be seen from the below reference from Archeologia Mexicana which speaks specifically of xochitl or xochimeh:
The flora and fauna represents life, death, the gods, the creation, man, language, song and art, friendship, seniority, the captive in war, war itself, the sky, the earth, and a calendar sign. It accompanied man from conception and birth till burial. Evidently, the flower was a basic element in the communication of pre Colombian symbolism. Similar to the quetzal feather and the count of jade, was synonymous with ‘precious’
Conceptually, the ramifications are obvious as the old metaphor of the well — the deeper you abstract from these waters the more that will be taken. Neither Humberto Ak’abal and/or Nezahualcoyotl foresaw themselves as important, yet one can assess great meaning from simple words. This simplicity is an extension of each other’s biographical sketches, from which neither of them can extricate themselves. For instance, the former lends anecdotal evidence of his inception on how this matter of his poetic voice was more something suffered through than something obtained out of outright volition. But, moreso, necessity was a cloak of solitude that was bearing a heavy burden. Ak’abal states in his Ars Poetica from Poems I brought down from the mountain, “How when he walked with a limp” and further on he explains that “once on his many outings near his home he fell over a rock and instead of feeling anger and/or pain he started talking to the rock” to add here he found a sense of peace (Ak’abal, 51).
In the trivial endeavor of a child he found that his “voice” was always walking next to him with a revelation of subsequent consequences. Inevitably, when Ak’abal fell over the rock, and more than four hundred years before him at Nezahualcoyotl’s birth, fate was sealed. In Acolmiztli Nezahualcoyotl, whose author was a lineal descendant of his and a biographer of sorts, the details of his birth are mentioned:
…on the twentieth eight of the month of April, in the year they called ce–tochtli; and the sign and the day they called ce–mazatl, and prostrate to the month they called tocostzintlan, and it was very notable his birth by the astrologers and diviners of that time, and it was in the morning as the sun arose. (Ixtlixochitl 136).
Here many things were shaped out by the clarity found in number counts and its interpretations thereof. In other words, as already cited, these are strict references from the Tonalpohualli (i.e. 260-day ritual calendar) and Xiuhpohualli (i.e.18 twenty day cycles of the solar calendar). These vary in whichever region you are currently tied with as its inception bears significance. Though for our purposes of elucidating the intricate concept of in xochitl in cuicatl and composite image in the persona of Humberto Ak’abal, there is a searing similarity. Both these authors’ milieu is the phases of the seasons; these are the bedrock of their works. In recent times, six hundred years after his birth, this ancient poet of vast horizons is still remembered and paid homage at an annual gathering of poets in Camina el Verso Senderos de Silencio: Memoria del IV Encuentro Nacional de Poetas Homenaje a Acolmiztli Nezahualcoyotl. In this relevant entree, Angelica Valero, a native of Mexico City, reminds us that poetry escapes time and place:
No reconoces la estela
Si te aguardo moriré de frió
Ya no reconoces la estela
de la noche que deje en tu alcoba
Ese pasado hiere porque callas
Convirtiendo en guardián de mis espectros
Te transformas en flor
cripta donde la esperanza fenece
monumento en caricia distante
lapida en ti mismo
In translation it’s rendered:
You don’t recognize the stelae
If I remain I will die of cold
You don’t recognize the stelae
of the night I left in the balcony
that past lacerates because your quiet
becoming the guardian of my spectres
You transform into a flower
crypt were hope parishes
monument in distant caresses
a tombstone in itself
Now to bring into relief a composite image to further reflect onto in xochitl in
cuicatl: ancient soothsayers or poets of an ancient/contemporary mean made unto themselves common objects to brighten the power of this most metaphoric language.
For example, an obsidian mirror set against a flame at a perpendicular angle at equidistance pertains to a specific ritual. But our present aim is to extract an ampler and more precise meaning. That is, the flame could be surmised to represent words and the obsidian mirror, where these are derived from at their essence (i.e. nahuatl tezcatlipoca espejo que humea Fernández 137).
This parenthetical note’s literal translation refers to “smoke of the mirror” or otherwise an allusion to the inner persona of all of us, of which to the poet is the one that most aids his daunting craft. This tendency veiled under in-xochitl in-cuicatl or poetry and song/dance, are well alike both extricated from excruciating experiences and also polished by careful study — and yet what ties all these intricate webs is the common thread of infusion.
The nexus between the poet kings’ eras was the epitome of a most sophisticated form of expression that continues to live — as the words of Humberto Ak’abal attest. The ancient poet here in question is renowned not for his overreaching merits or the transfusion of his words into posterity. He stands on the shoulders of those whose “voices” are whispered or not heard at all in our contemporary circles. It’s here reiterated on the question of aesthetics in Chants of Nezahualcoyotl & Obsidian Glyph:
1. song —call
…poet cannot say
why the singers’ mouth opens
why the wings of the butterfly touch the different flowers?
i simply walk about
everywhere on earth the flowers move then die
gracefully and tenderly in the brightness of the day
in the brightness of the day in the brightness they die
upon the earth my words fall into silence
they are not beautiful my words but rare
dew drops on a tiny white flowers in the vastness of the desert
in the brightness of the day in the brightness they go away.
In this brief excerpt of an epic piece of Nezahualcoyotl’s verses, there are two immanent elements here to enumerate. First, in this song –call the aim was to recite these in a dialogue form to bring a mode reminiscent of the Socratic discourses, thus the speaker of the poem evokes the verses in the original Nahuatl. Secondly, its purpose was not solely based on having these espoused or cataloged in text. In other words, a deeper aesthetic value is present without delving into the null debate of authorship. What bears vehemence here is the direction and ambiance to which these Icnocuicatl are directed and subsequently from where their force derives. Towards the mid to late 20th century there arose a certain renaissance of sorts; an acute awareness of in xochitl in cuicatl resurged in many regions. These have at all times served as the foundation of an extant oral tradition, however, have gone unbeknownst for the reason that they are unperceivable to the major tenets of academia. This innate fortitude is shown in language from Ro Doni Natho Nahnu ‘Nuhmu ‘Nuhu or La Palabra Florida Otomí Olmeca:
el árbol caído
cuando la filosa sierra
lo había atravesado
El ahuehue nunca muere
el ocote sigue siendo
el árbol de la vida
porque no venimos a morir
si no a dejar retoños
The text from which the verse above comes is a winner of the Premio Nacional de Poesía Indígena Joven Acolmiztli Nezahualcoyotl, an evocative appreciation of an Ancestral aesthetic so polished in architecture; its poetic weight remains equidistant. All native languages are infused with rich textures of sounds, sites, and voices that elucidate that spoken word in the guise of songs/poetry enliven the page rather than diminish it. In the instance above, verses are alternated between Otomi and Spanish. Simply reading out loud the original language brings alive these most ancient words, even if they aren’t understood.
Here a reiteration is necessary on the immaterial force innate to in xochitl in cuicatl. It’s tantamount to having an open mind and tolerance towards unorthodox worldviews or simply towards ways to see the world and its immeasurable beauty. It’s that which Humberto Ak’abal is simply stating in the text Raqonchi’aj Grito —you don’t have to understand just listen — in his book which is properly titled Scream:
Los peñascos eran sabios;
Sabían el número de las estrellas,
Los cantos del universo.
Llego un tiempo
y los obligaron a callar
y se volvieron piedras.
Llegara otro día,
retornara su voz
kab’raqan, kab’raqan, kab’raqan…
Kaqulja, Kaqulja, Kaqulja…
Tendrás que oírlos.
The seemingly invisible thread that connects all the above cited elements of the varied poetic expositions is the context that surrounds them. In that under the cloak of the ceremonial mere poems become chants, this translates into prayers that are merely giving a transcendental appreciation to all of Nature. In just the above two instances the first by the poet Thaayrohyadi serves to illustrate this matter most eloquently when he states:
That at every instance my heart be a temple of flowers and a spring of songs, through my mouth you hear the Otomi the primordial sound of the Menxihmehoi the First Humanity. In the harmonic language of the songs of birds of our ancestors the Olmecas, Cuicuilcas, Tlatilcas, Toltecas, Teotihuacanos, Xiquipilcas; that elevated their prayers to Otontecuhtli, Conin, and Tlahuicole
To further on this continuum into the nature of what Nezahualcoyotl entertained in his verses referred now as in xochitl in cuicatl served as a most proper vehicle to put into words the fauna and flora that he invoked in his poetry, which was a mirror that he surrounded himself with. Take in the vicinity of Chapultepec or hill of the grasshopper in which he had constructed an aqueduct that remains an attraction to this date, for instance. An also in itself an arboretum and miniature forest of the most varied composition of animals and plants existent in his contemporary times. So in his most lucid moments of the deepest abstraction here it could be surmised is were he tried to set down into words and phrases a most visually aesthetic an exquisite image. Still to move into a more deliberately poetic mean isn’t to accelerate into our contemporary moment or in the metaphor of the obsidian mirror to refract into Nezahualcoyotl’s time it’s rather the study of the poet that can transport his experience into the most distant antiquity and also live in a most fulfilling minute an eternity; when say they complete a most intoned xochicuicame. To this effect the below written poem/song is being sung this fore night maybe as it would have been six hundred years ago:
Tlaquicalli in Cuicatl
Aya yao xochitli –cacao
Aya yao xochitli –cacao
Ompanil huiz ya
Ompanil huiz ya (drum)
Tlamacazecatla tlama colalehua
Tlamacazecatla tlama colalehua
Ompanil huiz ya
Ompanil huiz ya (drum)
Tlamacazecatla tlama colalehua
Tlamacazecatla tlama colalehua
No tlazoteotla (drum)
No teo tezcatlipoca
Quinan quilica centeotla (drum)
Quinan quilica centeotla
In conclusion to the present aim of discerning the full extent and reach of in xochitl in cuicatl is more so a living and breathing presence rather than an abstract term too denote a so called extinct language of antiquity. In the aforementioned poem which was derived from a compilation of Nahuatl songs retrieved from one of the extant codices titled in these transcriptions. In Nahuatl called Tlaquicalli in Cuicatl to Spanish Canto al Canto and to the present language A Song to Song; to pay homage its in honoring bestowed to flowers, cacao, and the like (i.e. flora and fauna) and essential entities (i.e. nahuatl tezcatlipoca, tlazolteotl, etc.) that preface a termed also utilized in Greek mythology now common; our psyche or in this regard our immaterial presence. But rather in its most tangible nomenclature is a life style and most profuse world view that centers on the most pristine elements that are present on earth. Thus, to this end we are humbled to have many Elders that still hold steadfast and vehemently to these ways of life that through the veil of in xochitl in cuicatl are espoused to present day societal forces that lack this profundity in cosmology and/or simply an etymology that no contemporary language can berate. To revert to and end with the words of a traditional contemporary and classical Nahuatl speaker on this matter of why this technique and worldview will pervade forever. Tata Cuaxtli renders this poem to venerate what all poets from all time periods or regions are speaking of is present on this earth. Otherwise called many names in Nahuatl its venerably so Tonantzin:
Tonantzin: tonaca cihuatl zintle
taho ticmate canon tihualehua ti.
Miztlazo camachilia aquinono eztatec yolma…[4 times]
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